The True Detective Off-Week Extravaganza

TV Features True Detective
Share Tweet Submit Pin

Like Rust Cohle in an interview room, I’m going to start with a digression. I want you to know, before everything that comes next, that I’m a sports fan. I have been for some time. Not for as long as I can remember, because I have one or two early memories that I experience as pictures, with only the vaguest emotional connotation. There is no sport there. But every concrete memory—everything animated with context and word-based thoughts—is full of it. Goals and spheres, turf and court. I love sports. Therefore, I love the Super Bowl. One of my best sports memories (okay, fine, one of my best memories period) came from the Super Bowl. That’s not a joke; I was euphoric for about two weeks after the Giants beat the Patriots on Feb. 3, 2008. But I like all Super Bowls, really. For a good decade now, the games have been wildly dramatic, and even though last night’s game was a dud, the institution remains, for me, iconic.

So please understand that when I say the following words, it’s not with the smug superiority of your average anti-sports intellectual. There is a love of the game in my heart.

That being said…







It’s hard to wait even one week for a new True Detective episode, and a two week delay is the essentially same as waking a kid up at Christmas, taking him downstairs to see all the presents under the tree, and then lighting his whole house on fire. But that’s the hand fate dealt us, so in lieu of the usual reviews, I’ve put together a True Detective Off Week Extravaganza. This is how we’re going to hold off the delirium tremens from a fortnight of painful withdrawal. Come with me on this True Detective journey, and with these ten steps, I promise we’ll make it to Sunday alive.

1. Watch the first three episodes again

Here is a complete list of television shows with at least one episode that I have watched twice, not counting syndicated sitcoms like Seinfeld and The Simpsons which are just sort of always on and which require little effort on my part:

The Wire.

And the only reason I watched The Wire twice was because my then-girlfriend now-wife had never seen the show, and it was a couple years later, and it was a fun thing to revisit as we went from season to season. It wasn’t like I finished an episode the first time around and then immediately watched it again.

Yet that is exactly what I do with True Detective, and it never loses its original edge. In fact, it gains new dimensions. The rhythms of the show, from the acting to the cinematography to the music, are so enthralling that they reward a second viewing. It’s become a cliche to say that certain TV shows are like great movies, but this TV show is like a great movie. It sinks deeper the second time around.

2. Check out some of HBO’s bonus content

For one, a full six-minute cut of Preacher Theriot’s sermon (performed by the incredible Shea Wigham) from last Sunday’s episode. In fact, check it out right here:


How riveting is that? I’m not a “God-botherer,” as the old crabber from last week put it, but if more preachers spoke this way, I’d probably go see them just for the intensity of the language. What I love about this scene is how it showcases the philosophical diversity of Nic Pizzolatto’s writing. When you consider the fact that he wrote this poetic, visual, deeply evangelical monologue, and that he also write Cohle’s cutting, academic takedown of the whole religious culture, you end up seeing that, yeah, the dude’s got some moves.

The HBO site has a lot of other semi-new content, and you can navigate by episode at the top.

I bet you’re wondering: Shane, did you transcribe all six minutes of the sermon? Why yes, I did. It’s too long to post in this already-long extravaganza, but you can read the full text here. One note, though, is that I noticed in the actual episode that there are faint bits of dialogue from Theriot that are not included in the six-minute video above, so I’m not sure how complete it is. But it reads complete, and how dare you imply that I’m an obsessive nerd?

3. Watch the “Oh Yeah” Video 900 Times

I love the way he says those two words:


At some point, I fully intend to perform this monologue for my parents at some point without giving any context.

4. Read Nic Pizzolatto’s 2011 debut novel, Galveston

The hardcover copy I took out from the Durham library has 258 pages, and I finished it in two days, with a lot of the reading taking place on a plane ride. It’s engrossing, but it also reads fast, which makes it the perfect fix for the off week.

Galveston is the story of Roy Cady, a 40-year-old man who works as hired muscle for a New Orleans loan shark, and who finds out that he’s dying the same day his boss tries to have him killed. He escapes that predicament and reluctantly rescues a young girl at the same time, and together they flee to the Texas gulf coast town of Galveston, the site of an idealized week Cady spent with a former lover in his youth.

Those are not significant spoilers, by the way, since that action goes down in the first few pages, and I won’t give any other plot points away except to say that A) it’s excellent, and B) it bears a lot of similarities to True Detective. There’s the big commonalities, like the fact that the book takes place in two different time periods, to the smaller stuff, like similar scenes at cowboy bars with a dance floor, to the really small, easter egg-type nuggets, like when a waitress gets politely annoyed with Roy for ordering a pitcher of beer at the bar instead of ordering from her. (In the show, Hart leaves his table to buy a pitcher at the bar in order to have a private moment with Lisa, and Maggie tells him to let the waitress do it. I feel like this restaurant drama must have played out in Pizzolatto’s real life, and, for some reason, made a big impact.)

And just like the show, the physical setting is an important character in Galveston. There’s darkness in the plot, but there’s beauty and an odd sort of redemption in the language:

“Right here and to the south the bronze fog in the morning appears endless, and the dusky color of it makes me think of sandstorms blowing in from far out in the Gulf waters, as if a desert sat beyond the horizon, and to watch the shrimp boats and jack-ups and supertankers materialize from it, you think you must be seeing another plane of existence breaking through to this one, and all of it freighted with history.

And the lesson of history, I think, is that until you die, you’re basically inauthentic.

But I am still alive.”

Okay, I lied: One minor, very safe-to-read spoiler coming up. Midway through the book, Roy decides to drive north to see the woman with whom he had spent his week in Galveston years ago, who is now living comfortably and suburbia and far removed from his orbit. The visit doesn’t go well, but it produces a passage on the power of memory that I found poignant:

“She started fingering those pearls again. “What are you nostalgic about anyway? It didn’t end good, Roy.”

“Nothing does.” But I wanted to answer her question by telling her how the dawn came into our windows at the place in Galveston, how the blue-white light had fallen over her in bed, sleeping on her stomach with no shirt, the sheets on the floor, and the smells of shrimp and salt on the cool Gulf breeze through the window, the sharp, sweet bite of those mojitos we’d lived on for the week, how important it seemed. How it was all intensely real to me now, how I could almost taste it and smell it and feel the ridges of her spine beneath my fingers.

I wouldn’t, though. I knew it was stupid, a little pathetic that I’d never managed to make better memories.”

In less potent doses, these passages show the “haunt and the hunger” theme that’s prominent in Cohle’s character; the beauty and love they crave, and the cynicism to which they default. Give it a read if you have time, both because it’s a strong first novel and because it makes a good companion piece to the show.

I tried to avoid picturing Cady as Matthew McConaughey, and was only moderately successful. Turns out, though, I should’ve been picturing Matthias Schoenaerts, because it was announced Tuesday that he’ll play Cady in the Galveston movie, which will be directed by Janus Metz and produced by Jean Doumanian. (Who, incidentally, nearly ruined Saturday Night Live in her brief tenure as show producer. But that’s neither here nor there.)

5. Read Patton Oswalt’s True Detective tweets.

He’s a fan of the show, and these are terrific.

6. Read some True Detective reviews

I don’t usually do this, but you seem like a discerning reader, so I’m going to break one of my own rules here and offer you Paste’s own reviews. Please don’t tell anyone else I did this, I could get in real trouble, but I can tell you’re the kind of person who gets it:

Episode 1: “The Long Bright Dark”
Episode 2: “Seeing Things”
Episode 3: “The Locked Room”

Obviously, check out everyone else’s reviews too. Alan Sepinwall at Hitflix is always fun, and I’m enjoying the AV Club reviews both for the write-ups and the discussion in the comments. (One reader described Cohle’s dancing scene this way: “So You Think You Can Dance But Life Is A Cruel and Pointless Joke So Why Bother?”)

Even reading the negative ones can be fun. Sometimes if I’m bored I like to go to Rotten Tomatoes and search for undeniably great and timeless and transcendent movies, just to read the negative previews from critics who completely whiffed. (“Rushmore is one of those films that’s so inconsequential that its memory threatens to fade away before the end credits have finished rolling,” says James Berardinelli, in 1998. Moving on…) And okay, yeah, art is subjective, fine. FINE. Still, I’m baffled by those who couldn’t appreciate this show, and I like to indulge in some hate-reading now and again. If that makes me a bad person, then put me in jail. In a cell with Charlie Lange, so I can quiz him on his wife. No reason.

Also, read the ones that are well written but simply cannot get past the fallacious idea that Pizzolatto’s philosophy about life is exactly like Rust Cohle’s, and that he hates people. Start here, and shake your fist all the while.

7. Read Director Cary Fukunaga’s Interviews

The fact that Fukunaga directed all eight episodes is just as unique as Pizzolatto writing all eight, and he’s at least equally responsible for the show’s success. He also happens to have given some really insightful interviews. The most indispensable comes from Salon, which contains details about how McConaughey was originally recruited to play Hart, and how he talked them into letting him play Cohle, how the script was originally intended to be shot in the Arkansas Ozarks, and how he, Harrelson and McConaughey helped Pizzolatto insert some levity into a dark script. But also check out, FastCocreate, Indiewire, and Collider.

8. Oh Yeah, Read Pizzollatto’s Interviews Too

Alan Sepinwall at Hitflix pretty much knocked it out of the park. Feel free to Google more, though. I won’t stop you, as long as your Googling stays focused and sincere.

9. Follow Nic Pizzolatto on Twitter

He has seven tweets, so read one per day from now until the next show, and you’ll have killed off roughly ten seconds from your week.

10. Try To Get Some Sleep

I hope this helped. Take it day by day, and remember: Life is nothing but a dream about being a person. And like a lot of dreams…there’s a monster at the end. And that monster is the Super Bowl.