My Review: True Detective (TD) Season 1 (TDS1)
If you are reading this in 2021, you are either like me who has just finished watching “True Detective Season 1 “ or you intend to watch it. Admit, I have been a bit late to the party but it’s never too late to watch a good series. And when I say “good”, it’s an understatement as this one has a style that’s hard to copy or even reproduce. Even Nic Pizzolatto, the creator tried to reproduce his S1 success twice but was unsuccessful. In one word, it is “absorbing”.
Two detectives (no surprises there) of the Louisiana State Police uncover a wider plot of murder, rape and mayhem while investigating the dark murder of a prostitute.
Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and Michelle Monaghan are part of the main cast. Everyone else has bit roles. Yes, two fellows, and I will refer to them as Papania & Gilbough rather than their real names do get to share the screen a bit but it is the duo of McConaughey and Harrelson who rule the screen. I have loved McConaughey’s acting, style and charisma since, “A Time to Kill” and then, “Sahara” and then “Interstellar”. Admit, Fool’s Gold and The Dark Tower were duds but probably we have to give him the benefit of doubt. McConaughey’s character, Rust Cohle’s appearance in two different timelines is a brilliantly managed. He almost doesn’t look himself. The first time I looked at both his appearances, I was blown away. Woody is less focused but is as good as McConaughey in this non-linear plot. The only role I remember Michelle from is her two bit roles in the MI (Mission Impossible) movie series. In TD, she plays Woody’s wife who holds on to her self-respect while Woody solves the case with McConaughey and flirts with other women. His flirtations do end their marriage but not their love story.
Personally, I look at every piece of content and evaluate it based on what it’s trying to say. The message in TDS1 is a cliché’ but the way it’s been delivered and summed up in the end by McConaughey is perfect. He says, to Harrelson, “Well, once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.” There is a lot of content out there with incomplete endings. Sometimes, a lot is left to the imagination of the audience. At times, there is an indirect message which throws up the possibility: Evil can win over Good. TDS1 rubbishes those possibilities. It has a complete ending and a clear message: God wins over Evil. Light uncovers Darkness. I love it as though this is a message drilled into the memory of human consciousness, we need to keep telling such stories as Lucifer is always waiting for his chance. In fact, TDS1 has something past the ending. You feel like, “Oh please end, I don’t want another twist to the story”.
Old clichés like women and child abuse at the hands of a devious evil man forms the basic premise of the story. Other clichés like involvement of powerful people with political and religious influence through a network of complicated trails also compete with the former cliché. Also common is the theme where McConaughey and Harrelson both have troubles of their own. The former with himself and the latter with his family. Themes like teenage problems, drugs, poverty and Christian spirituality have also been explored. However, the best is McConaughey’s character. The best lines in the series come from McConaughey. He continuously seems to challenge the reality of himself, those around him and the world in general. It gets so weird at one point that Harrelson warns him not to share his anecdotes with others. The philosophical challenges that McConaughey’s character sets out to resolve bring him to be the brink of being marked as insane. However, it is this characterisation and its associated themes that seep into this story of clichés that make TDS1 a brilliant watch. Without it and the non-linear presentation (which somehow clicks), it would have easily been passed off as an average series, if not sunk into oblivion.
This is not one to miss if you are into mystery, horror, detective, thriller genres. It is a TV series but feels like reading a book which has its own ebbs and flows. I felt that the story picked up after the 4th or 5th episode. The final episode obviously had to be brilliant. Something to watch out for…another cliché: the murderer appears fleetingly in some of the episodes but evades detection until the very end. And, he doesn’t go out without a fight and those are the last few moments when you think…”can this end the other way”?