If “True Detective” is still running years from now, as it probably should be, the filmmakers and HBO can thank the incredibly fortuitous timing of casting Matthew McConaughey (yes, the Oscar-winning actor, not the “Failure to Launch” dude) and Woody Harrelson in the central roles – a pairing that not only elevated interest in the series, but which suggests the sky’s the limit for finding new players for future seasons. Indeed, such speculation has already become its own Twitter meme, although personally, how could you beat Matt Damon and Michael Douglas in “True Detective: Behind the Candelabra?”
All kidding aside, perhaps foremost “True Detective” – which wrapped up its eight-episode run Sunday – lays out the template for an anthology approach that helps reinvent, or at least invigorate, one of the most tried-and-true genres TV has ever produced. Think “Police Story,” the 1970s classic, stretched to miniseries form, with all the latitude pay cable provides.
Frankly, the build-up to the finale (and spoilers lurk ahead if you haven’t watched) practically ensured some would view it as a letdown. That’s because writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga had cooked up such a succulent brew of weirdness and eccentricity till now that anything providing closure was destined to feel slightly pale in comparison.
The solving of the mystery and faceoff with the creepy killer more than anything brought to mind “Psycho” — with the tension of following him through that bizarre maze, followed by what amounted to an extended postscript, delivering back story to putty in some of the blanks. Not that they really matter, since this was all about the journey.
Although McConaughey has closed the door in regard to reprising the role, the way the filmmakers left the mismatched, reunited pair was perfectly satisfying – with McConaughey’s Rust still spouting his half-assed philosophy, and Harrelson’s Marty acting like he was stark raving nuts, albeit (with all they’ve been through) in sort of a bemused way.
While McConaughey obviously had the showier role, it’s worth noting Harrelson has been every bit his match, with both men doing some of the finest work of their careers.
Admittedly, the series anthology – with each season operating as a self-contained unit – has already surfaced in the form of commodities like FX’s overrated “American Horror Story.” Conceptually, it’s a clever means of keeping a franchise alive while being able to see a story through to its conclusion, and as a bonus a means of enlisting actors who might not want to commit to five or seven years.
Whatever comes next, there’s no way to view “True Detective” as anything but a rousing success, with a glitch pertaining to HBO Go merely demonstrating the rabid appetite for it. Because if cop shows have become TV’s answer to McDonald’s, this was the equivalent of LudoBites – springing up to deliver unexpected treats for a refined, upscale palate, and poof, just as quickly moving on.
As for those lamenting that we won’t get Harrelson and McConaughey in future editions, hey, who knows? If the show is running 10 years from now, by then McConaughey might just be ready to meet that future version of himself.