True Detective, the much-hyped new HBO anthology series, finally kicked off in the UK tonight but did it live up to the hype?
The show is following the American Horror Story formula by changing its story and cast every season but for this first season of 8 episodes Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are the main stars. In tonight’s first episode, The Long Bright Dark, the focus was very much on establishing characters rather than action.
The narrative of the episode was split in two; 1995 and the present day. Former detective partners Martin Hart (Harrelson) and Rustin Cohle (McConaughey) are called in to help the police with a case that shares similarities with one they worked on together in 1995. Having not seen each other in years following a fall out, Hart and Cohle give separate accounts to the police of the case whilst the action keeps flipping back to 1995 unravelling the story of their partnership.
Prostitute Dora Kelly Lange is was found in 1995 with a symbol on her back, blindfolded and naked, posed with deer antlers on her head. Next to her body they find a twig latticework and all signs point to a ritualistic killing. Immediately it’s established that Hart and Cohle have a difficult relationship. Their lives are polar opposites which provides a stark contrast and we imagine a lot of conflict to come. Hart is settled with a wife and two kids whilst Cohle has an air of mystery and is struggling with alcoholism following the death of his daughter and the subsequent breakdown of his marriage.
During the investigation of Dora’s death, Hart and Cohle stumble upon the disappearance of little girl Marie Fontenot which was never investigated and a report of another child who claims to have been chased by a monster through the woods. The pair decides to investigate Marie’s disappearance and pay visit to the girl’s uncle. Once there they discover another twig latticework which suggests there’s a connection between her disappearance and the murder of Dora. Hmm, we wonder how this is going to pan out?
Part way through the episode Cohle finally gives in and agrees to dinner with Hart and his family. What Hart doesn’t realise is that it’s the anniversary of the death of Cohle’s daughter and when he arrives he’s drunk. The dinner scene is awkward and it looks very much like the two detectives are never going to be best friends.
In the present day Hart seems not all that different than he was in 1995 whilst Cohle looks gaunt and ill clearly still struggling with his demons. We’re assuming that as the series progresses we’ll see the two together again in the present day as they investigate the new case and re-establish their partnership.
At the end of the hour, we’re not entirely sure how we feel about True Detective yet. There’s no doubt that the acting and the writing is top notch but we think that the hype led us to expect something more. Obviously it’s hard to tell much from just one episode so we’ll see how it develops over the next seven weeks. The show is clearly going to be a slow-burner and there’s the hint that it could easily veer off into the occult and take a Twin Peaks like turn.
True Detective continues Saturdays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.