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Published on January 14th, 2014 | by Chris Scott

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Truly Back and Forth: The Long Bright Dark

Warning: Truly Back and Forth is a weekly feature where Chris and Jeff discuss the latest episode of True Detective in detail. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, you should probably hold off on reading any further.

Chris: So HBO debuted its new series, True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The two big name stars have decided to slum it in the realm of television for a bit and they’ve chosen one hell of a way to make an entrance.

Jeff: The first episode got my attention. I really enjoy both of these actors (especially Harrelson), and to have them both on an HBO cop show is just right up my alley. Their performances in the debut episode were compelling, and I was surprised that McConaughey kind of upstaged Harrelson a bit. But then, his character is a bit more interesting and troubled. But I think the show definitely got its hooks in me with how the first episode ended. I need to see where it goes.

Chris: Agreed on all counts. McConaughey killed it, the guy was brilliant in the episode and you really got a sense of Detective Rust Cohle being a troubled individual. Harrelson plays more of the typical murder cop with Martin Hart and it was interesting to see the two play off of each other. But yeah, it was the ending that really stuck with me. That final line of the very broken down Cohle was a great hook to the next episode.

Jeff: The funny thing about these actors is I think they could have easily switched who played which role and still knocked it out of the park. But yes, that ending made me want to stick through this mystery. I was watching it with a friend, and we kept wondering if they caught that serial killer back in 1995 and why the hell they were being interviewed about it now. Well, that was answered in the last scene. So now it becomes more of what the hell happened back in 1995, and who exactly was the killer, and how is he being copied in 2012, when details of the murders were not made public.

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Chris: I’m not sold one hundred percent on the idea that we got an answer to if they caught the killer in 1995 though. It certainly seemed like Cohle was implying that they didn’t but I can see a twist where something plays out in a certain way that has them catching the killer but maybe not putting that person behind bars. Maybe it’s my experience watching so many different murder mysteries over the years but I don’t think it is going to be that cut and dry.

Jeff: I could have sworn McConaughey said they DID find the killer. And so how was he being copied now when details like the antlers were not made public?

Chris: He does say that but I think you need to watch the last scene again. He was playing with the other cops at that point and I think his question to them was more along the lines of, “Well, if we did find the killer, how is he being copied when that info wasn’t out there? But you guys obviously think something is up or you wouldn’t be interviewing me.” It’s the last line “You better start asking the right fucking questions” that leads me down that line.

Jeff: I just rewatched it just now. I suppose what he says could be interpreted another way, and they may not have caught the killer in 1995. But these are the things I need to know now! It is pretty rare to get hooked one episode in like that.

Chris: Exactly, they’ve developed such a great mystery that as viewers we need to know what is going on next. And the intriguing thing isn’t the killer so much as everything else surrounding it. The relationship between Cohle and Hart and how this case plays into that is most gripping for me.

Jeff: Well, for me, right now the mystery is what hooked me, but first-time showrunner Nic Pizzolatto has pretty clearly stated that the mystery and the serial killer are very much secondary to studying these two characters (the cops). He has actually stated many times that he has no interest in serial killers or making a very interesting serial killer. He is interested in exploring flawed, obsessed characters and chose this format because, well, people would watch it.

Chris: All very true and he’s created at least one very interesting character in Cohle. I love the transformation of Cohle from 1995 to 2012 and he’s such an off the wall character in both eras that I’m totally hooked.

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Jeff: Yeah, he seems to go from this very job-obsessed loner to this guy who demands that they bring him beer because it’s Thursday, which is his day off, and on his day off, he likes to start drinking at noon. I loved that scene. Ha ha.

Chris: That was so good, and when he pulls out his cigarettes at the beginning too. He doesn’t want to be there, or maybe he does, but he is going to show he is the one in control of the situation. There are a number of scenes in the show that really just grabbed me with how good they were but the dinner scene in particular struck me as a great insight into Cohle’s character.

Jeff: Yeah, it’s the little details of good writing. They way he has a big ledger and everyone calls him The Taxman. The way he disobeys Hart in that dinner scene and decides to stay. The conversation he has with the wife while Hart is in the other room. By the way, I called that his daughter was dead. I also called that they would find one of those stick figures at the house they go to near the end.

Chris: Ok, are we taking bets on the next episode because I don’t have any idea where things are heading but I’m fully on board for the eight episode run.

Jeff: Me too. I really like the fact that this story is going to wrap up and not stretch on indefinitely, which is a problem with many TV series, such as Dexter and Sons of Anarchy, and even Homeland. I really like that anthology format that American Horror Story kind of came up with.

Chris: Yeah, I’ve really come to appreciate that style of storytelling as it lets me give over just a bit of my time to experience the story they are trying to tell and then I can choose to get out or not after.

Jeff: As for predictions. I really don’t know where it’s going to go next, but I will make one prediction: Hart is not as straight-laced as he is presented here in this first episode. He has his own demons, too.

Chris: Yeah, I think we saw a look into one of them when the girl brought the files by but I’ll just leave that to stir. All I know is the car is a place of silent reflection.

Jeff: Ha ha, no sharing!

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  • Marcus Green

    It seems like the mystery is rarely strong in cop shows like this. That they were able to create a compelling one without it being the focus hopefully speaks volumes about the quality of this series.

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