This is an era of difficult men. It’s been said many time but it still holds true. Walter White, Don Draper, Tony Soprano and many more down the line. They’re simply more compelling characters. Our latest difficult man is Rust Cohle, expertly played by Matthew McConaughey.
You wouldn't find Matthew McConaughey and “expertly played” in the same sentence just a few years ago. He’s come a long way since his Failure to Launch, Fool’s Gold, and Surfer, Dude days. He’s been nominated for an Academy Award this year for Dallas Buyers Club and should have received another nomination for Mud. As good as those performances were, this could be his best yet.
True Detective is split into two timelines, one in 1995 and the other in 2012. Cohle and his partner Martin Hart, played in a fabulous wig by Woody Harrelson, are investigating a disturbing, ritualistic murder in 1995 Louisiana. The victim, a prostitute, is found in front of a tree, on her knees, arms tied to a log, with deer antlers affixed to her head as a crown and indistinguishable drawings on her back. Bundles of twigs tied together into steeples line the woman’s body.
While investigating the case, they stumble upon a seemingly innocuous and under investigated missing persons case from years earlier involving a 10-year-old girl. Cohle’s interest is sparked and he and Hart go to the girl’s house and speak with the family. In doing so Cohle finds the same steeple of twigs in a shed in the back yard. Evidence that the prostitute was not the killer’s first victim.
Hart is a good, by the book detective with a loving family. Cohle is an alcoholic, divorced loner whose daughter died at a young age, seemingly fueling his spiral into anti-social behavior. McConaughey plays him with the perfect amount of self hate and brooding anger. Despite his quirks, Cohle is the titular “true detective.” He was put on this earth to do this job. He so thoroughly works cases that colleagues dub him the “Tax Man.”
Meanwhile in 2012, the two men are now former detectives, not having spoken in a decade. Hart, clean cut professional, is in private security and P.I. work now. While it’s unclear what exactly Cohle, disheveled with a mangy beard, does for a living, we know he begins his off days drinking a sixer of Lone Star at noon.
They’re being interviewed by two current detectives about a murder that’s nearly identical to the case they worked in 1995. However, Hart’s interview mainly focuses on his former partner. Cohle’s interview feels like an interrogation. Do they suspect Cohle in the new murder? What happened in his life that’s sent him down his current path? Why haven’t Cohle and Hart spoken in 10 years?
This was a hell of a way to start the series and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
Watch the second episode of True Detective 9 p.m. Sunday on HBO