True Detective S1E3 Review, “The Locked Room”


So this week I continued to get bombarded on multiple fronts with comments like “what do you mean you don’t really like True Detective?”, and “are you kidding me, this True Detective shit is awesome!”.  So obviously there is a large disconnect between me and the viewership at large when it comes to this show.  By and large, there are two specific items I look for when going through my internal critique of a TV show:

  1. Is this idea new?  Am I being shown something that I haven’t seen before?  And if it isn’t new…
  2. Is what I’m being shown better, or at least as good as what I’ve seen before?

This is why I was never the most devout Law&Order fan, and why I outright hated House.  Those shows in one way or another replicated themselves every week.  They’re great hangover shows, because they fire familiar synapses in the brain and don’t rock the boat too much (or at all, we get it House, you’re a fucking renegade, and you’re going to crack this goddamn case if it’s the last goddamn thing you do.  Seriously, please let this be the last goddamn thing you do).  But once the show has peaked, that was it, never gonna do any better.  I’m just not that interested in watching retreads of plots that I’ve already seen a better version of, unless I’m trying to avoid revisiting last night’s 17 Buttery Nipples.  After all, one can only consume so much butterscotch schnapps.

That being said, there is obviously plenty to like about True Detective.  So with that in mind, I’m going to split my weekly critique in two.  We’re three episodes in, so I feel like we probably have a good idea of what we have at this point.   And since to date I’ve been so harsh with this show, I’m going to dedicate this week’s review to everything I love about it.  But reader beware, unless there is a huge shift in direction, next week I am unleashing the antler-adorned hounds on this motherfucker.

First, the interview segments in and of themselves are fantastic.  Just sticking a camera in front of Harrelson and McConaughey and letting them talk was certainly the best idea that the show’s creators had.  The garbled existential bullshit coming from young Rust comes off as the drivel of a naive college freshman that just got out of his first lecture on metaphysics.  But when the grizzled and weathered older (and obviously unfortunately) wiser Rust is shown during the interview segments, the same commentary is both insightful and haunting.  Of course that is intentional to some degree, but the interview commentaries are so effective at showing what life has done to Rust, that it becomes incredibly and exceedingly difficult to reconcile that these two people are in fact one and the same individual.  The conclusion being that Matthew McConaughey has done such a flawless job portraying his character’s burned out husk, that it’s hard to believe that he was ever anything but the husk.

The counterpoint is obviously Woody’s Martin Hart, who has retained his humanity over the years where McConaughey’s Rust lost his.  The examination of how one person, when confronted with a series of events, is able to remain upright where another collapsed in the face of them is fascinating, especially (or because?) Martin Hart is so obviously falling apart during the series of flashbacks.  Woody’s interview segments are never going to be as flashy as McConaughey’s, but they can be just as effective at shedding light on the relationship between Hart and Rust and why it crumbled.  Equally interesting is the fact that even though the relationship did crumble, Hart readily goes to the wall defending Rust, showing loyalty where it just as easily could be non-existent.

Finally, one specific plot point stood out this week, and it was obviously the cliffhanger, which has to be seen to be even vaguely understood.  I’m including a picture at the top, but with no real context, it’s totally what the fuck.  Yeah, it’s shocking, but that’s not why I’m intrigued.  What really is riveting to me, and what has me sold for next week, is that we know this crazy motherfucker is NOT the real serial killer.  So even though this tatted up dude is trolling around his yard half (mostly?) naked, with a weapon, and with a fucking gas mask on, we know without a doubt that he’s either not the killer, or there is a damn dedicated copycat on the loose decades later.  I’m still pretty dead set on Rust being the killer, but I’m happy that we’ve now been (informally) introduced to a potential batshit insane villain who will be on full display next week.

There!  That’s what I love about this show!  And I didn’t even mention the latent racism of two middle age southern white guys explaining the ways of the world to two silent and captivated black men!  I’ll be back next week, and I’m hoping for more of what’s above, but expecting more garbage like the “OMG OUR MAARIGE IZ BROKEN” nonsense that was the Woody and his Wife bedroom scene.  I’m also waiting with baited breath for the inevitable speech in which McConaughey or Woody explains what it means to be a “True” Detective.  I’d lay even money that it’s in episode 9 or 10, and I’d say that McConaughey is the slight favorite to deliver it, but I could see Woody dropping that knowledge on us almost just as easily.

  • Interview Scenes – 9/10 Pitchers of Draught Beer
  • Flashback Police Work Scenes – 7/10 Loosened Neckties
  • Flashback Family Life Scenes – 4/10 Scorned Women
  • Overall – 6.5/10 Revival Tents
  • Jam

    There are only 8 episodes, so I will take that bet.

    Let’s not be too harsh, the show definitely fires above a 7/10. So far nothing about the show is too formulaic. Does it dabble in cliche? Yes, but could it possibly be a cop show without doing so? The obvious setup is that Rust is the killer (or who better to be “a damn dedicated copycat on the loose decades later” than Rust), but then again, the show is skillfully written and I think we think exactly what they want us to think at this point. We are only 3 eppies deep.

  • Joe

    You definitely win the prize on that one. But I’m betting the speech does get delivered near the end.

    I think what it comes down to for me is that each episode so far has had at least one awful scene that doesn’t belong in anything as prestigious as an HBO cop drama. Woody cheats on his wife, then has the classically bad “marriage is falling apart” scene with her, which isn’t resolved at all but leads to sex? Is a 13-year-old writing this? Because that is a 13-year-old boy’s idea of relationship problems and their resolution. JUST DON’T DO THAT SHIT! Obviously is leading to the rift between Cohle and Marty, but they could have done that any number of ways and just left out all the domestic bullshit that’s gumming up the workings of the show.

    • Jam

      Those scenes show how selfish he is. He is selfish in his relationship with his mistress, demanding sex when convenient for him – He is selfish in his relationship with his wife, makes up shit to get her off his back then has sex – he is selfish in his relationship with his kids, keeps an eye on the game while talking to his daughter about a potentially serious issue. The only aspect of his life where he is not selfish is as a cop. He actually gives over control to Rust quite frequently. In fact as fucked up as he and Rust both are, their most healthy relationships are with each other. Without those scenes of domestic instability we are not left with the full picture, and the “cop” part of the show exists in a different context. It is not gumming up the workings of the show, it is called character development. Think of these 8 episodes as a movie. A movie with enough time to expose the viewer to aspects of the main characters’ life that is not instrumental to the plot but important none the less in telling a larger story.

      • Joe

        That’s the Michael Bay school of character development. If this was a movie, there would be a zero percent chance I’d see it, because I’ve seen the same movie before, probably at least a half dozen times.