It’s been on my mind lately, how we are all shaped by our environment as we meander into adulthood…and how often our past is as cuff-links to our present, whether we like being cuffed or not.
Such, to me, seems the plight, however great, however onerous, of the son, the actor, the man, Woody Harrelson.
He may deny it all but it seems to me that he was haunted by his hit-man Father even when the man was alive, struggling, I think Woody was, with the Why;
Why could someone with my blood be a cold-blooded killer?
And struggling also, Woody may have been, with the How;
How could he kill and still be my Dad? How could I still love him regardless?
Woody started out in the Light & Funny of Hollywood. You couldn’t get much more light and funny than the sitcom “Cheers” but within him dark shadows lurked and the darkness grew or it had courage, finally, to escape and flourish in all the film-noirs Woody has made over the years and for which he was justly rewarded.
So, it really came as no surprise to hear that there would be an HBO Series with a dark and terrifying nature, starring, who else, Harrelson.
But the joke and yes, the surprise, was on me, for Woody sacrificed his reputation by forcibly staying more or less in the Light in this series, allowing another to slither-swim in the Darkness. Maybe Woody has come full circle. Maybe now he knows that the true answers to his questions about Good Vs. Evil could not be sought through his own angst-ridden artistic efforts but through the efforts of those who wade around the Haunted - the Innocent, the Fresh, the true Boy Next Door.
Enter Stage Right, Matthew McConaughey, and Curtains Up on…
The series has long ended but the ripples and reverberations still linger within me.
Sure, if we could all have nickels for each sociopathic drama which has aired on TV, we’d all be producing our own sociopathic dramas on TV, but “True Detective” was different, not for the story, per se, not for the serial killer, per se, but for the men who were in the story to fight the evil by going on the hellish journey of the hunt.
The “Good Guys”, the cops, the men who start out wanting to make a difference, to vanquish all evil, end up being forever tainted by the evil within, that even when collared, the killer manages to “kill” one last victim - the Good Guy hunter himself, the one who finally solves the killer’s perverse riddle and traps him in his own signature.
This series is fictitious but the fantasy isn’t too far away from reality. When the crimes are so heinous, when the hunt is so long and when the list of victims bodes even longer, investigators can fall very far and be wounded very deep, not unlike the war veteran who often can never claw his way back Home even when he comes back Home.
Matt’s character, “Rust” Cohle, is one such cop. His personal baggage melds with his professional and it erodes his very soul. The caring, the emotional wreckage, is just too much and Rust goes rogue, becomes feral, fights only so far then runs away into his own black-dog thoughts, never to be seen in the light again. Rules are ignored or bent, authority is only his own and sooner or later he quits or gets kicked out of the force, his reality now having nothing to do with head-quarters, the parties must part and not in a good way.
Such behaviour manifests itself physically too. The cop stops eating, stops sleeping, stops talking, stops caring about anything else but catching the killer and in the process becomes a concentration camp image of his former self, almost as if the serial killer is killing his hunter by ounces and scratches, not by pounds and stabs. Either way, the job is eventually done and as the cell doors clang shut, the killer knows he had that one final proverbial kill and it was the best of them all – his own jailer.
Matt’s performance is the best of his career, whatever it took, however much he researched and focused, whatever the personal cost, if any, the true actor-supreme in Matt shone supernova in True Detective. I think Woody Harrelson must be damn proud.
This isn’t a review; although, if it were, I’d tell you to watch the series, it’s well worth your time. No, it’s an acknowledgment of the effort and the sacrifice in both the real actors and in their characters, how the Haunted enabled the Innocent to view a glimpse of Evil and make it his very best, a sacrifice I’m not sure people see in Woody as per this endeavour and it’s in this missed sacrifice for which I am saddened.
Woody could have man-handled this series and glinted out and up over Matthew but he saw the need to down-play, to step aside, to allow some light into his own performance in the offering up of all-evil to “Rust”.
After this performance, no longer do I look at Matthew as a silver-screen two-dimensional sex-symbol nor a pretty-boy flogging high-end cologne but a man who would gladly trade in all that fluff for the best work of his life.
Now he is sexy. He wasn’t before.
People with guts and the smarts to be gutsy and risk all are always sexy.
But Woody has known that for years. Maybe Matt has known that too and finally, his artistic caterpillar morphed into a performance butterfly.
Oh, to be a butterfly on the wall when Woody had “that talk” with Matt. You know the one. The one where they decide this series will be like no other, where the message will be as deep and as shattering as any that could be displayed on the big screen. A truly finite story, regardless of the popular or monetary success, that will end when it must, damn all.
Thanks, Woody, you were haunted but you survived the haunting and now enable others to walk through that emotional fog as well, if only on screen. Thanks, Matt, for “going there” when you really didn’t have to. We, your new fans, now have a reason to truly admire your work.
A price was paid by both men, I’m sure, but we thank them for the cost.
I’ll not look at antlers the same way again.
Title Photo: vigilantcitizen.com; True Detective Logo: xxivmagazine.com.au; Matt as “Rust”: effluve05.blogspot.com; Matt for Dolce & Gabbana: calibanbooks.com