Only a couple hours after Matthew McConaughey took home the Golden Globe for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club, his new series debuted on HBO and all but guaranteed the actor will be adding an Emmy (and likely another Globe) to his ever expanding trophy case. Since last Sunday's True Detective impeccable series premiere, McConaughey also added an Oscar nomination and SAG Award to his resume, the recognition finally pouring in for his incredible recent run. And the run seems far from over with Christopher Nolan's Interstellar on the horizon not to mention six more episodes of True Detective to steal.
"Seeing Things" picked up right where the brilliant "The Long Bright Dark" left off, McConaughey putting on an acting clinic while a captivating and detailed murder investigation unravels around his enigmatic Detective Rust Cohle. Don't get me wrong, Woody Harrelson is great as Detective Marty Hart but his partner's part is just more attractive. Audiences are always drawn to the tortured soul and Cohle is definitely that with more of his tough past seeping out this week. Hart is also complex, wanting to be the protective patriarch yet spending his decompression time from the casework having an affair with a woman half his age. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who saw the tryst coming after Alexandra Daddario's brief appearance last week, however, I wasn't expecting to see such an explicit encounter. I don't know why, it is HBO. She was fine in her brief sequence as was Michelle Monaghan but True Detective so far seems to use the female characters simple to shape the men.
The confrontation scene that follows Hart's return to work with 'pussy on him' was perhaps the most compelling of the week despite the relatively low stakes. Seeing McConaughey and Harrelson spar, a hint of the much bigger falling out that's coming, was captivating. The tension in their odd-couple relationship slowly building as Hart is ready to hear Cohle's blunt truths. The exploration of these human contradictions is something that not only fascinates Cohle, who is mainlining the secret truth of the universe (just one of many amazing pulp phrases crafted by writer-creator Nic Pizzolatto), but the show itself. True Detective has a lot more on its mind than the central mystery, even though the impeccably crafted whodunit is compelling enough on its own, weaving subjects like religion, traditional values and cultism into the series' rich existential tapestry.
As for the mystery, the details continue to eek out as we learn more about our leads with the partners unearthing only a few more clues in the past while the framing story of "Seeing Things" in the present also continued to drop hints at what's to come. Like the big throw-down in the woods. That's the genius of True Detective's structure, Pizzolatto uses the different time periods to continually build suspense and at some point down the line, the investigation must bleed into the future. For now, Cohle and Hart track down a few leads with sinister religious and sexual undertones like the opening scene with a girl's mother where, without being prompted, she shares how her husband would wash the child.
How old was this girl being washed? Cause we also learn that a lot of the girls who wind up at the 'Bunny Ranch' have been sexually abused by relatives. Another powerful scene where the woman running the joint reframes Hart's perspective on sex. The ranch is the one major lead that pans out for the detectives during the lull in the case and they wind up nabbing Dora's diary which contains references to 'The King in Yellow,' Robert W. Chambers' collection of short horror stories published in 1895, with Carcosa being a mysterious or cursed place. It also has a flyer for a church called Friends of Christ Revival and, since it was the third or fourth mention of a church in "Seeing Things," the detectives follow up the clue before their Major (Kevin Dunn in a great supporting part) gives the case to a task-force investigating cult links.
The way that Cohle reacts to the idea that this string of ritualistic murders is somehow related to some Satanic activity reminds me of the epic mishandling of the 'West Memphis Three' case where three young boys were wrongfully convicted of a heinous crime because of this kind of religious and/or small town paranoia. Watch West of Memphis. The 'church' set was one of the most stunning locations in recent memory, providing Cary Fukunaga ample opportunities to create some really striking images to close out the episode. One of the most chilling was the slow pan to reveal a girl in the victim's pose, antlers and all, spray painted on the wall. It's still not as disturbing as the shot of the Hart daughters' dolls. Were they playing The Accused? What the hell?
True Detective returns with Episode 3, "The Locked Room," Sunday, January 26 at 9:00 p.m. ET on HBO. Created by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga, the series stars Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, Tory Kittles, Alexandra Daddario, Elizabeth Reaser and Kevin Dunn.
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