Summer is usually synonymous with downtime, and what better way to while away the hazy afternoon hours than by revisiting some excellent television shows? MUI PR Blog recommends putting HBO’s “True Detective” at the top of your summer queue.


Season one of “True Detective” is a slow-burn chiller of a murder mystery, spinning the tangled story of two Louisiana detectives and their decades-long quest to solve a string of ritualistic, possibly satanic slayings among the dark of the bayous. Along the way, Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) must deal with their own personal hellscapes, suffocated by the water streaming through the holes in the masks they hide behind.


“True Detective” marks the latest entry in a delightful dramatic renaissance in television. The show, along with intellectual and spiritual counterparts “The Wire” and “Breaking Bad,” puts the liberal, maximalist characteristics of modern television series to spectacular use. “True Detective” has tremendous star wattage, top-notch directorial talent and a luxurious season-long running time with which to spin a complex, multi-layered narrative between the twisting arcs of bounteously developed characters. Given such extravagant gifts, it is no wonder “True Detective” has moments that rival the finest cinematic offerings of today.


Hats off to creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto for his atmospheric, twisting story of mystery and moral decay. He imbues his creations with vivid personalities and extensive personal histories. Cohle is a shattered savant, a haunted wunderkind whose delightful nihilism and stony pretension produce such immortal sentences as “time is a flat circle” and “her body is a paraphilic love map” (happily snapped up by the ever-mischievous denizens of the Interwebs for maximum enjoyment). Hart is a faux-normal good ‘ol boy, serial adulterer and an intensely sympathetic character, rendered human and relatable by his torturous, stumbling route through the deluding mists of a long life’s travails. As “Detective’s” heroes/antiheros zero in on unspeakable evil, their lives fray and the stories they tell themselves begin to ring as hollow as the rotten stumps littering the salty swamps they tread.


McConaughey and Harrelson turn in fine performances, to no one’s surprise. McCounaghey plays Cohle with simmering fire turned inward, his tortured eyes adeptly expressing the emotions that refuse to cross his furrowed brow. Harrelson plays Hart as a man rendered inert and immobile by his weaknesses, struggling to beat a path towards the light. Thespians of such fine caliber are welcome additions to the land of HBO, and “True Detective” offers a juicy reason for more big-ticket film stars to leapfrog between mediums.


Season one is helmed by “Sin Nombre” director Cary Fukunaga, who turns the swamps and tidal plains of coastal Louisiana into a sleepy, sinister landscape of gorgeous Gothic dread. Whether it’s a wide shot of Cohle’s and Hart’s battered car twisting the coastal roads beneath the stark silhouette of distant power plants or a hyper-real, “Children of Men”-esque street shootout in the projects, “True Detective’s” imagery is hypnotic and compulsively memorable.


“True Detective” is not without its flaws. The impenetrable layers of plot occasionally sprout red herrings that vanish into thin air, at times pushing the narrative across the razor-thin line between suitably ambiguous and downright infuriating. Cohle’s worldview often runs aground in the shallow end of the philosophical pool, his entrancing nihilism devolving into sloppy broadsides that any eager college student with a course in introductory metaphysics under the belt could shred to bits. There are literally no strong female characters.


Perhaps most egregiously, “True Detective’s” finale makes it clear that Pizzolatto has no real idea what to do with the concept of capital-E Evil. What could have been a shatteringly disturbing rumination on the insidious wickedness hidden beneath society’s façade of normality instead becomes an exercise in the outrageously facile, draining the nuance and vitality from the pulsing horror that drives the series.


No matter. “True Detective” is tense, well-constructed TV with outstanding acting, superb imagery and a story that hooks the viewer and refuses to let go. That is more than enough reason to put this detective thriller on your summer rerun schedule.



Have you seen “True Detective” yet? What are your thoughts on the casting? Find me here or on Twitter @aa_murph