4 Eye-Opening 'True Detective' Reveals From Matthew McConaughey

True DetectiveCalling all True Detective fans! You know who you are: you're the ones obsessing over every single episode, dissecting each scene in the hopes of unraveling some hidden visual metaphor. You're annoying everyone around you by constantly talking about the show and how amazing the acting is, seriously, oh my god it's just so good. You can't stop recommending it to folks who couldn't care less and just wish you'd shut the hell up already. You're exactly as annoying as a freshly inducted Paleo dieter in a world filled with gluten.

Which is to say, you are my people. True Detective nerds, I have an awesome gift for you: highlights from the 450-page graph (!!!) Matthew McConaughey made to fully embody his character on the show. Here are the "four stages of Rustin Cohle" for your reading pleasure, because are there hidden meanings or clues in this? MAYYYYBE.


As you know if you've been watching, True Detective covers a 17-year timeline, during which Rust appears in different incarnations: 1) a drug-taking undercover agent he calls "Crash," 2) a cynical, active-alcoholic ex-cop, and 3) a sober homicide detective, whose intensity has led to this awesome Tumblr page filled with hypothetical oxygen-sucking conversations between Rust and Marty:

How did McConaughey work out his character's history, given how much the show jumps around? Here's how:

I just basically broke it down and made a 450-page graph of where Cohle was and where he was coming from.

Four hundred and fifty pages? I ... um, okay. Sure, we'll accept that. At any rate, here's McConaughey's take on the four stages of Rust Cohle:


He's our deep, narco wild-ass. A guy who goes all the way. This is where Cohle has all the freedom. He can go over the edge as this guy. And inside, he loves the life of Crash even more, because the shackles are off of him. He knows he may die sooner living this life, but there's a freedom and peace in that knowledge for him.

1995 Cohle.

Back to being a part of the body. He's coming off of years being Crash. He's trying to walk the line. Monk-like. Trying to hold it together. And that's a lot easier with less interaction with others. There's a mechanical side to him. He needs the regimen of the homicide detective. He needs the case to actually survive. One, because he's great at it. And two, because it's going to keep him from killing himself.

2002 Cohle.

A little looser mix of Crash and the '95 Cohle. A guy who's made his boundaries clear and has to mark less territory, so he's relaxed into his way in the world. But the case is still his lifeline. He has some small hope that there's going to be a way out of his being and pain and criticism, so he makes an effort into domesticity, a la the girlfriend. Only to prove that he was not made for it, and there is no way out. So what does he do? He resigns to his nature, once again.

2012 Cohle.

This guy lived longer than he hoped. Fallen prey to his own beliefs. More cynical, angrier, he's had to endure the existence of this shitstorm called life. A little ragged, more rough edges, living in a place where he can manage himself. Not too close. He's not in the CID. But he's not in Alaska. He's a guy who's resigned to his indentured servitude of being alive. But he despises the sentence and the penance. He will not accept defeat. He's not going become a madman, he's not going to kill himself. He wrestles the devil every day, and he realizes that this may last a lot longer than he ever hoped for.

(CID = Criminal investigation department, I assume.)

I find that line regarding 2012 Cohle pretty interesting: "He's not going become a madman, he's not going to kill himself." I was aware that I mighta lost my mind, Rust told Marty during Sunday's episode in a self-aware moment that I think was meant for the viewing audience. My call is that wherever we end up in the finale, it definitely won't be with Cohle as the crazed killer, unaware of his own deadly actions.

Of course, while we scramble for answers the ultimate revelation may simply be that True Detective is at its heart a story about stories. Remember what Marty said in one of the earliest episodes?

It goes on like that. You know the job: You’re looking for narrative, interrogate witnesses, parcel evidence, establish a timeline. You build a story. Day after day.

So it goes with us, the viewers. After all ...

Did you learn anything useful in these character descriptions?

Image via HBO

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