‘True Detective’ Season 1 celebrates 10-year anniversary

On Jan. 12, the first season of the ongoing anthology television series “True Detective” premiered on HBO. The show, created by Nic Pizzolatto, operates similarly to “American Horror Story” (2011–), where each season is a different story with different characters.

Since 2014, the show has provided an additional three seasons each receiving mixed critical response. However, the show’s first season is widely regarded as the show’s best season.

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The first season of “True Detective” stars Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Tory Kittles, Michael Potts and Alexandria Daddario. It follows two Louisiana state police homicide detectives, Martin ‘Marty’ Hart (Harrelson) and Rustin ‘Rust’ Cohle (McConaughey), investigating the murder of a woman named Dora Lange in 1995. Marty and Rust revisit Lange’s investigation 17 years later due to a new series of murders and missing-person cases seemingly connected to it.

The first half of the season is told in a non-linear structure. The present timeline takes place in 2012, with detectives Thomas Papania (Kittles) and Maynard Gilbough (Potts) interviewing Marty and Rust about the Dora Lange investigation. Scenes flashback to events from 1995, when Marty and Rust investigated Dora Lange’s murder, and 2002, when Marty and Rust broke off their partnership.

The show spends more time showing the lives and backstories of Marty and Rust rather than being exclusively on Dora Lange’s murder. Viewers get to better understand both detectives as characters, leading the show to expose the darker aspects of each. In both 1995 and 2002, Marty’s infidelity problems cause his marriage to Maggie (Monaghan) to collapse. Rust, however, is a whole other mystery to unravel.

During his interview, Rust gives some information about his life before becoming a homicide detective. For instance, Rust used to work as an undercover narcotics investigator while he was a member of an East Texas-based biker gang named the Iron Crusaders. Viewers also learn Rust used to have a family before their lives ended tragically. His only child was accidentally killed in a car crash, leading to a falling out in Rust’s marriage.

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Both men give thought-provoking discussion in their interviews. Rust, by far, gives the most interesting testimony out of the two. Rust’s worldview is best comparable to a pessimistic viewpoint. He frequently talks of religion, God, morality, justice and existentialism. The audience gets a deeper look at who Rust is as a human being and appreciates McConaughey’s acting genius.

When fans think of the first season of “True Detective” they think of Rust Cohle. He is one of the best-written characters and performances of the last 10 years, and no other actor could accomplish what McConaughey does with the character. Rust has so many layers of intrigue that McConaughey wrote a 450-page deconstruction of Rust Cohle’s life.

Since then, McConaughey has been in numerous movies. His most famous work is when he starred as the lead in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” (2014) as Cooper.

It isn’t to say Marty does not have any intrigue to him. While it may not be his best performance, Harrelson knocks it out of the park as Marty Hart. Before his divorce, Marty is a typical family man who only wants to provide for his wife and daughters. His affair with Lisa Tragnetti (Daddario) should create a bridge between Marty and his family, but it doesn’t in his mind.

Marty uses the excuse of his job being too stressful to rely on cheating and drinking to vent out that stress. He does love and care for Maggie and his children, but he cheats because he wants to shield the worst aspects of himself from her. It may be a stupid excuse, but Pizzolatto’s writing and Harrelson’s acting deserve praise for this complex character. They both do a tremendous job with Marty.

Likewise with McConaughey, Harrelson has also been in many films since “True Detective.” His best performance is as Sheriff Bill Willoughby in Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017).

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Speaking of Pizzolatto, he’s credited as the solo writer for each of the eight episodes. Usually, movies and television shows have more than one writer, but the whole season being written from start to finish by one person is impressive. “True Detective” was originally envisioned to be a novel and then a stage play, but Pizzolatto felt it would be more suitable for television.

The director to helm each episode is Cary Joji Fukunaga. Before directing the first season of “True Detective,” Fukunaga directed “Sin Nombre” (2009) and “Jane Eyre” (2011). Afterward, he directed “Beasts of No Nation” (2015) and “No Time to Die” (2021). He does a marvelous job with “True Detective,” and the best example of his directing is in the fourth episode titled “Who Goes There.”

The first season of “True Detective” is one of the best seasons in the history of television. It features a compelling story, characters written with rich detail and amazing direction. The first season is available to watch on Max and can be purchased on Blu-Ray Discs. Like “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013) and “The Sopranos” (1999-2007), it’s one of those shows that will leave a major impact on viewers.


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