True Detective (season 1)

True Detective (season 1)
True Detective season 1.png
Blu-ray cover
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes8
Original networkHBO
Original releaseJanuary 12 (2014-01-12) – March 9, 2014 (2014-03-09)
Season chronology
Next →
Season 2
List of True Detective episodes

The first season of True Detective, an American anthology crime drama television series created by Nic Pizzolatto, premiered on January 12, 2014, on the premium cable network HBO. The principal cast consisted of Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, and Tory Kittles. The season comprised eight episodes, and its initial airing concluded on March 9, 2014. As an anthology, each True Detective season has its own self-contained story, following a disparate set of characters in various settings.

Constructed as a nonlinear narrative, season one focuses on Louisiana State Police homicide detectives Rustin "Rust" Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin "Marty" Hart (Harrelson), who investigated the murder of prostitute Dora Lange in 1995. Seventeen years later, they must revisit the investigation, along with several other unsolved crimes. During this time, Hart's infidelity threatens his marriage to Maggie (Monaghan), and Cohle struggles to cope with his troubled past. True Detective's first season explores themes of philosophical pessimism, masculinity, and Christianity; critics have analyzed the show's portrayal of women, its auteurist sensibility, and the influence of comics and weird horror fiction on its narrative.

Pizzolatto initially conceived True Detective as a novel, but felt it was more suitable for television. The episodes, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, were filmed in Louisiana over a three-month period. The series received positive reviews from critics and was cited as one of the strongest dramas of the 2014 television season. It was a candidate for numerous television awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Drama Series and a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film, and won several other honors for writing, cinematography, direction, and acting.


No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateU.S. viewers
11"The Long Bright Dark"Cary Joji FukunagaNic PizzolattoJanuary 12, 2014 (2014-01-12)2.33[1]

Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, January 3, 1995. State homicide detectives Martin "Marty" Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rustin "Rust" Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) investigate the murder of a prostitute, 28-year-old Dora Lange. Her corpse is found posed as if in prayer, her head is crowned with deer antlers, and her body is surrounded by twig latticeworks closely resembling Cajun bird traps. Hart and Cohle turn to a five-year-old missing-persons case of a child named Marie Fontenot. Around the same time, another child claimed to have been chased through the woods by a "green-eared spaghetti monster." At the insistence of his wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), Hart invites Cohle to dinner, but is infuriated when Cohle arrives drunk. While following up on the Fontenot disappearance, they discover another twig latticework.

Seventeen years later in May 2012, Hart and Cohle are separately interviewed about the Lange investigation by detectives Thomas Papania (Tory Kittles) and Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts). Hart and Cohle have not spoken since an altercation in 2002. The crime scene of a recently slain woman closely resembles the Lange murder scene, suggesting that despite Cohle and Hart's claims of apprehending the killer in 1995, the killer may remain at large.
22"Seeing Things"Cary Joji FukunagaNic PizzolattoJanuary 19, 2014 (2014-01-19)1.67[2]

1995. Animosity between Cohle and Hart flares after Cohle suspects Hart is cheating on Maggie. Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders), a celebrated evangelist and cousin of the governor, advocates a police task force focusing on "anti-Christian crimes," including the Lange murder. Hart and Cohle's investigation leads them to a remote ranch harboring runaway girls who work there as prostitutes. They find Lange's diary, which contains repeated references to "Carcosa" and a "Yellow King," at the ranch. In the wreckage of a burnt-out church Lange attended, they find a wall painting depicting a human figure wearing deer antlers.

In 2012, Cohle reflects on his daughter's death in a car accident, which led to the collapse of his marriage and his spending four years as an undercover narcotics investigator. His undercover career ended with a lethal gunfight, after which he was hospitalized in a psychiatric institution. After his release, Cohle requested a job in homicide and was partnered with Hart. Cohle reveals that he experiences brief, intermittent episodes of visual hallucinations caused by years of drug use while working as an undercover officer. Shots from 1995 show that Cohle occasionally suffers these hallucinations when he is with Hart, but he does not discuss them. Hart is now divorced from Maggie for reasons unrevealed.
33"The Locked Room"Cary Joji FukunagaNic PizzolattoJanuary 26, 2014 (2014-01-26)1.93[3]

1995. Hart and Cohle, after speaking with pastor Joel Theriot, learn that Lange was sometimes seen at church with a tall man with distinctive facial scarring. Their investigation continues in the face of pressure to turn the case over to Tuttle's new task force. Hart enters a jealous rage when he discovers his mistress Lisa (Alexandra Daddario) with another man. While researching old investigations, Cohle identifies symbols similar to the Lange case in the death of Rianne Olivier, which was classified as accidental. Hart and Cohle visit Light of the Way Academy, a religious school run by Tuttle that Olivier attended, but find it abandoned save for a groundskeeper. They discover that Olivier's boyfriend, Reggie Ledoux (Charles Halford) is an ex-con who was a cellmate of Dora Lange's ex-husband, Charlie, and has since skipped parole. The detectives put out an APB on Reggie Ledoux.

2012. The interviews continue, revealing Hart's questionable moral views and Cohle's nihilistic views of humanity.
44"Who Goes There"Cary Joji FukunagaNic PizzolattoFebruary 9, 2014 (2014-02-09)1.99[4]

In 1995, Charlie Lange (Brad Carter) says he showed pictures of Dora to Ledoux. Hart tracks down an associate of Ledoux's and forces him to reveal Ledoux's meth operation with the Iron Crusaders, a biker gang out of East Texas. Cohle, who had been a member of the gang while undercover, takes personal leave to infiltrate it, saying he needs to visit his dying father. Lisa reveals the affair to Maggie, who leaves the house with their daughters. Hart confronts Maggie at her workplace; Cohle extricates him from a standoff with security officers. Cohle's contact in the Iron Crusaders, Ginger (Joseph Sikora), promises access to the gang's meth supply in exchange for Cohle's (who is known to the gang as "Crash") help robbing a rival gang. The robbery goes badly, with fatalities on both sides and rising chaos in the rival gang's neighborhood. Cohle is forced to take Ginger prisoner and escape in Hart's car.

In 2012, Hart and Cohle both maintain the story of Cohle's sick father in the face of skeptical questioning by Papania and Gilbough.
55"The Secret Fate of All Life"Cary Joji FukunagaNic PizzolattoFebruary 16, 2014 (2014-02-16)2.25[5]

In 1995, Ginger introduces Cohle to DeWall Ledoux, Reggie's cousin and meth-cooking partner. DeWall refuses to do business with Cohle, but unwittingly leads him and Hart to a meth lab hidden in the bayou. Hart apprehends Reggie, who makes cryptic statements about Carcosa. Hart kills Reggie in a rage after discovering two kidnapped and abused children in the compound. DeWall flees but dies after triggering a homemade booby trap. Hart and Cohle plant evidence to make it look as though an intense shootout has taken place, a scenario they report to a police investigation. They are hailed as heroes at the police station and in the press, and they receive commendations and promotions.

By 2002, Hart and Maggie have reconciled and Cohle is dating again. While Cohle is consulting on a police interrogation, the prisoner asks for a plea bargain in exchange for information about Dora Lange's killer, who he claims is still at large and killing. He mentions the "Yellow King," which gets Cohle's attention. The prisoner kills himself in his cell before Cohle can investigate his claims. Cohle returns to Light of the Way Academy, where he finds dozens of twig sculptures and dark imagery on the walls.

In 2012, Papania and Gilbough tell Hart they suspect that Cohle, who they allege conveniently led Hart to every clue or lead in the case, has been orchestrating the killings. Cohle is also a person of interest in Rev. Billy Lee Tuttle's suspicious death two years earlier, which was around the time Cohle returned to Louisiana. Cohle walks out of his interview after the detectives accuse him.
66"Haunted Houses"Cary Joji FukunagaNic PizzolattoFebruary 23, 2014 (2014-02-23)2.64[6]

In 2002, Cohle links a series of missing persons to Tuttle-funded schools. A former pastor in Tuttle's ministries claims Tuttle covered up child molestation. Ledoux's surviving victim, now institutionalized with regressive catatonia, tells Cohle about a third attacker—a giant man with scars—and begins screaming when Cohle asks her about the man's face. Tuttle complains to the police department following a tense meeting with Cohle, who has been warned to cease his investigation and is suspended from duty. Hart begins an affair with Beth (Lili Simmons), a former underage prostitute whom he interviewed in 1995 while working on the Lange case. After Maggie discovers the new affair, she manipulates a drunk Cohle and has sex with him, because she knows that Hart would never forgive her for that, and she could get a divorce. After she tells Hart, he and Cohle fight in the police station parking lot. Cohle quits the police force immediately after the fight.

In 2012, Papania and Gilbough interview Maggie, who deflects their questions. Hart walks out of his interview in response to Papania and Gilbough's accusations against Cohle. Cohle seeks out Hart and they agree to meet and talk.
77"After You've Gone"Cary Joji FukunagaNic PizzolattoMarch 2, 2014 (2014-03-02)2.34[7]
In 2012, Cohle presents Hart with evidence of a cult he believes is responsible for the disappearance of dozens of women and children along the coast in Louisiana. Among the evidence is a videotape of the ritualistic rape and murder of Marie Fontenot (the missing-child case they briefly investigated in 1995) by men in costumes and masks, which Cohle stole from a safe in Rev. Tuttle's home. Cohle denies killing Tuttle, speculating that others did it to prevent Tuttle from being blackmailed over the tape. Hart, shaken from watching the videotape, agrees to join the investigation. They learn that Tuttle had an illegitimate half-brother with the surname Childress, whose son had scars on his face. They also learn that their former colleague Steve Geraci (Michael Harney) was ordered by his boss, Ted Childress—then the sheriff of Vermilion Parish—to cut short his investigation of Fontenot's disappearance. Hart and Cohle accost Geraci to coerce the details from him, threatening him if he should try to go to the authorities or have them arrested. Gilbough and Papania ask the groundskeeper Cohle encountered at Light of the Way Academy in 1995 for directions to the burnt-out church. They drive off without noticing the lower part of his face is heavily scarred.
88"Form and Void"Cary Joji FukunagaNic PizzolattoMarch 9, 2014 (2014-03-09)3.52[8]
In 2012, the "man with the scars" (Glenn Fleshler) is shown living in a large house in squalor with a female relative (Ann Dowd) with whom he has a sexual relationship. He speaks cryptically in multiple accents and keeps his father's decaying corpse in a shed on his property. Later, he goes to work painting a school, where he watches children on the playground. Hart and Cohle extract details from Geraci by showing him the Fontenot tape. Hart thinks the "green-eared spaghetti monster" may have been the scarred man covered in green paint after painting a house in Dora Lange's neighborhood in 1995. They trace the paint job to a small business owned by William Childress that employed a man with scars on his face. They visit William Childress's home—the house where the "man with the scars" lives. Cohle pursues the man, William Childress's son Errol, through a labyrinth of trees and tunnels that Errol identifies as Carcosa. At the end, Cohle discovers an idol draped in yellow and covered in skulls, and, briefly delusional, sees a spiraling vortex. Cohle is then attacked by Errol. Hart discovers William's decaying corpse and runs to Cohle's aid. Hart and Cohle fight Errol; they are both severely wounded, but Cohle manages to kill Errol via a gunshot to the head. Papania and Gilbough are summoned with reinforcements as Hart aids Cohle. While Hart and Cohle recover in hospital, Papania and Gilbough connect Errol to dozens of missing-person cases and murders, including Dora Lange's. The Tuttles escape prosecution, but are disgraced. Hart breaks down in tears when Maggie and their daughters visit him. Cohle reveals that during his ordeal he felt the loving presence of his dead father and daughter, and the experience has given his life renewed purpose. The two detectives reflect on the ongoing universal battle between light and dark.