It is entirely appropriate that True Detective takes place in Louisiana. That might sound like a tautology, somewhat like saying that it’s appropriate that A Christmas Carol takes place in London or Vertigo takes place in San Francisco. However, what I mean is something different, which is called up by Jaume Lloret’s gathering of the more gorgeous landscapes of HBO’s recent episodic masterwork, filmed lovingly by Cary Fukunaga and Adam Arkapaw. The landscape of Louisiana can be described many ways: lush, verdant, mysterious, overgrown, swampy, humid, shadowy, punishing, endless. But one simple adjective which could also be applied to it is flat. The land pushes onwards until it gets tired of pushing, and then it just keeps going. Some might view the landscape, devoid of mountains, valleys, mesas, buttes, canyons, and all the other things that form the common conception of whatever spectacular is, to be quite dull. But another way of looking at it is as a tabula rasa of sorts. Rust Cohle can unfurl his eccentric, rambling monologues into the air without fear that they will ever bounce back at him. The detectives can drive on, in pursuit of one lead or another, without ever being certain that they will find the person they are looking for. And the criminals, as well, commit their acts of violence in something of a void: our first sight of the villain in the series finds him all by himself amidst the trees and shrubs of his backyard, a tiny figure, engulfed by the natural world around him even as he tries to punctuate it, in his own cruel manner. What makes True Detective so interesting, for so many people, is not its story, which is a fairly run-of-the-mill procedural with, granted, some spooky effects tossed in. It’s not the post-Tarantino digressiveness of its dialogue. And it’s not its relationships, since the parable of the man too involved in his job to be a loving marital partner has been oft-told, as has the story of the two work partners who need each other despite disagreements. It’s that all of the story’s horrific events occur on a flat plane whose closest analog, strangely enough, is reality itself.
Watch: The Louisiana Landscapes of TRUE DETECTIVE As One Grand Open Stage: A Video Essay