The biggest obstacle in the path of HBO’s “True Detective” is the audience’s preconceived notions about serial killer shows. With “Hannibal”, “CSI”, “Criminal Minds”, “Law and Order: SVU”, and “Bones” there’s a hunt on for a different serial killer five nights a week. By now we know all about their elaborate and disturbing crimes scenes. We’ve heard a multitude of tragic back stories that lead the killers down their paths. There really isn’t tons of new gold left for a show about the hunt for a serial killer.
The genius about “True Detective” is that it’s a serial killer show that’s unconcerned with murder. The real interesting dynamic isn’t the hunt for the killer or the linking of evidence, but the relationship between Woody Harrelson’s buttoned up by the book Martin Hart and Matthew McConaughey’s alcoholic outsider Rustin “Rust” Cohle. That’s where the real mysteries are in the show.
The show’s serial killer leaves women tied to a tree with antlers attached to their heads. It’s a schtick that “Hannibal” already did to near perfection. The crime scene in “True Detective” is far less exotic or breathtaking than anything on “Hannibal”, but the scene isn’t there for stylized violence. Every scene in the first episode peeled back another layer from the relationship between Hart and Cohle. Hart and the rest of the detectives use notepads for crime observations, but McConaughey’s Cohle employs a large legal pad. He’s gets the nickname “Taxman” for his choice of paper. It’s just another of Cohle’s outsider tendencies.
McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is a recovering alcoholic still not over the death of his daughter. He lives in an unfurnished apartment with only a mattress on the floor. Harrelson’s Martin Hart is on the other end of the spectrum. He’s got the perfect American family with a wife and two daughters in a comfortable middle class home. The conversation about God and life in the car between Cohle and Hart was the clearest example of how different “True Detective” is from other detective shows. This isn’t a show concerned with blood spatter or toxicology reports. It’s just two amazing actors shooting the breeze.
Other little touches from the show were great. The 1995 Detective squad looks to have only white male detectives, but Cohle and Hart are being interviewed by two African American detectives in 2013 from their same old squad. In may ways the show is about how quickly things can change in life. That’s also expressed by the difference in how Hart and Cohle look seventeen years after the case. Hart is bald and wearing an ill fitting suit. He seems to have kept up some sort of professional life for himself. Cohle is exactly the opposite. He’s wearing dirty clothing, sporting crazy facial hair, and when he’s not smoking, he’s drinking. Not a good sign from a guy with an alcohol problem.
The show gives viewers enough crime tidbits to keep the case moving, but the real shocks are sure to come from the one on one conversations between the two Detectives. Finding the killer isn’t going to be half as interesting as discovering why the two haven’t spoken since 2002. What was their big falling out about? Also the 2013 Detectives seems to infer that Cohle might be a suspect in the later murders. “True Detective” is a show that spotlights the interaction of two men trying to solve a case, and not on the over the top “Silence of the Lambs” cliches that we all know so well. It’s made even better that the complete story will be told in one season. There’s no reason for the show to leave any arrows in its quiver.
So what did everyone think about “True Detective”?