You know him – damaged, difficult, brilliant. He’s been on the telly, they wrote a book and there’s even a movie. He’s a detective, invariably. Even if he’s a doctor or consultant detection is what he does, what he is. True Detective‘s broken genius is Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) – a handlebar moustache and ponytail sporting, roadkill eating rat looking son of a bitch, sleepless and loveless since Christ knows when, a man who comes on like he’s got a girl tied up in his basement. The year is 2012, the place is Louisiana and he’s been dragged out of his shitbox by police to talk about the case he worked in 1995 back when he was po-po himself.
Det. Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts, who you’ll know as Brother Mouzone from The Wire) and Det. Thomas Papania (Tory Kittles who you’ll know as the guy who sits next to him or conceivably Laroy from Sons of Anarchy) talk to him about the ritualistic murder of local junior hooker Dora Kelly Lange – arcane symbols painted on her body, deer antlers stuck on her head, (making Hannibal fans wonder if the Minnesota Shrike is still at large). The killer was caught but now, 17 years later, a body drops with signs of a very similar M.O. and what Gilbough and Papania want to know is “didn’t y’all catch this turd back then?” Some True Detective you turned out to be! ¹
Rustin Cohle – a handlebar moustache and ponytail sporting, roadkill eating rat looking son of a bitch, sleepless and loveless since Christ knows when
It’s a fair point. They separately interview Det. Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson), Cohle’s partner at the time. They haven’t spoken since a falling out in 2002. Cohle spent much of the noughties off the grid, pissed as a cunt, marinating in the bitterest of juices where Hart stayed good police. The 1995 timeline reveals an uneasy pairing between the two – Hart favouring the traditional witnesses-evidence-timeline method with Cohle taking an elliptical instinctive route. It’s the fire and ice of Martin and Saga on The Bridge.
At Dora’s murder scene they find an intricately woven structure of twigs. Cute. We’re looking for a guy into craft fairs. One of the shitkickers they interview throws up the name of Marie Fontenot, a young girl who disappeared five years previously. When they snoop around her uncle’s place they find another twig structure in the playhouse. Who is it, the fricking Blair Witch? The sense of impending doom is oppressive.
The dismal Louisiana fucklands they trawl through are a fitting backdrop for their descent into the heart of whatever darkness it is that makes toys of twigs and chopping blocks of little girls
True Detective is superb. Harrelson is a powerhouse and McConaughey is an electric storm swarming around him. The dismal Louisiana fucklands they trawl through are a fitting backdrop for their descent into the heart of whatever darkness it is that makes toys of twigs and chopping blocks of little girls.
The street-smart noiry dialogue is ripped through with Cohle’s nihilism and Hart’s need to believe in a better world than the one that stares him in the face every day. Well he’s shit out of luck on that one. He doesn’t live in a better world, he lives in this one and he can eat a yard of dick daily if he thinks he’s getting out of this without permanent psychological scarring.
As for Cohle he’s well ahead of us. He took a fast-track to ruin the moment his daughter died. There’s a lot of that around. Harrelson and McConaughey are this year’s Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. Watch this show. You’ll be screaming its name by the end of the year.
The verdict: American Gothic.
Marks out of 10: 8.5
¹ Fuck you.