‘True Detective’ important for Christians

A show has finally become so popular that it broke the Internet.

And though at times it was itself a broken tale, True Detective was about the realization of light extinguishing the darkness.

On Sunday night, millions of people tuned into HBO for the finale of the eight part miniseries. But unfortunately many who chose to stream it weren’t able to watch it. Due to the high traffic, the streaming service experienced massive technical difficulties, resulting in swarms of Twitter meltdowns. And myself? Well, instead of resorting to breaking furniture or venting on social media, I respectably bootlegged the finale off a very questionable website.

Because I couldn’t wait to see how this series ended.

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson play two Louisiana detectives who track a murder case across 17 years. The story involves various emotional breakdowns, twists, broken people, and religious cults. (It also includes the long awaited return of the actor who played Ranch Wilder in Angels in the Outfield. Where has that guy been?)

Though the plot is thrilling, interesting, and thought provoking, I found myself invested in the characters in a very real way.

I’ve never craved characters’ redemption more in a story. The flaws of both detectives are on display more visibly than any show I can remember. Rust Cohle, played by the recently unstoppable McConaughey, is a jaded nihilist who tastes colours and has a very pessimistic worldview. He trusts nobody and alienates everyone in his path. He manipulates suspects into confessing their crimes and is clearly always the smartest person in the room. Harrelson plays Marty Hart, a self-righteous veteran cop, who is completely ignorant of his gaping character deficiencies.

The show should be viewed with caution. It touches on mature themes and is very difficult to watch. But True Detective is important, particularly for Christians, because it focuses on cultural understandings of the institutional church and the spiritual world. Early in the show Rust says, “Religion is a language virus that rewrites pathways in the brain,” how it “dulls critical thinking.”

Though the show spans 17 years in just eight hours, leading the viewer through many jumps and twists, it actually is about the two men and their spiritual journeys. Rust is a tattered man trying to believe in something; Marty is trying to do one decent thing, in spite of his countless shortcomings.

While most of us question our own existence and whether or not we should be here, Rust believes that “human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution” and that we should “walk hand in hand into extinction.” This thinking is present in some way or another in most people’s lives at some point. We wonder why we are here. We desperately cling to something worth believing. The times when we can’t find something to hold onto produce desperation and anguish.

In reality, we’ve all been on a journey like Rust’s and Marty’s. We might not know what unlikely circumstances gave us the ability to show grace for people, accept our own need for forgiveness and trust in a higher power. Likewise, these two detectives have no idea that a brutal murder case and an improbable partnership — originally full of betrayal — could lead to redemption. God can use unlikely elements to romance us to Himself in ways we would have never dreamed possible.

And though some might not want to view True Detective for its grit and depravity, I found myself watching it, craving for the transformation of its characters, while very thankful for the mercy given to me. If you can make it through the first seven episodes and 50 minutes, you won’t be disappointed in the last 10.

Photo courtesy of HBO