HBO’s True Detective recently finished its inaugural run and set a bar so high, I predict all follow up seasons will suffer by comparison. It simply was that good.
Writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto gets first honors for taking the classic buddy cop scenario and crafting something that feels fresh, yet familiar. By injecting Lovecraftian horror elements into the story, he transforms what would be a standard murder investigation to a tantalizing otherworld of possibilities. Never really sure where it’s going until the end…even then still questioning it a bit. Not an easy trick to pull off. His dialogue is pure pleasure to listen to. Pulp detective tough guy in a modern world of PHD psyche profiling, complete with southern drawl. Not once did it seem artificial or forced as you might expect, these two cops are as smart as they are hard-boiled. Not to mention funny, some of the one liners Woody Harrelson utters are classics that will be repeated as passwords for the True Detective initiates for years to come.
The look of the show is glorious high definition grit with an epic scope. Much has been made of director Carey Fukunaga’s approach, with beautiful establishing shots and iconic imagery scattered about. But I think his true accomplishment is the melding of the writers concept mentioned earlier to the unique southern atmosphere a place like Louisiana affords. Through his lens, it doesn’t seem so farfetched that an ancient cult has held sway over the swamps and wilderness for multiple generations. In fact, it seems downright plausible.
Mathew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are the final element in this modern noir masterpiece. Nothing needs said other than career defining role, for both. I think McCaunaughey’s Rust Cohle will get more attention come awards season, simply because of the nature of the role. But Harrelson as Marty Hart is equally deserving of praise for balancing his onscreen partner in a grounded reality, allowing for the more surreal moments to play out in contrast.
As far as criticisms go, they are so minor and easily forgiven I choose not to mention them.