Created by Nic Pizzolatto, HBO’s new anthology series True Detective stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as a pair of former Louisiana State Police Detectives who are brought back into the fold to discuss a 1995 paganistic killing 17 years later when a case eerily similar occurs. Interviewed separately each men tell their version of events both on the case itself, their partner, and what they remember of the time surrounding the first murder which the audience witnesses in extended flashback sequences that slowly begin to fill-in the story of a murder of a prostitute found in the wounds drugged, bound, raped, and whose body was staged with symbols and a crown of antlers tied to her head.
I was drawn to the new series by its two leading men for the first eight-episode season, who are fabulous here both in the current storyline and flashbacks of the original case. Ill-matched, the God-fearing family man and the nihilistic brainiac introvert, many of the first episode’s best scenes having nothing to do with the murder as the episode spends quite a bit of time focusing on what makes each character tick (and what about each of them ticked off the other). The cast also includes Michelle Monaghan as Hart’s (Harrelson) wife who is the only person to get her husband’s odd partner to open up about his troubled past in a scene that I would expect the show to build on as the anthology moves forward.
Along with the acting, the writing of “The Long Bright Dark” is very strong slowly building both character development and clues to how the overall mystery fits together. However, I could have used less obvious foreshadowing that the cops (Michael Potts, Tory Kittles) assigned to the new case who call both former detectives in for interviews believe Rust Cole (McConaughey), now a full-fledged alcoholic, knows far more about the murderers than he is letting on. Their suspicions are something I’m willing to bet even a well-lubricated Cole picked up on as well.
The opening episode lays out the framework for the show’s first season including teasing what might be the reason (Alexandra Daddario) for the partner’s eventual falling out long after the first murder is solved. “The Long Bright Dark” is also quite coy on Cole’s quirks and intellect which leads him to connect the case of a missing girl with the first murder. Given the high quality of this first episode, I’m willing to stick around to see what he knows about one, or both, of the ritualistic murderers that isn’t in his official reports.