Thursday night Kish and I watched the first episode of True Detective, the new HBO series starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. It was a real powerhouse that left us eager for more.
The context and set-up of the show are intriguing. In the first episode we saw the two main characters at two times and from two perspectives — recorded interviews in 2012 about a bizarre killing and the actual investigation of the murder by the two detectives in 1995. The unifying point is a highly ritualized murder of a woman who is found kneeling and bound, carefully positioned with her hands together as if in prayer, wearing a crown of deer antlers, surrounded by stick creations that are believed to catch evil spirits. It’s a terrible crime that baffles and repels one character and seems to fascinate the other.
McConaughey plays Rust Cohle, a deep-thinking, introverted loner who is battling alcoholism, is still dealing with the tragic loss of his daughter for reasons we don’t yet understand, and seems to have an almost intuitive understanding of the murder. Cohle is called the Taxman because he carries a ledger in which he makes notes and carefully draws the positioning of the victim and the other items at the crime scene. Harrelson plays Martin Hart, a good old boy and self-professed family man who is disturbed by Cohle’s unconventional comments about religion, their town, and their world and seems to be dealing with problems of his own on the home front. Both were brilliant in the first episode, and the scenes in which they interact one-on-one crackle with energy, fine dialogue, and frequent humor.
As we move back and forth between 2012 and 1995, we realize that something significant has happened. Hart is still with the police force, a little older and balder, but Cohle is not. Cohle has changed from a clean-shaven man trying to be sober into a long-haired, mustachioed guy who apparently is reconciled to his alcoholism and insists on being brought a six-pack if the interview is to continue. We know that the two men worked together for seven years after the 1995 murder and apparently caught the killer, then broke up in 2002 and haven’t spoken since.
Oh . . . and we learn that there has been another killing that certainly looks like it was performed by the same murderer who killed the woman in 1995. What happened to Hart and Cohle? How did Cohle lose his daughter? How did they catch the wrong killer? Will they be brought together again to find the real murderer? We’ll find out.