True detective, Season 1 (HBO, 2014).
Score: Outstanding in everything except for the last 5 minutes.
Two detectives (played by Tory Kittles and Michael Potts) interview former members of law enforcement Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) about a serial killer case they closed in 1995 because it looks like the killer, who was supposedly caught, is out there again. Cohle and Hart have not spoken to each other since roughly the time of the case and are cooperative with the detectives (at least Hart is) but it looks like there is something they don’t really want to talk about. The narrative switches constantly between the present (2012 in the story) and 1995. The first three episodes are slow and it’s kind of hard to not lose the thread, but if you watch them the other five are your reward, in all their glorious awesomeness.
I remember we started watching this because my boyfriend was staying at my dad’s and they stumbled upon it, and they thought it was actually a movie. The artistic direction, pacing, photography and cast make you think about a really high-quality production, you know, like movies used to be and TV now is.
One of the highlights is definitely the character of Rust Cohle. It’s a hardcore nihilist in mainstream TV, ladies and gentlemen. He’s not a straw nihilist, he’s not a moderate nihilist, he’s a nihilist through and through and if you think he takes it a bit too seriously I’m sorry but you’re no nihilist. His presence in the show is totally hypnotic and as a character he’s incredibly well-built. I say this and that he’s not a straw nihilist because why would one of them become a policeman? Because even if he thinks existence is pointless he still has a solid ethical system he wants to live by, but at the same time he is no saint at all, and that’s a book example of making your character human and well-rounded. I really, really enjoyed this character as a philosophy major. I’m going to say a really mean thing right now but I never expected the star of How to lose a guy in ten days to deliver this sort of performance. I mean it, Matthew McConaughey is jaw-dropping in this. I tip my hat to you, sir.
Woody Harrelson doesn’t stay behind, though. His character might look really down-to-earth and creeped out by his buddy’s philosophy but he’s got some skeletons in his closet as well, and you’re going to see them. The two of them make a lovely couple of cop buddies, believe me. They’ve got chemistry between them and they’re the main source of funny moments in a show about ritualistic serial killings.
Look out for the six-minute long sequence shot and cry out of joy like I did. Then watch it again and marvel at how many things they crammed into it and how perfect their timing was. I watched them very closely, and they didn’t screw up once!
Everyone and their mother has already said it but in case you’re not convinced yet: it’s not the typical whodunnit, forensic, cop buddies show. It’s a really, really well-done crime thriller with some awesome characterization. It’s a must-watch, and I’ll dare to say, even for people who don’t particularly enjoy the crime genre, because it’s much more than that.
And why did I say that I liked everything but the last 5 minutes? Well, I need a spoiler tag to explain that.
I hated Rust’s final confession. I said it, he is presented and developed as a nihilist and of course an atheist, with no sugar coating. And then after a near-death experience he starts babbling about having felt his daughter’s love through the veil of death, and mystic experiences and crap. I don’t buy the official explanation, I think it’s a cowardly move from Pizzolatto, who maybe couldn’t bring himself to leave Rust the incurable pessimist we have grown to know and love? As an atheist I find it quite annoying when people resort to the old cliché of atheists shitting their pants in their deathbeds and praying or having mystical experiences. I’m scared shitless of death now that I’m young, and now prayer and religion don’t do the trick for me, why should they when I’m dying?
I’m fine with the closing line “Once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.” I think it’s good character development for Cohle to come out of this adventure a little bit more of an optimist, in fact, go for it, it’s bold and original. But all the bullshit with the near-death experience? Probably I’m reading a bit too much into it, but it feels to me that you’re invalidating Cohle’s nihilism and atheism, and by extension, my atheism (yes, you can be an atheist but not a nihilist). But I’m not one of those people who go around looking for things to be offended by, so let’s just say I didn’t like the ending because it didn’t feel consistent with previous character development.