Matthew McConaughey has said this eight-hour HBO series is a 450-page film. Certainly it confirms what we already knew: that television is now the premiere writer’s medium, which at this level of quality is video’s equivalent of the novel. The quality, of course, not only in the screenplay, but in its two astonishing (overused word, but accurate here) lead performances. At first, you’ll be tempted to say merely, “It’s Matthew’s world; we just live in it.” But while McConaughey has the flashier role and descends so far into the dark night of the soul it’s preternatural, make no mistake: Woody Harrelson is totally holding his own. He’s not just the “regular guy” providing contrast to Matthew’s hot mess— he’s deeply flawed, almost thuggish at times. That the two detectives manage to connect at all is miraculous, and miracle too is the almost imperceptible evolution of their relationship into something approximating close friendship. That said, our hunger for an outcome to the story (and the relationship) that would rise to the level of the dread-filled sense of evil that precedes it… misses the mark. A story resolution out of tv crime drama (CSI: Baton Rouge?) with a final pursuit through an endless series of maze-like obstacles to reach the killer takes it all down a peg. But for McConaughey’s “time is a circle” monologue alone (and the many other sequences like it), this is a clear cut case of crazy good. — Jeff Schultz

What starts out as a seemingly better than average crime procedural quickly becomes so much more. This eight episode HBO series explores rabbit holes. Among them: addiction, grief, psychosis and so much more. Matthew McConaughey is Rustin Cohle and Woody Harrelson is Marty Hart. Both are detectives with the Louisiana State Police. They are called to the scene of a particularly bizarre murder scene. They investigate, find their suspects, arrest said suspects and realize they may have the wrong guy and a much bigger case. But it’s also about the relationship of the Rust and Marty. They aren’t buddy-buddy like most TV cops. More like they tolerate each other as an means to an end. Marty is a cheating, drinking SOB. Rust is deeply thoughtful and has gone a bit off the deep end because of the death of his daughter. The script is absolutely fantastic, but Harrelson and McConaughey bring it to life. It’s a treat to see two such talented actors every week on TV, rather than having to wait for their next film. Harrelson is fantastic, maybe the best thing he’s ever done. But, McConaughey is other wordly. If you thought his Oscar was a fluke, watch him here. He chews up the screen and spits out diamonds. Just polish off his Emmy now. There isn’t a better performance on TV and there won’t be this year. McConaughey uses his good ole’ boy Texas twang to sell us the current day Rust who has become a drunk bartender and pretty much fallen off the map. Then he uses it to hide a deep and troubling thoughtfulness about life and existence. It’s a pity that he won’t be a part of next season’s TRUE DETECTIVE, because he’s going to be an extraordinarily tough act to follow.  — Alan Yudman

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