Black Stars Rising: True Detective [TV series review]

True Detective (season 1, 2014) is an HBO crime drama television series created by Nic Pizzolato. It's about two Louisiana detectives Rustin 'Rust' Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin 'Marty' Hart (Woody Harrelson) who investigated a murder in 1995: A woman named Dora Lange is found murdered, her body kneeling, hands in prayer, blindfolded, with a crown of antlers on her head.

Seventeen years later (2012), they found that the case isn't quite closed yet - they discover more unsolved cases of missing and murdered women and children. After being estranged for a long time due to personal conflicts, they must team up again. The story is told through flashbacks to 1995 as the estranged partners are separately interviewed for a police investigation of the unsolved cases. We see them as older men in 2012 as they talk about their story.

Marty and Rust were assigned as partners to solve the case. Rust in introverted and nicknamed as the "Tax Man" due to the ledger/sketchbook he always carries to draw details about crimes. Marty is the charismatic officer everyone likes. Rust is divorced and lives alone, while Marty is married with two children but his infidelity leads to family problems.

Rust is a very pessimistic guy, which irritates Marty. It isn't just regular pessimism either, but the ultimate uselessness and futility of human life in an uncaring universe:
I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in 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; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe 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.
Now, we're veering to Lovecraftian cosmic dread category over there. As they investigate the crime, signs and symbols pop up everywhere, like spirals and black stars. There are many references to a certain 'Yellow King': Dora's diary, the suspects, and related people mention him. The show is referencing Robert Chambers' influential horror work, The King in Yellow, and we often hear it quoted here and there:

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

You'll love this if you like symbolisms and trying to figure out their meaning. Soon, Marty and Rust find themselves chasing a bizarre cult with even stranger and dreadful rituals. I think what I write here isn't enough, but the awards this show has reaped speak for themselves. The star of the story is definitely Rust, and I think its one of the McConaughey's best characters played ever. It's not just a regular detective mystery, but it feels like a well-crafted puzzle box and an intriguing story.

This is what author Caitlin R. Kiernan says about the show from her blog:

“The end result is something not to be missed, some of the best weird fiction ever put to film, and possibly the best ever on television. Divided into eight episodes, in truth this is a very long film, and I recommend watching it in as close to one sitting as possible. I’m not sure the series ever misses a beat. It wisely tends to keep its voice down, whispering all the way to the end. Even it’s climax seems like a hush, with the weight of so much horror and despair in back of it…

You truly must find a way to see this. To say it’s not for the faint of heart would be an understatement. And that’s not hyperbole. If you’re the sort of wilting flower wants a “trigger warning” on certain episodes of Sesame Street, this is not for you.”

My only complaint in this otherwise good story is the portrayal of women - most of them are merely props to the main characters, sexual objects that are then verbally degraded as 'whores' and 'bitches' after they've been 'used' by the men. But then, this show is so masculine in a sense, but it still made me uncomfortable. I dislike too much sex in television (not a prude, but I just prefer them out of the story if they don't have a function to the plot or characters but just for the sake of visuals), and I wish that there were more stories out there that portray women as functional human beings and not just there for the purpose of sex. Anyway, this show is still worth watching.

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