True Detective, HBO's latest contribution to the new 'golden age' of television is a stunning show. I've had a number of fairly intense discussions about the show with a few people lately. It's a detective show of the weird-serial-killer-kind, except that it isn't. In fact, I would say that the show just uses the device as backdrop to what it's really about which might just be philosophical views on the human condition. The tagline of the early promos for the show declared, 'darkness becomes you' and it would be easy to make the leap and connect that to the crime and murder ideas in the show, but I think it is more about all of us, and particularly harnesses the show around Rustin Cohle's character played by Matthew McConaughey. Two detectives, Cohle, and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) are thrown together in the search for a killer. But forget any idea of a buddy-series, these two are like night and day. We are three episodes in and we have no idea why, but something happens and the show splits it's time between the events around the murder in 1995 and some years later when a similar murder occurs and they are interviewed by another detective team, but neither man is still in law enforcement and something has not only wedged between them, but also had a dramatic effect, at least on Cohle.
The show has garnered great reviews and a cult-like following already, it's disturbing and dark, but not because of what you might think. It's not the but not because of the violence nudity and sex, but because it has a really dark philosophical core, expressed by Cohle, suggesting that humanity is an error of evolution and ultimately meaningless, and that we should stop reproducing. Seriously, that's the core drive in the show. the tension between the two detectives revolves ultimately around cohle's dark nihilistic view of humanity--he offers long and ponderous reflections on the direness of the human condition--as Nick Cave might say, "People ain't no good." He's a self-described pessimist, but this ain't no everyday pessimism,
"I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in human evolution. We became too self aware; nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self, a secretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody’s nobody. I think the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal."
Hart comes off as more 'normal' but he has secrets and his life is at times as threadbare as Cohle's he just doesn'ty have such a bold philosophical under-girding for his take on life.
So far we have discovered that the murder victim, Dora Lange, had said she had met a “king,” and that she kept a diary in which she mentioned “the Yellow King” and “Carcosa.” These come from a collection of 19th century stories by Robert Chambers called, "The King in Yellow," in which several of the stories are connected by a play about the king, and those who read the story are driven mad by it. There are five episodes left for all this to unfold and who knows where it will ultimately lead, but for now, HBO has once again offered up some compelling drama, this time where the crime at the heart of the story seems to be existence, well at least for now it is. That is some intense stuff for a detective show and it demonstrates why television is so good right now, the format allows for deeper and more sustained reflections upon an idea.
Oh, and T-Bone Burnett is curating the music= added bonus.
You can also dig deeper at darknessbecomesyou.com after each new episode.