TV Recap: True Detective, Series Premiere

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True Detective plays like a novel unfolding before your very eyes.

Yes, it’s a very unusual way to describe a television show. However, when you watch the brand new crime drama from HBO you feel as if you’re consuming it at the same pace, intensity and excitement as an amazing novel. Each scene is laid out with such vivid detail, every character movement, every character trait is so detailed. Everything in this show just speaks volumes and is so meticulously crafted that it jumps off the screen at you, grabs you and holds you in a death grip till the end of the episode.

The anthology series is told during two time periods — in 1995 Louisiana at the beginning of a mysterious and grizzly killing and in 2012 where the two detectives on the original case Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) are being interviewed by the police about the crime and their partnership.

The crime scene of the 1995 murder serves not only as a jump off point for our plot, but also as the arena where the relationship between the relatively new partners Cohle and Hart begins to fall apart. Hart is your standard gritty, no nonsense cop while Cohle is an existential and emotional damaged detective. The two are complete polar opposites, but this is no buddy cop series, these two guys do not jive at all and even at the case’s most infant stages, their relationship affects their work.

In 2012, we see Cohle has devolved into a long-haired chain-smoking alcoholic with death drive kicked into high gear. Meanwhile Hart has upgraded to a successful civilian but there’s definitely something underneath the “everything’s great” facade that is eating at him. Both are highly suspect of why they are being talked too, but begrudgingly agree to delve into the case and their relationship.

As an episode, the premiere of True Detective scratches the surface of what this entire series holds for its audience. The plot is almost boiling over with dark twists and turns that as audience you’re collectively left salivating for more. It’s exciting to be this into a show so early on.

Yet, as good as the plot of the show is, it’s the acting that takes the show into a whole other stratosphere. Harrelson and McConaughey onscreen together have an amazingly passive aggressive (which will no doubt evolve into just pure aggressive) oppositional relationship. They begrudgingly have to work together and the contempt they have for each other is so palpable you can serve it up like Sunday dinner with room for seconds…and it is delicious.

Yet, it’s McConaughey who absolutely steals the entire premiere episode. Harrelson will undoubtedly get his time to shine, but it’s going to be hard even for an actor of his caliber to touch what McConaughey is doing in this episode. Seriously, remember when Matthew McConaughey never wore a shirt and he was the charming jerk in every romantic comedy ever? Now, he’s the man who took home a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama the same night of the premiere. Within the 60 minutes of this episode, McConaughey is able to portray a lifetime of agony, disillusion, self-loathing, bile and brilliance into one character. Watching McConaughy onscreen is mesmerizing. Every move he makes is loaded with all of his character’s unbearable baggage. Calling it now, this has Emmy-winning performance written all over it.

True Detective is, as cliches go, the first must-see new television show of 2014. But, let’s take it a step further — this could be the best new show of the year. The stellar performances, the great score (thank you T-Bone Burnett), the mesmerizing storyline — it will all leaving you wanting more True Detective….immediately and not in a week.

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Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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