'True Detective' Review: Dumb Politics, Great Characters

'True Detective' Review: Dumb Politics, Great Characters

HBO On Demand is still streaming the full first season of “True Detective,” which is made up of eight one-hour episodes that concluded Sunday. I finished it last night and wasn’t terribly impressed. The central murder mystery involving an occult serial killer is muddled and illogical and the anti-Christian sucker punches actually hurt the overall story. The central relationship between the show’s two stars — Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey — did, though, make the show worth watching.


What made no sense was a supposedly brilliant and prolific serial killer leaving a single body to be found. Over the decades, this person killed dozens, maybe hundreds. So why leave one body posed in such a sensational and public way but no others? Other than “plot device” there is no answer. There was nothing I hated more than the “green” clue that ends up solving the case. It comes out of nowhere when it should be a hard-earned last piece of the puzzle completing a picture that was in front of us the whole time.

It was also impossible to believe that anyone in the political and religious hierarchy of Louisiana would have anything to do with a depraved and dirty redneck killer. That subplot — involving a Christian religious leader and the state government — was unnecessary and felt tacked on only to hit the bigoted, left-wing sweet spot of elite television critics. A nice twist would have been their vindication instead of leaving that part of the plot hanging.

Apparently we are supposed to believe that a Jerry Falwell-type built up a huge multi-million dollar Christian ministry as a ruse just so that he could use his schools to feed victims to a disgusting pig of a serial killer and keep dirty pictures and video tapes in a cheap wall safe. Dumb.

What’s truly great about the show are the first three episodes and the ongoing and ever-evolving  relationship between the mismatched partners. Harrelson’s Marty is the everyman partnered with McConaughey’s Rust — a nihilist philosopher carrying more baggage than most airports. The series’ best scenes all take place in a moving car as the two of them talk about everything but the case.

What did surprise in a good way was the resolution of the relationship between the two men, and Marty and his family. It feels wrong to spoil this even with a spoiler warning, so I won’t, but “uplifting” is not what I expected. Of course, after you rewind everything it all makes sense; it was always about getting these characters to this place.   

It’s eight-hours of your life. If you love great acting, characters, and dialogue — jump in. If you love a good mystery and are a little tired of liberal sucker punches that hurt the storytelling — pass.

NOTE: For those of you who think this review is late, the future is binge-watching. I’m not late, I’m on the cutting edge.


Follow  John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC