Recently, they did a study finding autistic brains are, on average, most “active” at rest. Put another way, someone with autism’s probably going to experience more when they’re alone versus around other people or when watching something. Conclusions drew on observation of the “brain activity” indicator, so grain-of-salt that for your palate. Point being: it’s entirely possible there are people who’ll get more from closing their eyes than even HBO’s sensory-overloading and critically-acclaimed hit True Detective could aim to offer.
My hunch that hot shot lawman Rustin Cohle sits somewhere on that spectrum? Neither here nor there. He has demonstrated brilliance, brooding throughout, but his detective work alone doesn’t account for this show’s first-season success. It hasn’t just been Matthew McConaughey or his dour character; teamed with Woody Harrelson’s intriguing Martin Hart, though, the edges of the map are filled in. Together, as partners, their chemistry is delectable like sour patch kids. But candy isn’t filling, and this show sits in your gut like Thanksgiving dinner. Something’s awry, so what’s missing here? It’s right under my nose..
Lurking in the shadows, puppeteering the shit out this bad mutha-shut-your-mouth is True Detective‘s creator, writer, and one of several executive producers, the talented Nic Pizzolatto. He’s a hipster whiz kid with a hand-me-down loom, spinning one incredible yarn. It’s artisan. I imagine he writes by hand, at a lucite table with one chair, a desk lamp, and one of each mind-altering substance ever distilled by man at arm’s length.
Prematurity be damned, I believe the Home Box Office already secured another slam dunk with this show. (Speaking of: Ballers, slated for 2014 on HBO, sets out to follow Mark Wahlberg and Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson through the always-trending South Florida.) A visceral, craft-filmed and not-so-buddy-buddy cop drama, TD stands before you, ready today to blow your mind.
Without going any more Yellowstone ( ’cause I’ve been gushing pretty consistently), I think it’s undeniable: there is not a finer written or more engaging six episodes to air on TV this year. Heck, what Pizzolatto and director Cari Joji Fukunaga have done – other than slay my GPA – could echo far beyond 2014. It wouldn’t be wise to expect this level of amazing after True Detective‘s first season, since the show will run in an anthology format with a new cast and plot each season. All the more reason to tune in now, soak up this spectacle while it is rightfully gaining steam. The rumbling of critical approval and head nods is approaching a crescendo.
True Detective gets flack for its deliberate, methodical pace. It may linger in its moments, but c’mon, these headline stars are slow-drawlin’ southern gentleman with a twang that has to land, like a punchline. They just need more time to talk it out. Everyone who is generous with patience will be rewarded by the experience.
To improve is to change. TD tweaks the classic whodunnit, paring a top-shelf soundtrack with A-list actors and an airtight narrative. Mr. T Bone Burnett signed on to turn up the music, and he’s been lauded for the life he breathes into an already virile cinematography. As we follow along with Detectives Hart & Cohle, investigating the Dora Lange disappearance and murder, these Louisiana overhead shots teem to life. Bayou blues joints and soulful guitar strings resonate, ripe for the pluckin’. Lurid bass plods accompanying the light and shadows give me goosebumps. Credit to Fukunaga as well, for he’s a jolly good artist behind the camera. Yes, my ears and eyes agree: True Detective‘s a hit. It’s just had me feeling spiritual.
Of course, now the upper echelon of the TV landscape has changed. It is difficult to not juxtapose Netflix’s tremendously successful $100 million dollar gamble on House of Cards with HBO going all-out to secure silver screen star Woody Harrelson (Hunger Games, White Men Can’t Jump) and lady bait Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street) – especially in light of their flagship True Blood winding down, now in its seventh season. Not skimping, TD showcases other capable supporting actors who are fascinating in their own small roles. Guys like Hart & Cohle’s boss in the ’95 flashbacks, Ken Quesada (Kevin Dunn, of HBO’s Veep); also the meandering rural preacher Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham, of Boardwalk Empire).
As dependable eye candy, the casting director selected some wellspring-type screen actors in Marty’s wife Maggie Hart (Michelle Monaghan) and the mistress responsible for much of Marty’s distress, Lisa (SFW, Alexandra Daddario). I cannot wait to see how things pan out, what with so many irons in the fire and some clear sparks striking Maggie and Rust. Tory Kittles (Sons of Anarchy, Malibu’s Most Wanted) and Michael Potts (The Wire) form an investigative tandem of their own, as Detectives Thomas Papania and Maynard Gilbough. We meet these two fellas in the future (neat plot device) as they take statements in 2012, separately, from Martin and Rust about what happened some 17 years ago. They have a lot of questions about Dora Lange and those kids they found in the woods.
Why? Well, Papania & Gilbough are on the case of a death within present-day Louisiana. This crime had a clear if not downright suspiciously similar m.o. to the Lange case, which explains why Hart & Cohle are useful; slightly dubious even. Some other circumstances go far enough as to implicate the former detectives – each is grilled about the events of old cases.
True Detective thrives on a disjointed chronology to tamp down its layer-cake story. Pizzolatto’s in his element here, cooking with gas, fixing different heat on his characters, revealing tendencies and ticks that beg questions. Viewers are thrust into the past, flung back to the future, then tasked with tracking a delicately woven intrigue. And like lying in bed the morning after a crazy night, you catch yourself trying to put it back together, half-assed.
As the arc of season one bends toward the eighth episode’s finale, let me just say this: no one can be trusted. Papania & Gilbough; Maggie; Marty; Rustin. Pizzolatto has created a situation impervious to prediction. Yet I struggle to doubt Rust Cohle. He’s got an insight that’s difficult to deny; unsteady and inconsistent – plagued by deep-seated traumas – there is more than meets the eye. But it’s what’s beneath the nose that counts. You ever heard of the detective’s curse? Autistic or not, this show will throttle your brain from any passive to an “active.” Right now, True Detective is king. So, go ahead, close your eyes and try to keep out this noise. Pizzolatto will just blow your mind through your ears.