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Cameron Esparza
Cameron Esparza

True Detective - Season 1

The first season of True Detective, an American anthology crime drama television series created by Nic Pizzolatto, premiered on January 12, 2014, on the premium cable network HBO. The principal cast consisted of Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, and Tory Kittles. The season had eight episodes, and its initial airing concluded on March 9, 2014. As an anthology, each True Detective season has its own self-contained story, following a disparate set of characters in various settings.

True Detective - Season 1

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Constructed as a nonlinear narrative, season one focuses on Louisiana State Police homicide detectives Rustin "Rust" Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin "Marty" Hart (Harrelson), who investigated the murder of prostitute Dora Lange in 1995. Seventeen years later, they must revisit the investigation, along with several other unsolved crimes. During this time, Hart's infidelity threatens his marriage to Maggie (Monaghan), and Cohle struggles to cope with his troubled past. True Detective's first season explores themes of philosophical pessimism, masculinity, and Christianity; critics have analyzed the show's portrayal of women, its auteurist sensibility, and the influence of comics and weird horror fiction on its narrative.

Pizzolatto initially conceived True Detective as a novel, but felt it was more suitable for television. The episodes, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, were filmed in Louisiana over a three-month period. The series was widely acclaimed by critics and was cited as one of the strongest dramas of the 2014 television season. It was a candidate for numerous awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Drama Series and a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film, and won several other honors for writing, cinematography, direction, and acting.

Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, January 3, 1995. State homicide detectives Martin "Marty" Hart and Rustin "Rust" Cohle investigate the murder of a prostitute, 28-year-old Dora Lange, found in a sugarcane field outside of Erath. Her corpse is positioned against a tree as if in prayer, her head is crowned with deer antlers, and her body is surrounded by twig latticeworks closely resembling Cajun bird traps. Hart and Cohle turn to a five-year-old missing-persons case of a child named Marie Fontenot. Around the same time, another child claimed to have been chased through the woods by a "green-eared spaghetti monster." At the insistence of his wife Maggie, Hart invites Cohle to dinner, but is infuriated when Cohle arrives drunk. While following up on the Fontenot disappearance, they discover another twig latticework, ostensibly placed in recent times, inside her dilapidated playhouse.

1995. Hart and Cohle, after speaking with pastor Joel Theriot, learn that Lange was sometimes seen at church with a tall man with distinctive facial scarring. Their investigation continues in the face of pressure to turn the case over to Tuttle's new task force. Hart enters a jealous rage when he discovers his mistress Lisa with another man. While researching old investigations, Cohle identifies symbols similar to the Lange case in the death of Rianne Olivier, which was classified as accidental. Hart and Cohle visit Light of the Way Academy, a religious school run by Tuttle that Olivier attended, but find it abandoned save for a groundskeeper on a riding lawnmower, whom Cohle questions. They discover that Olivier's boyfriend, Reggie Ledoux is an ex-con who was a cellmate of Dora Lange's ex-husband, Charlie, and has since skipped parole. The detectives put out an APB on Reggie Ledoux.

Before creating True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, DePauw University, and the University of Chicago.[9] Inspired by HBO's series The Wire, The Sopranos, and Deadwood,[10] he began working on a short story collection that he later published as Between Here and the Yellow Sea in 2006.[9] He published a novel, Galveston, in 2010, and began writing television scripts. His earlier attempts at television writing were unsuccessful because of a lack of money.[10] Pizzolatto's first major gig in television writing came in 2011, as a screenwriter for AMC's series The Killing. He credits the show with giving him a glimpse of the inner workings of the television industry. Pizzolatto grew increasingly dissatisfied with the series' creative direction, and left two weeks into staff writing sessions for its second season.[9]

Harrelson was the season's next significant casting choice, brought on to play Hart at McConaughey's request.[19][20] Harrelson stated that he joined True Detective partly because he wanted to work with certain people involved in the project, with whom he had previously collaborated in the 2012 HBO film Game Change.[21] Michelle Monaghan agreed to play the season's female lead, Maggie, because she felt compelled by the direction of the plot and her character's story arc.[22] Michael Potts and Tory Kittles completed the principal cast, playing detectives Maynard Gilbough and Thomas Papania, respectively.[23][24] Major supporting roles in True Detective's first season include Kevin Dunn as Major Ken Quesada, Alexandra Daddario as Lisa Tragnetti, and Brad Carter as Charlie Lange.[23]

Pizzolatto narrowed his search for a suitable director to Cary Joji Fukunaga, whom he knew from Anonymous Content, and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Fukunaga was formally appointed as director after Iñárritu pulled out of the project due to film commitments.[25][26] In preparation for his work on the series, Fukunaga spent time with a homicide detective of the Louisiana State Police's Criminal Investigations Division to develop an accurate depiction of a 1990s homicide detective's work.[27] Fukunaga recruited Adam Arkapaw, director of photography of Top of the Lake, as project cinematographer. Arkapaw came to the director's attention for his work in Animal Kingdom (2010) and Snowtown (2011), and was hired after the two negotiated a deal at a meeting in San Francisco.[28] Alex DiGerlando, whom Fukunaga had worked with on Benh Zeitlin's Glory at Sea in 2008, was appointed as the production designer. Fukunaga said in an interview, "I knew what Alex accomplished in the swamps of Louisiana and given some money, how much more amazing he could be in building sets that would just be used for one or two days and be abandoned again."[29]

Initially, True Detective's first season was due to shoot in Arkansas, but Pizzolatto later chose to film in Louisiana to take advantage of state tax incentives and the area's distinctive landscape:[30] "There's a contradictory nature to the place and a sort of sinister quality underneath it all ... everything lives under layers of concealment. The woods are thick and dark and impenetrable. On the other hand you have the beauty of it all from a distance."[14]

The entire season was shot on 35 mm film,[35] which the production staff chose to achieve a certain texture, as well as a "nostalgic" quality.[28] The season was filmed using a Panavision Millennium XL2 camera, and the choice of lens corresponded to the period when a scene took place. Scenes set in 1995 and 2002 were captured with Panavision PVintage lenses, which produced a softer image because they were made of recycled, low-contrast glass. As these scenes were written as a reflection of Cohle and Hart's memory, production sought to make them as cinematic as possible, to reflect what Arkapaw called "the fragmentation of their lucid imaginations back through their past."[28] To achieve this, they relied on wider lenses to exaggerate composition.[28] The 2012 scenes were shot with Panavision Primo lenses: the visual palette in comparison was sharper and had much more contrast, lending a "modern, crisp feeling" to the images, and, according to Arkapaw, pulling "characters out from their environments to hopefully help audiences get inside their heads".[28]

The season's title sequence was a collaboration between director Patrick Clair, his Santa Monica-based studio Elastic, his Sydney-based studio Antibody, and Brisbane-based company Breeder.[36][37] The design team emphasized southern Louisiana's industrial landscape because it reflected the characters' traits and personal, inner struggles. Clair stated that from the start he had an "unusually clear" vision of True Detective's finished opening sequence.[36] Using Richard Misrach's photography book Petrochemical America (2012) as a template, the production team initially photographed the local scenery, and the resulting images were woven together to form the core of the title sequence.[37] By the time production began animating, they faced several problems: the photographic stills were too grainy and the footage was too jagged. As a result, many shots were digitally altered and slowed to about a tenth of their original speed, which, according to Clair, "evoked a surreal and floaty mood that perfectly captured what we were after."[36]

Season one's opening theme is "Far from Any Road", an alternative country song originally composed by The Handsome Family for their 2003 album Singing Bones.[37] The True Detective soundtrack features a compilation of gospel and blues music, which were selected by Pizzolatto and T Bone Burnett. The pair opposed the use of Cajun music and swamp blues for the season's musical score because they felt it was overdone.[39] Burnett said the score was intended to be character-driven, rather than inspired by other crime fiction drama.[39] Songs by Bo Diddley, Melvins, Primus, The Staple Singers, Grinderman, Wu-Tang Clan, Vashti Bunyan, Townes Van Zandt, Juice Newton, and Captain Beefheart appear in season one.[40][41] Burnett also composed original pieces with Rhiannon Giddens, who used a Swarmatron synthesizer, and Cassandra Wilson.[39] HBO released an abridged soundtrack album, featuring 14 tracks from True Detective's first two seasons, on August 14, 2015, through physical media and iTunes.[42] 041b061a72

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