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Tyler   

 

AV Club:

 

This moody, arrestingly shot preview for the Cary Fukunaga-directed, eight-episode series—the first of a planned anthology, each with different stories and, presumably, movie stars—suggests True Detective could soon put Harrelson and McConaughey’s laconic Louisiana cops in the pantheon of TV antiheroes currently wrangling with those sorts of troubling questions, as they track a serial killer across 17 years of changing hairstyles, wardrobes, and understandings of how close to becoming a monster man has to get in order to catch one.

 

In other words, each season of the show will have a different story and cast, a la American Horror Story.

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NBooth   

David Bianculli:

 

True Detective is very smartly written and structured, and artfully photographed. But it's the performances that dazzle me the most here. Harrelson pulls off a nifty juggling act; he's funny one moment and ferocious the next. And McConaughey, who's in the midst of a midcareer resurgence, is flat-out superb as a detective so tightly wound that he doesn't sleep, he hallucinates while awake and he's prone to speaking either in long pessimistic monologues or cryptic monosyllables.
 
When Hart asks Cohle the simplest of questions — "Your mom still alive?" — Cohle answers with one word: "Maybe." And it's the way the two actors respond to one another that makes True Detective TV's latest must-see drama.

 

 

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I plan to give this show a chance. I can't recall the circumstances, but I bought the novel from the guy behind this series and enjoyed it. I don't know what happens to go from debut novelist to HBO producer but I am interested in seeing the results.

 

I do expect a certain amount of "HBO debut season-ness," which seems to be part of the cost of doing business.

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NBooth   

Biblioklept has a riff:

 

There’s a heavy streak of Cormac McCarthy and James Ellroy here, not to mention a dose of The Wire, Michael Mann (and a pinch of David Lynch). Detractors of the show will likely single out its ponderous and cerebral dialogue, or maybe point out that, yeah, we’ve seen this story before. Such criticisms would be (will be) intertwined; those who want a murder mystery delivered with a nice neat bow on it are almost surely going to be disappointed—and most likely, will fault the show’s philosophical tone

 

.

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M. Leary   

The first episode was a slog for me. I can't get past the performances, particularly Matthew Mac... He doesn't quite pull off the brooding savant detective thing without it feeling like acting.

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I haven't seen any of his recent films that most folks seem to be praising him for, but I was pretty impressed by his performance. More so in the flashback scenes actually.

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Yeah, I have seen a lot of folks claiming True Detective was a standou role for him.  And really, I am in agreement after watching the premier.  I found myself intrigued.  I liked the visual style (everybody has such distinctive features, almost looks like a Frank Quitely drawing in motion) of the show.  And combined with his scrawny thin frame and face in the flashbacks, the quiet inwardly focused detective thing worked real well for me.

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It took me six days, but I watched the first episode and loved it.

 

Both lead characters are total crime fiction cliches and that is a ton of the fun. Woody Harrelson is terrific. He describes himself by quoting The Wire. Can you imagine how badly a feature writer would hyperventilate for that in real life?

 

This might end up as a dissapointment, but I am all in to watch.

 

I hope the 90s can be a bit of a character at some point. Clearly, the good guys don't wear 90s-era fashion in the flashbacks.

Edited by J. Henry Waugh

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Watched first episode last night.  My wife caught an interesting visual: as they ride in the car talking (or not talking) about religion, we see telephone poles going by -- cross after cross -- on both sided of the car.

 

Looks very promising.

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Oh, I think that was pretty deliberate.  My mom noted last night how so much of the show is just McConaughey and Harrelson talking (to each other or being interviewed by the two investigators)...but we all find it captivating.

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I wasn't sure about this for the first few episodes, but the third episode sold me.  Their discussion about the ideas behind the show in the Inside the Episode promo is worth listening to.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYNElFYO1XI

 

 

McConaughey is doing some of the best acting in his career these days and True Detective has the advantage of giving him 8 hours to develop a character instead of 2.  Three hours in, his performance has already surpassed just about any other film I've seen him in.  His character, Detective Cohle, could have walked right out of the pages of a James Ellroy novel.

 

At this point, given the themes that interest and excite A&F members.  I think True Detective is probably just the sort of thing everyone here would be deeply interested in.

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NBooth   

Bah. I was eager to see this anyway, but those clips just sold me. Too bad I don't get HBO.

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Anyone catch episode 4? Those last 10 minutes. Wow.

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I did.  During the scene I thought it was intense and suspenseful, but it wasn't until hours later that I realized how haunting it was.  It was the stuff of nightmares.  I'm still surprised that I'm not put off by how dark this show is.  Usually, I abhor stories that seem to revel in artfully depicting darkness.  But, unlike most, this one is also interested in exploring substantive ideas.  It's intelligent enough not to show darkness for darkness' sake, but also to allow some characters who believe in right to ask sophisticated questions about it and to attempt to fight it.

 

Then, this morning, Matthew Schmitz writes:

 

"... Even in this heightened moment of action, we’re reminded of central themes. Cohle takes precious time (“thirty seconds, thirty seconds, in and out thirty seconds” he repeats) to help a child hide in the stash house’s bathtub where he’ll be slightly safer from any crossfire. Nothing fazes Cohle, nothing really matters for him except for children. His partner Martin Hart (Woody Harrellson) is capable of caring about women, even if only passingly and self-servingly, but for Cohle kids are all. Even when meeting Hart’s estranged wife to broker a truce between the couple, he’s unable to recognize her legitimate grievances because they stand in the way of her children’s happiness. Hart’s wife recoils from Cohle’s stringent views in precisely the way we’ve seen her husband do, but horror at Cohle is the only union the meeting achieves.

 

That horror, mixed with admiration, has to be shared by the viewer as we see Cohle return to the darkness of his old undercover identity to penetrate a biker gang. (If you call your organization the Iron Crusaders, stay away from men named Rust.) Cohle straps a belt around his arm and flicks a needle. He plows through pills and powder with the single purpose of finding his man—and yet, we can’t help but notice the way it saddens and sways him, how the man he plays has formed the man he is. You can’t keep your identities separate, it turns out, as his partner has also painfully learned."

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I watched it a day late and was riveted. Spoiler: Going undercover seems like an incredibly convoluted way to accomplish a simple task,but the payoff for the viewer was incredible.

 

I have actively not liked serial killer plots a long time, so I am glad True Detective is approaching this more like Zodiac.

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I did.  During the scene I thought it was intense and suspenseful, but it wasn't until hours later that I realized how haunting it was.  It was the stuff of nightmares.  I'm still surprised that I'm not put off by how dark this show is.  Usually, I abhor stories that seem to revel in artfully depicting darkness.  But, unlike most, this one is also interested in exploring substantive ideas.  It's intelligent enough not to show darkness for darkness' sake, but also to allow some characters who believe in right to ask sophisticated questions about it and to attempt to fight it.

 

Then, this morning, Matthew Schmitz writes:

 

"... Even in this heightened moment of action, we’re reminded of central themes. Cohle takes precious time (“thirty seconds, thirty seconds, in and out thirty seconds” he repeats) to help a child hide in the stash house’s bathtub where he’ll be slightly safer from any crossfire. Nothing fazes Cohle, nothing really matters for him except for children. His partner Martin Hart (Woody Harrellson) is capable of caring about women, even if only passingly and self-servingly, but for Cohle kids are all. Even when meeting Hart’s estranged wife to broker a truce between the couple, he’s unable to recognize her legitimate grievances because they stand in the way of her children’s happiness. Hart’s wife recoils from Cohle’s stringent views in precisely the way we’ve seen her husband do, but horror at Cohle is the only union the meeting achieves.

 

That horror, mixed with admiration, has to be shared by the viewer as we see Cohle return to the darkness of his old undercover identity to penetrate a biker gang. (If you call your organization the Iron Crusaders, stay away from men named Rust.) Cohle straps a belt around his arm and flicks a needle. He plows through pills and powder with the single purpose of finding his man—and yet, we can’t help but notice the way it saddens and sways him, how the man he plays has formed the man he is. You can’t keep your identities separate, it turns out, as his partner has also painfully learned."

 

Granted, I'm not up on most of the current crop of highly praised TV, but I've never seen a tracking shot like that done for television before. And with all the "talkiness" of the show so far, this came out of the blue and hit pretty hard.

 

And great observations from the commentator, remembering that the death of Cohle's own child triggered the end of his marriage and delving into undercover work.

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On that tracking shot:

 

 

"We had ADs [assistant directors] all over the neighborhood because we had to release extras, crowd running background, police cars, stunt drivers. There were actual gun shots and stones being thrown through windows. There were a lot of things to put together," Fukunaga said. "Even the action, the stunt sequences were complicated. We're working on a television schedule. It isn't like a film where you can spend a lot of time working the stunts out with the actors. We only had a day and a half to get Matthew and everyone else on the same page."

 

All told, the sequence clocks in at around six minutes. Fukunaga and the crew ran through the whole thing seven times while the cameras were rolling. The director built in possible edit points if two takes had to be combined to make the perfect version of the shot, but anyone who is wondering should know that the sequence everyone saw in the episode is, in fact, a true single take and one of the great achievements of filmmaking for television.

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NBooth   

I still haven't gotten a chance to see this, but everything I hear has me more and more stoked, including this piece at ThinkProgress:

 

True Detective, on the surface, seems to be a noir story. But a deeper dive into the references that keep popping up in the show suggest it’s from another place entirely: it’s a horror story dressed up in noir clothing. All these details come from a mythology that writers have been contributing to for more than 120 years: an interlocking set of stories, poems, and even a play about a fictional city called Carcosa, that can never quite be seen directly.

 

 

 

Bonus points for mentioning James Blish, who--besides being my entry-way into Star Trek: TOS--wrote A Case of Conscience, a book I very much enjoyed, and one that's often brought into discussions of "religious science fiction."

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Greg P   

Anyone else catch the Promise Keepers reference in this week's episode? This show continues to utterly astound me-- Ep 5 was just stunning and actually kept me awake for a couple hours, which is a rare thing indeed.

 

Our suspicions confirmed that Marty and Rust's narrative does not entirely jibe with the actual events   Also... this WTF moment, which I confess I missed. This obviously plays into  Audrey's "gothy" rebellion and promiscuity... And her earlier "drawing" scandal in elementary school  

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Making the unreliable narration be so overt in this episode was just great. Cohle's mimicking automatic gunfire, in particular.  

 

Thanks for passing along that picture, Greg. I am not sure how things going on in the Hart family are going to play into the overall narrative, but I find it has riveting as anything else on the show. Even Maggie's "it's just us now" through the door makes me wonder what secrets the family has.

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Also... this WTF moment, which I confess I missed.

What the ...? I missed it, but even worse, apparently at least so far, both Hart and Cohle missed it too.

 

Also, according to Kevin P. Sullivan:

... Jeff Jensen from Entertainment Weekly noticed back in the first episode that both "black stars" and "Yellow King" were references to author Robert W. Chambers and his influential collection of short stories called "The King in Yellow," which opens with this excerpt from the titular fictional play.

"Along the shore the cloud waves break,

The twin suns sink beneath the lake,

The shadows lengthen

     In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,

And strange moons circle through the skies

But stranger still is

     Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,

Where flap the tatters of the King,

Must die unheard in

     Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead;

Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed

Shall dry and die in

     Lost Carcosa."

Pretty ominous, huh? "The King in Yellow" is a collection of interconnected short stories, some of which mention a play of the same name that will drive anyone who reads it entirety mad. The king referenced in the title is a supernatural being that is essentially an embodiment of death. "I pray God will curse the writer," the narrator states, "as the writer has cursed the world with this beautiful, stupendous creation, terrible in its simplicity, irresistible in its truth — a world which now trembles before the King in Yellow." ...

See also, The King in Yellow.

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Only three episodes to go, but True Detective certainly has the attention of the crowd over at First Things.

 

Julia Yost (Note: I have selected an excerpt that avoids the spoilers actually discussed in this essay):

... But Rust’s peculiar success in eliciting confessions has depended less on observation, perhaps, than on performance. The cops in 2012 want to know, what was his secret as an interrogator? A dogma. Preach it: “Everybody knows there’s something wrong with them—they just don’t know what it is. Everybody wants confession, everyone wants some cathartic narrative. . . . Everybody’s guilty.”

 

Rust’s trade secret is the doctrine of Original Sin. That doctrine guides his charismatic eliciting of a cathartic confession of “what it is” that is “wrong with them.” “There’s a weight,” he says to a suspect in Episode 3, “and it’s got its fishhooks in your heart and your soul. . . . There’s grace in this world, and there’s forgiveness for all—but you have to ask for it. . . . You got one way out, and it’s through the grace of God.”

 

Rust’s template for interrogation is the one he once applied to the old-time revivalist preacher: “Transference of fear and self-loathing to an authoritarian vessel. It’s catharsis.” No less than the bombastic preacher, Rust is performative. It is important that his interrogation subjects not get an accurate read on his attitudes and motivations ...

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