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What I Watched Last Night: True Detective

HBO’s new drama series True Detective stars Woody Harrelson and a nearly unrecognizable Matthew McConaughey as Louisiana State Police detectives Marty Hart and Rust Cohle. I’d heard from about a zillion people that this show was excellent, but to be honest, Zombieland notwithstanding, I can’t stand Woody Harrelson, and Matthew McConaughey, well, same deal, except substitute in Dazed and Confused. But the four episodes that have aired so far are on HBOGo, and I’m snowed in, so I marathoned them last night. (The fifth episode aired Sunday night, but I haven’t watched it yet.) And holy crap, this show is good. Minor spoilers ahoy.

Screencap of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in HBO's True Detective
Image via HBO’s True Detective on Facebook

Here’s what makes True Detective awesome:

  • The series really effectively uses a framing story, a police investigation set in 2012, to flash back to the events of 1995 that make up the season’s plotline.
  • The makeup artists do a really good job of aging and de-aging the lead actors in a way that isn’t distracting or obvious.
  • Matthew McConaughey is a really good actor. I had no idea. I just thought of him as a bongo-playing stoner who’s BFFs with Lance Armstrong.
  • The plot is solid and the pacing, while some may find it a little slow, gives the audience a nice slow build without being boring.
  • T Bone Burnett does the music. If he or Bear McCreary are involved, my chances of loving a show skyrocket.
  • The 2012 plotline does a good job of making you wonder what happened in the last 17 years to turn Hart and Cohle from what we see in 1995 to what we see in 2012.
  • The last scene of the fourth episode is an incredibly well-done six-minute single take tracking shot which is honestly one of the best scenes I can think of in television pretty much ever.
  • I kind of want to punch Marty Hart in the face, but it’s because he’s well-written, and not because I’m just generally predisposed to dislike Woody Harrelson.
  • I’m not from Louisiana (or Texas, where Cohle comes from), so I can’t speak to the accuracy, but the accents are about 4000% better than HBO’s other Louisiana-set show, True Blood.
  • The location shots are excellent and do a great job of reminding viewers that there’s far more to Louisiana than New Orleans.

In all, I’m really enjoying True Detective, and I’m very glad I gave it a shot despite my initial misgivings about the lead actors. Four and a half out of five murder show-obsessed unicorns.

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