I'll be the judge of that.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: HBO’s True Detective

First Impressions takes a look at new and returning TV shows, just as they’re kicking off. We fill you in, spoiler-free.

Guest Commentary by theroaring20s 

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Beginning a new TV series is a serious commitment. This is especially true if, like me, you already have a full-time academic schedule, part-time job, and serious boyfriend…sort of (apologies Danny B). So before you engage, like any new endeavor, you need to consider whether doing so is really worth it. I’m going to attempt to write this without any spoilers, but with enough detail to let you make an informed decision on whether or not it’s worth watching. Naturally, I did not think ahead at all before pressing ‘play’ on my DVR, but I am already sucked into the mysterious and sadistic plot that is True Detective.

Besides the ominous yet stimulating mood of the plot, the characters that empower it are even more eccentric and exciting. You have Matthew McConaughey, who has made an amazing transformation into a mature and respectable actor, and Woody Harrelson, who has typically been an underrated and disregarded actor in his previous roles. I think partnering these two in somber roles as criminal investigators has really benefitted, not only their own professional growth, but the development of True Detective’s storyline. I can finally take McConaughey seriously as an actor and appreciate Harrelson’s supporting role alongside him.

Now if you’re one of those people who always anticipates the tanned, chiseled body of McConaughey, I’m sorry to disappoint you: ever since his transformation in Dallas Buyer’s Club (2013), he is a completely different man. And interestingly enough, I find him more attractive this way. He went from being the slightly goofy, charming boy-next-door with the stuttering Southern accent to a solemn, slender gentleman with a southern drawl and graceful, mysterious manner. I am, by no means, a McConaughey fan. In fact, most of his previous roles tended to annoy me. But now, after seeing this show, I’ve developed a whole new appreciation for him as an actor. I think the critics will agree, his maturity demands respect in this new role as Detective Rustin “Rust” Cohle.

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If McConaughey is True Detective’s “Rust,” Harrelson is its shiny new penny with optimism and likeability. Putting these two opposites together in starring roles really brings out the best, and perhaps the worst, in each of their characters. Harrelson (Detective Martin Hart) appears to be a family man with the typical southern hospitality and wholesome values reflective of the rest of the Criminal Investigative Division team.

The show opens with the introduction of an eerie crime scene that is both ritualistic and sinister in nature. The discovery is unsettling and threatening to a tranquil, quiet town in Southern Louisiana. Similarly, Detective Cohle’s presence has the same disconcerting effect on his peers, including his partner, Detective Hart. I believe these underlying parallels hold a dark truth that has yet to be explored or, perhaps, exposed. What I like about this mystery is the idea of following the psyche of a criminal. While Hart (Harrelson) and the rest of the team are stunned by the murder and cannot fathom how anyone could be capable of something so inhumane and vicious, Rust (McConaughey) immerses himself in the dirty details of the investigation and tries to understand the reasoning behind the murder.

I think this is going to be one of those shows that you’re either into or you’re not; once you commit, there’s no turning back. And you can’t just jump in at any episode and expect to have any idea of what’s going on. This is an investigative series that explores a series of disturbing murders over a long period of time. It’s not your typical Sunday night sitcom with a clean, relatively simple but still entertaining beginning and end. True Detective demands your attention with a dark, captivating opening scene that leaves your mind reeling even beyond the gripping, twisted finish of the episode. And this is just the first episode I’m talking about. If you’re into the murder/mystery theme, I promise True Detective is a thriller you must invest in.

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