Photo: ©2013 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved.
“It’s all about me, me, me, I, I, I, I’m so fucking important…”
Rust Cohne (Matthew McConaughey) isn’t what you’d call a religious man. Talking to detectives Papania and Gilbough in 2012, he rails agains the self-centred delusion of belief with righteous vitriol. He does the same thing in 1995 while solving the murder of a prostitute.
He and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) stroll into a small Christian gathering, where a priest is engaged in a lively sermon. Rust’s condescending dismissal of the congregation annoys Hart, who stands up for the “common good” of community. It’s a strange position for Hart to take, as we realise just how little common good there is in his life: his marriage to Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) is increasingly a sham, while even his affair with Lisa (Alexandra Daddario) has gone off the rails.
Hart’s relationships with women is fantastically compared to those of Cohne in one double-date scene, which sees Maggie set Rust up with a friend. McConaughey’s drawn face sits there, more interested in smoking than sex. “We don’t mind being alone,” he points out to Monaghan’s unhappy wife, who wonders why she’s still with her unfaithful husband.
With all the domestic details being scrutinised by Nic Pizzolatto’s subtly shifting script, you’d be forgiven for forgetting this show is about solving a crime at all. The pair’s investigation continues – indeed, they make a significant breakthrough from their church visits – but the seeping, insidious nature of the killing is shown in their lives rather than the plot: Hart’s daughter starts doodling graphic sex cartoons in her notebook, while Rust becomes increasingly, overtly disgusted by Louisiana’s widespread faith.
The effects poke through in sharp confrontations – a returned lawnmower, a boyfriend of Lisa’s – which remind us that while Rust is the outsider, Hart is the land-mine of the pair. The calm scepticism of McConaughey is unsettling, but Harrelson’s red-faced violence is what really shocks; like Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in Se7en, we’re watching the slipping of a mask in the face of extreme darkness. And despite our initial impressions, it’s becoming more and more obvious that Rust Cohne is actually Morgan Freeman.
“You’ve got to get together and tell yourself stories just to get through the day,” Cohne notes. As society’s story unravels, True Detective’s story remains focused on its unbalanced boys in blue. That may not sound like the makings of a classic crime mystery, but the slow drip-feed of character is gripping in its details. “The world needs bad men,” he adds. “We keep the other bad men from the door.” The brief final glimpse of a new extreme of darkness has you desperate to get through the next seven days; not to find out what happens next, but to find out what happens to this fascinating couple.
Good or bad, it’s all about them, them, them. And that’s definitely a good thing.
True Detective Season 1 and 2 are available on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it legally on NOW TV, for £7.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial.
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All photos: © Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved.