‘True Detective’ premiere review: Matthew McConaughey shines in dark, chilling series

HBO logoTrue Detective” is a show that going into it, you had expectations that it was going to be some sort of amazing punch in the gut. You had a great cast led by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, a gritty premise, and HBO. Just the network alone is a sign that it’ll be worth watching. If you are truly a terrible show, there is no way that a pay-cable network like this is picking you up. Even a show like “The Newsroom,” which has its own share of haters, has plenty of fans.

What makes “True Detective” so effective as a series overall is simply that it is not afraid to be authentic, which we feel is something that many other detective shows stumble with from time to time. They want to just give you big hits and “a ha” moments, but this show is really getting into the finer elements of an investigation. The story is framed around Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Harrelson), two Louisiana state police detectives who tell the story of murders that are taking place across many years.

This episode, by and large, was about the backstory. We learned who these two cops are, how they worked together, and also what they see in each other. Then, we found out where they were more than a decade after starting an important murder investigation. This reminded us in some ways of “In Cold Blood,” at least when it comes to the methodical nature of watching the case unfold. There was great stuff sprinkled in here throughout, but what really makes this work is the framing. We do not find out anything in the present story to completely ruin the past; instead, one informs the other. Waiting until the end to really explain why these two cops were being interviewed again about an old case was also very effective.

Typically, police dramas either falter with sensationalism or with trying to make the killer somehow more interesting than the case. (See “The Following.”) “True Detective” avoids that by giving you two men who are by their very nature heroes, but do not fully perceive themselves that way. These are men who do not fully get along, and are just trying to do a job the best way that they can.

If the upcoming episodes this season are a strong as the premiere, we are in for a gift with “True Detective.” McConaughey won a Golden Globe Sunday for “Dallas Buyers Club,” and he may be up for another one next year for this. Grade: A.

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Photo: HBO

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