"Vision is meaning. Meaning is historical."
These words from mopey Detective Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) neatly summarise what writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga are striving for with True Detective.
The second episode, Seeing Things, peeled back the layers further on the two murder investigations in 1995 and 2012, and through its haunting images of the Louisiana landscape, gave us a clearer idea of the murky world simmering with sex, violence and religion that detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) inhabit.
The 1995 investigation of the murder of prostitute Dora Kelly Lang continues, but already the two are feeling the pressure. Rust rails against the help of the Governor's anti-Christian crime taskforce, but is threatened by his boss (Kevin Dunn) to shut up and solve the case as soon as possible. This means the two sleuths going deeper and deeper in to the seedy underbelly of the pelican state, visiting other prostitutes who knew Dora and ending up at what they term a 'bunny ranch', a whore house in the middle of the woods.
After being informed that Dora said she had found a church, Hart is disgusted to find an underage girl (Lili Simmons) working at the ranch. Giving her some cash and telling her, "Do something else", when Cohle callously remarks, "Is that a down payment" you'd be forgiven for thinking for marking one out as caring and the other cold and insensitive.
But as this episode further contrasted the lives of our two leads, it was in fact Cohle who attracted increasing sympathy, whilst Hart becomes more and more loathsome. The stark difference in each of their lives is made clear when it cuts back and forth between the two waking up and getting dressed.
As Hart lives in an idyllic American nuclear family, waking up beside his wife, and kissing his two daughters before heading off to work, Cohle awakens alone in his sparse, minimalist abode, a man who has lost everything and is now empty.
His nihilistic musings might have been grating for his partner (and I'm sure some viewers) in the first episode, but it's hard not to feel sorry for Cohle once his backstory has been explained. A young daughter killed in a car accident, a marriage that subsequently fell apart, the time spent as an addicted undercover junkie for the Texas police department, and four months spent after being shot in a psychiatric hospital. After a life like that you'd be pessimistic about the world too.
Affair of the Hart
Whilst the previously enigmatic Cohle's life story was opened up to us, no explanation is given as to why Hart is such an A-hole. Just like Tony Soprano, he grumbles to the two new detectives in 2012 that in the past men like his father would bottle up their emotions.This conservative attitude is reflected in the way he treats his wife (Michelle Monaghan), berating her for not being all doe-eyed and loving when he returns home from work, and then going and having an affair behind her back.
Rust immediately sees through Hart's ruse of being a good family man, and makes a lewd comment in the locker rooms about smelling of pussy. For the first time the two clash, but it certainly won't be the last, especially if as Hart says, "Rust had as sharp as an eye for weakness as I've ever seen".
Home Boob Office
Back to that affair, and you wouldn't be surprised to find that HBO's initials stand for the Home Boob Office, as the channel once again flouts its ability to show nudity on screen. Unsurprisingly, it's only female flesh on display, when during a late night rendezvous with the way out of his league court reporter Lisa (Alexandra Daddario), Hart is handcuffed before she strips for him.
As this excellent blog by Rebecca Hussein observes, the problem is not just HBO being guilty of double gender standards when only naked women are depicted on screen, but that with all these women-only body parts on display there are no developed female characters in the show behind them. Other than Hart's long-suffering wife, the only women who populate the show are prostitutes or murder victims in need of saving by our two male leads, and whilst the show still has time to give its female character a voice, the only world depicted so far to us is intensely male.