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The 8 Best Scenes from True Detective

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HBO sent me the first season of True Detective to review, given its recent release to Blu-ray and DVD. Simple task, I thought, since I’ve watched every episode multiple times. But what do I say that hasn’t already been said? The anthology has received almost unanimous praise, and some of the highest praise comes from me–True Detective is a rare piece of entertainment, one that is unpredictable, mysterious, disturbing, riveting and superbly written and directed.

So instead of reviewing this show that I can hardly be critical of, I have highlighted the top eight scenes/moments/aspects of True Detective (the first sequence) that made it work so well for me (and in the comments section, I hope you’ll share yours):

8. The opening sequence

While in the scheme of things the opening credits sequence has little bearing on the actual show, the psychedelic montage of the characters mixed with the eerie, intoxicating and undeniably southern song “Far From Any Road” sets the stage for everything that subsequently happens. With most shows I fast-forward through the opening credits, but like everything else with True Detective, every moment matters.

7. The little girl screams at Cohle

When Cohle approaches the young girl he rescued years earlier and asks her about the man with scars, the terrified girl reacts as one might expect… terrified. But as simple as the scene is–it’s there to confirm to Cohle that the case isn’t truly closed, that the true evil is still out there–it is so well executed and so well performed that it stands out, if only because the girl’s horror-filled face is so frightening.

6. The climax

Some people were expecting more from the climax–a twist, something supernatural, or at least something completely unpredictable–but True Detective‘s relatively straightforward ending (Cohle and Hart finally track down the killer, chase him into his labyrinth and kill him, at great personal cost) is undeniably excellent. Nick Pizzolatto spent eight hours developing his two leads so that when the time came, the pursuit of the scarred man would be as suspenseful as possible; after all, neither Cohle nor Hart’s survival was guaranteed.

5. “What’s the IQ of these people?”

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson have ridiculously good chemistry together in True Detective; as much as they hate each other, and as serious as the show is, their banter is so absurdly good it’s often hard not to laugh when the two are trading barbs. One of the best exchanges takes place in episode three when the two visit the traveling church; Cohle’s hatred of religion and intolerance for the “stupidity” of people who believe in God is on full display (and he makes some good points), though it’s Rust who tosses the final zinger: “For a guy who sees no so point in existence, you sure fret about it a lot.”

4. “Time is a flat circle”

Even absent of everything else that happens in the show, True Detective could have worked had it simply been one long scene between Cohle and his interrogators. Matthew McConaughey is at the top of his game, and his musings about “time is a flat circle” and other theoreticals are entertaining, intoxicating and downright laugh inducing, in all the right ways.

3. Woody Harrelson cries as the camera fades away

The man with scars has been killed, Hart has been impaled by a hatchet and Cohle is in a coma, having taken a huge knife to the belly. Hart awakens to discover that his entire family, including his ex-wife, has shown up to see him–something he never thought would ever happen again. One of his family members asks if he’s OK, and he responds, “yes,” but then, as the camera fades to black, the hardened man begins to cry, the circumstances of his life finally taking their toll. For all the talk Matthew McConaughey has garnered, this is perhaps the best acted single moment of the entire show.

2. The six-minute tracking shot

Easily the most memorable and talked about sequence of the entire season, episode four’s six-minute gang heist sequences is simply spellbinding. Extremely complicated and beautifully shot, the sequence has more cinematic qualities than most movies released these days.

1. “Like a lot of dreams there’s a monster at the end of it.”

The scene that hooked me–I mean truly hooked me–was a simple one: the reveal of the monster, or at least what was assumed to be the monster. At the end of episode three, Cohle finally gets to a point (not the point, because he’s really not capable of that):

“To realize that all your life–you know, all your love, all your hate, all your memory, all your pain–it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream. A dream that you had inside a locked room. A dream about being a person. And like a lot of dreams there’s a monster at the end of it.”

And then the show cuts to a tracking shot of a very bad man walking down a road, wearing a diaper and a gas mask and carrying a machete. Holy. Fuck.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Crime Films, Drama Movies, DVD Releases, Featured, Thriller Movies, Top 10 Movie Lists, TV Series
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  • Meh

    How has no one commented on this list yet? Months after the finale, I can picture these scenes as if I had watched them yesterday. I agree with every scene on this list. And number 1 is definitely in its rightful place. I would add one more scene (however then the list would be of 9, the number 9 isn’t a well liked number); when Hart’s wife seduces Cohl. The passion is as fast as his realization at what she had done to him. Tragic scene.

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