With the news from Hollywood that True Detective has most-likely been given its marching orders from HBO, we look back at the show’s 5 greatest moments. Miraculously there’s even one from season 2!
Spoilers ahead, naturally.
5. The shootout in the woods
At the mid-point in season one’s mystery, our detectives Hart and Cohle discover that their prime suspect in their “Yellow King” serial killer case is a man named Reggie Ledoux. They tail him to his meth cookhouse in the woods sans back up with the intention of apprehending him, but after Hart finds two abducted children at the compound he kills their prime suspect in cold blood in a fit of anger. Confident that they’ve got their man, the two detective’s spin a yarn explaining how they survived the firefight of the century, killed a wanted serial murderer and rescued two hostages in the process.
This scene is so brilliant because for the first time we find out that the much-alluded to “shootout in the woods” throughout the first half of the season was complete bullshit. No big epic firefight, no honest police work. Just a man going down to his most primal level and letting the rage spill over. Plus it gave us a glimpse of Cohle’s untrustworthy recollections of the ’95 case in the 2012 interrogation. Sneaky and brilliant.
4. Velcoro bullies a bully
I’m not going to lie, I thought season 2 of True Detective wasn’t as godawful as everyone made it out to be (I even really liked one of the episodes), but on the whole, it was pretty bad. An absolute mess of a season that made no sense and wasted great talents like Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell. Well Farrell’s portrayal as corrupt cop Ray Velcoro was one of the saving graces of season 2. He made quite an impact but none quite as powerful as the first episode of season 2. After finding out his son is being bullied by a kid named Aspen, he decides to pay the kid and his father a visit with a set of knuckle-dusters.
To be honest this scene is ridiculous, however just for the fact that Farell sells it so well and can deliver the line, “If you ever bully or hurt anybody again, I’ll come back and buttfuck your father with your mom’s headless corpse on this goddamn lawn” without cracking up deserves my respect.
3. Time is a flat circle…
Sometimes a show’s greatest moment isn’t a scene but a great line. “Say my name”, “Winter is coming”, “Everybody Lies”: All memorable lines from shows that instantly evoke a feeling and a mood. True Detective had “Time is a flat circle”. After hearing meth cook Reggie Ledoux spout it before being killed in the shootout in the woods, Rust Cohle lets the line envelope him and become his ethos. It’s delivered in a long, boozy recollection by Cohle to the detectives grilling him in 2012 in one of the series’ greatest moments.
There’s been much talk in popular culture of the “McConaissance” but since his career rebirth, Matthew McConaughey has not played a better part than Rust Cohle in this writer’s humble opinion. Every single one of the 2012 interrogation scenes is just three men in a room, smoking and having a conversation. But in McConaughey’s hands, those scenes become electrifying and bore many a great line performed to a T from Nic Pizzolatto’s script. Stunning.
2. The tracking shot
Obviously without a shadow of a doubt this was making it on to this list. In episode 4 of the first season our detectives are off the books and undercover in Texas. ‘The Iron Crusaders’, a motorcycle gang with whom Rust used to roll with in his undercover narcos days, joins them on a raid in order to gain their trust so he can exploit them for information later. Naturally the raid on a rival gang’s house goes suitably tits up and gives us this 6 minutes of utter, adrenaline-fuelled mayhem.
This scene is impressive for a multitude of reasons. Tracking shots are a great tool in a director’s arsenal when used effectively and dear lord does Cary Joji Fukunaga use this effectively. For 6 minutes, you see an unbroken shot of fist fights, police helicopters and frantic, exhaustive running for cover.
True Detective was never like your typical cop show, gunfights and high-octane action and the like. It preferred a much slower, casual pace and was all the better for it. But when it decided to finally unleash a bit of adrenaline, it not only pulled it off with aplomb but blew the competition out of the water with its first try. Plus it ends with Grinderman’s “Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)”, a hell of a tune. Incredible.
1. The season 1 title sequence
Here, just treat yourself again. From the dusty mesa…
It could be argued that saying the best thing about a TV show is its opening titles could be seen as a slight on it. However in True Detective‘s case it most certainly isn’t. From the second you hear the twang of the guitar from The Handsome Family’s “Far from Any Road” the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
The delivery of the vocals, like a cross between a folk song and a satanic ode, perfectly seem to encapsulate the tone of the show perfectly. Coupled with the stunning imagery of religion, Harrelson and McConaughey and the derelict Louisiana landscape, it’s no surprise the title sequence won an Emmy back in 2015. There’s very few shows where you’re happy to sit through the opening titles, and bar maybe Game of Thrones, nothing comes close to True Detective.
Like Louis van Gaal, I feel True Detective deserved a third go around just to make up for the sins of its second season. It won’t go down as the greatest TV show ever, but there was something about those first 8 episodes that gripped in a way that very few shows seem to know how to. It deserves our respect and listicles like this for the power it evoked, and for two months back in 2014 turned us all in to detectives trying to find the identity of “The Yellow King”. When was the last time a cop show did that to you? See you around, True Detective, where the stars will be your eyes, and the wind will be my hands…
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