When two talented actors like Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson sign up for a television series, it's pretty obvious to me that that show is going to be a good one.
Which is why I was surprised that I was not that impressed by True Detective, HBO's new crime drama about a couple of Louisiana detectives who've been on a 17-year-long manhunt for a serial killer in the Cajun heartland.
Last night's premiere episode, "The Long Bright Dark," started off in a promising fashion, despite the opening credits that seemed a little too similar to HBO's other NOLA show, True Blood. Following the credits, we see someone lurking about in the dark, then shots of a cane field on fire.
After which we are introduced to the two main characters of the show, very different detectives, Martin Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey), being questioned documentary style at a police station in 2012. Ten minutes into the show, it's still not too clear what's going on and I'm hoping it will pick up the pace a little bit.
We then move back to 1995, when Hart and Cohle, who've only been partners for three months at this point, are at the crime scene of the killer's first victim, a young woman who has been tied to a tree with deer antlers on her head, leading Cohle to believe that they are dealing with a sociopathic ritual killer. Okay...interesting enough.
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Then we spend the majority of the rest of the episode finding out just how different these partners really are. McConaughey's Cohle is a nonconformist loner, or, as he describes himself, "a realist and a pessimist" who lives in an empty apartment filled with serial killer books. Harrelson's Hart is the typical conservative detective who spends most of the episode lecturing Cohle about his eccentricities, which provides the only bits of humor in this episode.
Other than that, there's not too much else that goes on in this slow-moving episode. Hart meets Cohle's family, which includes a beautiful wife played by Michelle Monaghan. There are hints of adultery on Cohle's part, which I'm sure will provide some of the drama later on in the show. I wish there was more to describe...but that's really all we're left to work with, resulting in a somewhat bland and overly depressing episode.
Which could have been what creators Cary Fukunaga and Nic Pizzolatto, who's from southern Louisiana himself, were going for, but it just didn't work. Too dreary. And not intriguing enough to keep me interested. And I really can't blame McConaughey or Harrelson, who've already proven themselves to be great actors...There were too many questions left unanswered -- which I'm sure is because this is intended to be a mystery -- but you have to give the audience something to work with, clues to keep them guessing.
The only sign of hope I got that this show might be watch-worthy was during the final scene when we find out that the detectives interviewing Cohle and Hart might be looking for the same killer that they supposedly caught back then. When he's asked for his help, McConaughey's character's response to the detective questioning him is, "Then start asking the right fucking questions?" which re-sparked my interest. Still, it's too early to tell whether True Detective will be making its way into my weekly calendar.