Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson star as two detectives assigned a grisly murder case in 1995, with much of the story told in flashback as the two men are questioned about the case in 2012. Their relationship is prickly, at times downright hostile, as the two of them have fundamentally different perspectives on life. Hart (Harrelson) appears to be a typical family man, wife and two daughters, committed to his job, and with a solid understanding of who he is and the rights and wrongs of the world; but we soon discover that he is hypocritical, dishonest, prone to violent outbursts and has a more warped view of morality. Cohle (McConaughey) in contrast is a self-defined pessimist, who believes that humanity becoming self aware was one of the greatest tragedies that ever befell it. He is atheistic, sees the world as nothing but depravity, but looks on it all coldly. He also has a number of skeletons in his closet having gone through drugs, alcoholism, and the death of a young daughter.
The story explores these two characters in great detail, looking at what drives them and examining their perspectives on life and the job. It looks at themes of subjective morality, delves into the concepts of fate and humanity as a single organism, what it means to be a man. While the film covers some dark material, child abuse and murder, drugs, incest, prostitution, it is rarely gratuitous. Save for a couple of scenes of bloodshed it relies mostly on character interaction and reaction to the horrors they have witnessed to get its point across. This technique proves effectively disquieting as the imagination can conjure far more horrific images than anything they could have portrayed on screen. Shot on 35mm the show has a filmic quality to it and feels gritty and realistic. Coupled with a fantastic score it is clearly a piece of work that has been lovingly crafted in every detail.
A fantastic show that is packed with ideas. The script is brought to life by two incredible actors who add a depth and realism to their characters that makes it compelling viewing. By the end of the series, which is a self contained story, you have been on an emotional journey with the two of them that is wholly satisfying, with both having learnt something and been through so much together.