Why You Should Watch HBO’s True Detective

If you still haven’t had the chance to watch one of HBO’s most praised shows, now might be the right time to do so. There are currently two full seasons of HBO’s True Detective released so far, while the third one is still hanging in the air. Every season consists of 8 episodes and considering that they’re about one hour long, you will feel like you’ve watched one very long trippy cop movie. We won’t tell you the plot (mainly because the plot in season 2 isn’t all that coherent or important, really), but we’ll introduce the main characters and try to describe the atmosphere of each season. Hopefully, it will spark your interest and give you all the info you need to enjoy this great show as we wait together for the season 3.

Season 1

Matthew McConaughey, Michelle Monaghan, and Woody Harrelson

Photo: Frederick M. Brown (Getty Images)

The first episode of the season one was released in January 2014 and basically took the world by storm. True Detective is described as a crime drama, but the actual crimes really aren’t the main focus of the series. It relies much more on creating a haunting atmosphere that speaks for itself. They achieve this with unique, trademark music, slow, contemplative scenes and certainly a great cast. So, who are the main characters?

Rustin Cohle

Following the somewhat formulaic concept of teaming up two unwilling detectives (seen in every Hollywood cop movie ever), the show actually gives us two quite interesting characters. One of them is Rusty Cohle, portrayed by Matthew McConaughey, who is something of a pessimistic philosopher-cop. Rust’s monologs in the show, depressing as they are, give the show its unique atmosphere and seem logical considering the horrors lurking around. He’s lost his faith in humanity’s goodness, which is why he is actually such a good detective. He always imagines the worst and, unfortunately, most of the time he’s right. Whether you’ll accept his point of view or just choose to discard it is up to you. McConaughey delivers a great performance here and it’s only logical considering it happened after the McConaissance when he took on a number of demanding roles and decided to become a much better actor.

Martin Hart

The second part of this unlikely police duo is Martin Hart, played by Woody Harrelson. The reason why these two have such a good onscreen chemistry is that they’ve already worked with each other on several occasions, even playing two brothers in the great (and in a way prophetic) film – EDtv. Woody’s character, Martin Hart, is a much more practical cop and acts as sort of an antidote to Cohle’s pessimism. He doesn’t venture much in philosophy and is more concerned with his own well-being. Despite that, he is full of insecurities and struggles with a midlife crisis that led him to have an affair. While he may not always see eye-to-eye with his partner, Cohle, he respects his analytical mind. Which one of them is the titular true detective (or neither of them) is, again, for you to decide.

Season 2

Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell

Photo: TSM/Bauer-Griffin (Getty Images)

Now, for the second season, its creator Nic Pizzolatto felt he had a lot of expectations to meet. After the first season became an instant classic and Rust Cohle became a fan-favorite, he needed to create something that would have an equal impact. This probably explains the season’s over-complicated plot that is hard to follow and perhaps underwhelming. He wanted to please the audience so much, that he eventually fell short. However, that doesn’t really matter. As we’ve mentioned at the very start, True Detective is not about the story so much, but the atmosphere and season two also has some rather colorful characters.

Ray Velcoro

The first major character in the second season is Collin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro.  He is a corrupt troubled cop that takes the bribe from a local mobster (played by Vince Vaughn) but still tries to do his work properly. Besides that, he leads a dysfunctional life with his drinking problem and the family that abandoned him. In a sense, he is something of a more practical successor of Rustin Cohle. His aggressive behavior and overall social discomfort mainly come from the fact that he doesn’t like people all that much and tries to avoid dealing with them extensively. This state of mind contrasted with his love for his son that, although it’s rugged, abusive and poorly expressed, is genuine. Velcoro is an anti-hero that is given a chance to, sort of, redeem his faulty nature.

Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides

Another character that helps Velcoro out on his “quest” to uncover some deep criminal conspiracies is Antigone Bezzerides, yet another troubled soul that has lost her faith in the goodness of humanity. Unlike Velcoro, she never succumbed to corruption and despises it to the point of self-destruction. Ani is played by the gorgeous Rachel McAdams, which is a bit of a departure from her usual roles. She manages to deliver a solid performance and, together with the rest of the cast, manages to pull the show out from its unfortunate plot. It didn’t really make a huge impact on her career (which is something they all think about when they audition for this show), but it showed everyone just what she’s capable of and that is quite enough.

Frank Semyon

While there is yet another cop that is working with Velcoro and Bezzerides on the case, the fourth main character in the show is a little more intriguing, especially since he’s played by the unlikely Vince Vaughn. Frank Semyon is an old mobster who is going out of business because of the same case the three detectives are investigating. So, from a different side of the law, he works on it as well. While Semyon isn’t the best character in the show, he is certainly one of the most memorable characters in the second season. Vaughn gives us his performance of a lifetime and it is, in a way, rude not to acknowledge his efforts. In a couple of scenes he really steals the show and deserves to be placed next to some of the Hollywood’s finest. If the script were a little better, who knows what could have happened?

So, that’s basically it. HBO’s True Detective is a good show, but only if you approach it the right way. If some of these characters sound intriguing to you, give it a shot. Who would you like to see in season 3 (if it ever happens)?