There was loads of hype around this series last year. I was immune to it. Mainly because Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughy aren't on my favorite lists. I'm really sick of crime shows. So "True Detective" seemed like more of the same. Plus I don't watch regular TV too often anymore. Except for one or two series that I follow which are all I have time for in life and head space. End result, I ignored this series until this week.
Do I regret initially ignoring it? No. Is it good? Yes, up to a point. I would say it is about 80 percent thoughtfulness and 20% indulgent bullshit. Is it more of the same? Yeessss. Not so much like the dreadful CSI/NCIS shows, but more in the line of Silence of the Lambs, X-Files, Seven. It even takes its cues from older, paranoid, conspiracy fare of the 70s like Klute, Parallax View and Marathon Man. Not that it does much with all of these various influences except invoke them at strange moments to give its slow moments some filler.
Harrelson and McConaughy give us some smooth acting. Although I think Harrelson won the game since his character received the majority of the characterization work. McConaughy's character just seems to be...well... a fucking Gary Stu. He is a former narc junkie but still handsome! He is incapable of keeping girlfriends but every woman in the series from prostitutes to his partner's wife even the stray female cats or dogs on the street want a piece of his action. He has the personality of a depressive Chekhov heroine who reads too much Camus and continually spouts nihilistic BS. At least the show draws the line on that and has Harrelson's character call out his toxic information dump monologues. Truthfully, I wouldn't have blinked an eye if McConaughy's Cohle went around telling everyone he was the Seagull. Yeah, it is that subtle. *eyeroll*
My main problem with the show was how it went to such lengths to give depth to Harrelson's character Hart but then created paper dolls around him to represent the women in his life. Every woman from his wife, to his daughters, his lovers and the female victims are just game pieces. They shift around to give Hart something to react to rather than occupy story space on their own. The series most grievous error is not giving Hart's wife Maggie (played valiantly by Michelle Monaghan) enough characterization. She is just continually angry and resentful toward Hart. But we don't know why, we don't know the specifics of their rocky relationship. We don't see Maggie's day to day life, dealing with her children, her job (did she have one?), outside relationships or what she does to make a connection with her increasingly distant husband. She is just angry. That is it. I suppose creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto thought that seeing Harrelson's Hart act like a chauvinistic asshole was enough reason for any viewer to need. But no, it isn't. I wanted to know her! Especially because of the later blowup she causes for herself, her husband and Cohle. We needed to see more interaction between her and Cohle. I think Monaghan and McConaughy did perform well in making it clear that both characters had a strong undercurrent of attraction. But the show leaves it at that. I think there would have been loads of juicy opportunities to show that Maggie, continually trying to fix up Cohle with her friends on blind dates, is trying to desperately redirect her desire into a safer activity. Maggie was a missed opportunity for this show.
The actual crime and mystery was well done if a bit derivative. The camera work was stylish and really set up the location well. Louisiana in this series is both beautiful and ugly, crowded but at times disturbingly desolate wilderness, it is filled with surprising mystery surrounding people that Cohle continually tries to imply are simple minded. The villain at the end is simultaneously hilarious and frightening.
All in all, it was a scary good drama for most of the time just annoyingly lazy in character work. Perhaps the next season, starting this June 21, will be better. But I won't be making any promises that I'll be watching.
Labels: commentary, culture, reviews, television