For 8 weeks earlier this year, "True Detective" was American pop culture’s focal point. This show seemed to fit recap culture perfectly, like a handgun to a holster: each episode presented us with new literary allusions and mysterious images, all of which were then written about online and scoured through for predictions. Then, like clockwork, a new episode started the cycle over again 7 days later. Watching the show straight-through on Blu-ray, though, it becomes clear that we all missed the point. This show isn’t at all about "The King in Yellow," mysterious secret societies, spaghetti monsters, or any of its other allusions to "weird fiction" or mysterious elements.
For those who weren’t on the internet at all earlier this year: Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey feature here as Marty and Cole, respectively, two Louisiana detectives investigating a stretch of satanic murders stretching from 1995 through the present day. We see them following the attendant leads, but also in their personal lives: as their unknown suspect kills prostitutes and other disenfranchised women, Marty and Cole abuse their girlfriends, daughters, wives, and all others (mostly women) unlucky enough to land in their path. Misogyny -- within noir, within history, and within life -- is this show’s constant theme. Yet that’s not what you leave the series’ 7-ish hours thinking about. This is really just a show about two grumpy guys getting to know each other.
HBO’s three-disc Blu-ray release of the series comes with numerous special features, but frankly, they’re not all that special: they’re all the type of promotional featurette the network would play in-between movies on a Saturday afternoon. For starters, there’s a 15-minute "making of" documentary, an 8-minute conversation between McConaughey and Harrelson, a 15-minute conversation between writer Nic Pizzolatto and music supervisor T-Bone Burnett, and two episodes’ worth of audio commentaries (also with Pizzolatto and Burnett.) You also get a rough 5-minute featurette for each individual episode (detailing the episode’s individual titles and themes, mainly,) as well as about 10 minutes of wisely deleted scenes.
Watching McConaughey and Harrelson banter, in both the show and the extra features, joking, arguing, forging a relationship -- you realize that misogyny is just a talking point, not a central focus. It’s a MacGuffin around which Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunagu told a different story. "True Detective" is actually about Marty and Cole -- about the way they talk, about the way their manners (bourgeois vs. philosophical) clash against each other, and about the way they relate. It’s about the way two decades worth of work can bring together one man who’s "too old for this shit" and another who’s loose-cannon brain has rendered him a for-life outcast. Think about it for a second: this isn’t about misogyny, noir, "weird fiction" or anything else more than it’s these two men learning to love each other. "True Detective," for better and worse, is a stealth remake of "Lethal Weapon."