I don’t usually indulge in true crime stories in any medium.  There’s a reason I don’t watch the news, and it’s because it stresses me out.  Human beings seem to have an unlimited capacity for brutality, greed, and perversion that is just too horrifying for me as a fan of horror.  The pain is too real, too immersive and maddening, when I know it’s real.  I compulsively watched the first season of “True Detective” on HBO anyway, and I can’t say enough good things about it.

The cast intrigued me enough to watch the first episode.  I’ve been a fan of Woody Harrelson since “Cheers”, and though he’s been in his share of disappointing movies, I’ve only enjoyed his work as he’s gotten older.  His comic and dramatic talents lend well to his character, Marty Hart, as we see him develop through decades of police work, including flashbacks to his early career.  Likewise Matthew McConaughey excels in his portrayal of Hart’s partner, Rust Cohle.  McConaughey has enjoyed a resurgence of his acting career that is well deserved, forgiving an occasional car commercial, and tidbits of Cohle’s backstory definitely contributed to my devouring of the 8-episode series.

The investigation of focus in the series is heart-wrenching as much as it’s horrifying.  Though difficult to watch at times, the toll it takes on Hart, Cohle and the people close to them is just as important as the investigation itself.  It speaks to the dedication, obsession even, of the detectives involved.  This treatment makes it easier to understand why they can never be free of the case until it’s solved.  Too many cop dramas I’ve watched don’t seem to establish the reason for this type of determined investigation beyond a simple “Type A” personality in one of the characters, usually the “loose-cannon” type who must be reigned in by his partner.  Hart and Cohle seemed like real human beings as much as they were policemen, something that makes me eagerly await meeting new characters in the second season of the show.

There’s plenty of suspense, even in seeing how the characters react to each other without the threat of criminals.  I enjoyed also enjoyed the portrayal of dead ends in the investigation, something discussed in the behind-the-scenes tidbits that I waited for at the end of every episode. These proved valuable, not just for the occasional piece of the puzzle I missed in the episodes, but also because they led me to appreciate the painstaking writing and camera work that made each hour so memorable.

If you haven’t seen “True Detective”, I urge you to watch it.  There are so many great moments, that you could easily get sucked into the show even if you’re not normally a fan of detective fiction.  I didn’t expect it to appreciate it the way that I have, as just phenomenal story-telling.  Luckily the debut of the second season is only a couple of weeks away.