Saturday 22nd February at 9pm
Target publication: The Guardian
HBO doesn’t do bad television. And everything from The Long Bright Dark, the first episode of Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective, suggests that won’t change now.
True Detective, an anthology crime drama, stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as Detectives Marty Hart and Rustin Cohle, nicknamed “The Taxman” because of his efficient note-keeping, respectively as they try to catch a serial killer.
The episode starts in the present day as Hart and Cohle give separate interviews about a case in 1995 – the murder of prostitute Dora Lange.
Through the use of flashbacks, the story switches repeatedly between 1995 and the present day and that works tremendously as it shows the differences in the characters and the development of their relationship.
Cohle has aged terribly. He doesn’t look dissimilar to McConaughey’s character in Dallas Buyers Club, an AIDS patient, while Hart only seems to have lost his hair.
They are also not on speaking terms anymore. Hart reveals that their partnership lasted seven years and they haven’t spoke to each other in ten.
Back in 1995, the duo finds the body of Dora Lange and it is clear that this isn’t just an ordinary procedural cop show. She is tied to a tree having been tortured and stabbed to death with a crown of leaves and deer antlers on her head.
Having just been partnered together, Hart doesn’t know a lot about the more mysterious Cohle.
That doesn’t Hart inviting Cohle to his family home for dinner. But when Cohle turns up drunk, it is clear he is an incredibly damaged person and we later learn this dinner took place on the anniversary of his daughter’s death which led to the breakdown of his marriage.
This is McConaughey at his finest. While the damaged, maverick detective might be a TV trope, McConaughey ensures that it’s fresh and interesting while the use of the scenes in the present day shows that everything didn’t work out happily ever after for him.
Back on the job, Cohle and Hart link the Dora Lange murder to the case of Marie Fontenot, a young girl whose disappearance five years earlier wasn’t fully investigated or solved. Cohle had already suspected that the killer of Dora Lange had done it before and he was proved to be right.
The men interviewing Cole and Hart confirm what had already been suspected in the big reveal: they were being interviewed as another girl had been found in a similar position to Dora Lange and since the killer was caught in 1995, who could it have been?
It is also a very well produced show. Pizzolatto’s dialogue is concise and effective, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s direction is on point and the music by T Bone Burnett, the composer, and the opening theme, Far From Any Road by The Handsome Family, fits the dark south of America theme perfectly.
While not being the most action-packed episode, True Detective has a lot of potential. If they can keep enticing actors like McConaughey and Harrelson to sign on for a season, the show should remain on air for seasons to come.