True Detective and the Problem of Personal Significance

It has been several months since I saw HBO’s first season of True Detective, but something about the series has stuck with me. Detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart investigate a series of bizarre ritualistic killings, but to be honest, I didn’t care much about that. What stuck with me was Rust’s pain and, even more, Marty’s domestic failures. Each man tries to explain and explain away his actions, but neither man is able to live according to his professed philosophy. Both men talk about and talk around the burden of living as beings that matter in a world of other beings that matter. Continue Reading »

Form and Void in True Detective’s Finale

Admirers of HBO’s True Detective had been expecting, in advance of its Finale, that Season One would stick its landing. Being a self-contained story arc, the True Detective season had an opportunity to avoid the hazards that beset other prestige dramas, which are conceived without . . . . Continue Reading »

Ready to Tie It Off

Episode Seven of HBO’s True Detective depicts our chastened heroes in a chastened style. Gone is the murky intercutting among the 1995 flashbacks, the 2002 flashbacks, and the parallel interviews of 2012—the formal deviousness that caused us to doubt not only what the truth might be in . . . . Continue Reading »

A Euphemism for Conspiracy

This seemed to be the week for souring on True Detective. One complaint against Episode Six concerns its redundancy: Character beats were repeated, and blanks were filled in exactly as predicted. The heavily foreshadowed cause of Rust and Marty’s split in 2002, and of Rust’s quitting the . . . . Continue Reading »

Confession and Curse in True Detective’s Episode Five

In the opening of True Detective’s fifth episode, a man named Dewall gets a read on Rust: “I can see your soul in the edges of your eyes. It’s corrosive, like acid. . . . And I don’t like your face. . . . There’s a shadow on you, son.” Dewall is strangely attuned to the terms and images that have characterized Det. Rustin Cohle, in all his nihilism and shadiness—extending even to a punning gloss on that nickname, a nickname that Dewall cannot know. Dewall is the “cook partner” of meth chef and murder suspect Reginald Ledoux, and Rust is undercover. The cover is blown here, in a sense; Rust is found out, albeit not as a detective. He looks unsettled, and his unsettling sets the agenda for the episode, in which characters seek to get a read on others and not be read themselves. Continue Reading »

No True Detective

The fourth episode of HBO’s True Detective could have been titled “Women and Children.” The opening scene, an interrogation of the prisoner Charlie Laing, flags our heroes’ separate preoccupations. When Laing refers to his “wife” the late Dora, Marty corrects . . . . Continue Reading »