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TV Review: 'True Detective: 'The Long Bright Dark'

True Detective


HBO has been heavily promoting their series 'True Detective.' The hype has been immense given the casting of major film stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey star in 'True Detective'
Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey star in HBO's 'True Detective'

And judging from its January 12th pilot episode, the media buzz appears to be worthy, with one of the most gripping television pilots in years.

McConaughey and Harrelson play Louisiana C.I.D. officers (Rust Cohle and Martin Hart respectively), two partners who worked on a prostitute murder case in the mid-90's.

The pilot episode 'The Long Bright Dark' cuts between that time period and present day, where the officers are being interviewed (separately) for their insights into that case, but from the get-go it's apparent that nothing is quite as it seems.

What is clear, is that the two partners have an uneasy alliance; Hart is a family man, no-nonsense, and likes to play by the rules. Cohle by contrast, seems deeply disturbed; a drug addicted nihilist with no social graces; he's obsessive to a degree that stretches the boundaries of even the most tortured serial killer profiler tale.

That character trope has become a Hollywood cliche, but McConaughey's performance is taking it to new heights, or lows as it were, making the show appear to stand apart from show's like 'Hannibal', 'The Killing' and 'The Bridge.'

His worldview troubles Hart, and Harrelson has many comical pained expressions when hearing McConaughey's character spouts bleak statements, like when he's describing the bleak terrain they're working in; "It's all one ghetto man one big gutter in outer space."

In addition to the fine performance work, the show is aided by a rich, Southern Gothic look, with tension heightened from the hurricane ravaged Louisiana setting.

The police procedural chugs along, with the duo making inquiries, and trying to work out the meanings to the odd artifacts left at the kill site, as well as the posing of the body.

But the real tension appears to arise in the modern day questioning of the two by a duo of young detectives; why are the officers being questioned so intensely on a murder that happened so long ago? Much foreshadowing comes from the probing questions that come at Hart, where they seem keenly interested in his troubled partner.

While Hart has aged, and is balding, Cohle has grown long straggly hair, and looks like a drifter. Towards the end of the episode we see where all this is going; a new body has been found, bearing the same pattern as the murder from many years ago. Cohle seems intrigued, as they thought they'd put away the killer.

But is it intimated that Cohle went off the deep end, and became a killer himself? Or is Hart's benign persona merely a disguise, and Cohle is a red herring, unaware of (or covering up) his partner's dark side?

Who knows? But we have 9 more episodes left to find out.

'True Detective' airs Sunday nights at 8:00pm. For more info, click here for its official website.

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