Tuesday, May 19, 2015

#002 - True Detective (Season One, Episode Two)

I never watched True Detective when it was originally airing, nor have I seen it up until now. All I knew about the series prior to beginning was that it starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in critically acclaimed roles for both of them and that it was about detectives solving a murder. Little did I know that by taking the plunge and firing up the first episode of this show would start me down the path of creating this column. Spoilers ahead.

While not as visceral or explosively emotional as the first episode, “Seeing Things” takes the bits about Hart and Cohle that we already know and expounds upon them while the duo investigates the church tied to the murder.

This second episode spends too much time in the current-day. The shocking end to “The Long Bright Dark” isn’t even mentioned, and much of what these interviewing detectives discuss with Hart and Cohle seems purposely written to bring more personal information to the surface. It’s subtle, but Pizzolatto’s characterization suffers a bit by feeling more forced this time around. Learning that Cohle’s daughter died in a car accident should have been enough to propel a character arc for a single episode, but Pizzolatto opts instead to lay all the cards out and offer more details about the event as the episode continues. True Detective is a show that offers as much narrative by what’s not said as what is, and adding more and more to Cohle’s daughter’s death actually detracts from the overall effect.

Hart is a man who lies to himself about everything in his life. I was actually hesitant about my initial analysis of Hart as a man who’s happiness is defined by his worldview, desires to understand his world more, yet doesn’t have anything on which to base said desire. “Seeing Things” makes it clear that Hart has a definition of what happiness is supposed to be, and he’s found a comfortable station in which to live out that definition. Cohle’s very presence challenges Hart’s concrete framework, eroding the foundations that Hart has spent his entire life learning to accept and value.

The scene between Hart and his mistress (Alexandra Daddario) is tragic, but not because Hart is cheating on his wife – that was a given. Hart’s response to Lisa's pragmatic point that their fun little affair won’t last forever -- and that she’ll eventually find a man she can marry and start a new chapter in her life -- is emotionally stunted and a little pathetic. In Hart’s world, he and Lisa continue to secretly rendezvous indefinitely; he’d rather continue living in an unrealistic paradigm than ask himself the hard questions.

Cohle has seemingly become more steadfast in his patterns. His smoking habit is a tell that shows when the man without emotion is nervous or faced with a difficult question, usually one he can’t answer right away. Seeing as this entire show is about a giant question that can’t be answered immediately, Cohle spends much of his onscreen time with a Camel between his lips. As a smoker, seeing a more realistic portrayal of the habits of a pack-a-day smoker adds a level of authenticity that doesn’t come around often. It’s a small element in a massive tapestry of symbolism and hidden meanings, but everything about True Detective feels purposeful, so why not Cohle’s addictions?

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