As soon as the cast list for this was announced, I was interested. This was before Matthew McConaughey won his Oscar of course, but he was already showing signs of being more than just the second-rate romantic comedy lead he’d seemingly been pigeon-holed into. I’ve always been a fan of Woody Harrelson, he’s able to play everything from innocent stupidity through to scary hard men, and he can even pull off a complex combination. It instantly struck me as an interesting pairing and I wanted to see the chemistry between them.
The other good thing about casting like this is that a series isn’t going to be able to lure those kind of names without a very good story and script. And once a studio or network is shelling out the sort of money necessary for these kinds of movie stars, they’re not going to skimp on the production costs. All in all, it’s a pretty positive set of indicators.
All the indicators were spot on. All the elements were of extremely high quality, each well polished and original. The case is as dark and powerful as you’d expect for HBO (although it’s not quite so original if you’ve seen Hannibal) and the characters are complex and certainly worthy of the acting talents. It’s particularly interesting to watch the story play out both in the present tense of the murder, and looking back on it from several years in the future. It’s also beautifully shot, each scene well framed and lit to perfection. The music is well pitched, adding character but not overwhelming. Even the costumes are carefully designed to support the periods and add to the characters.
But. I didn’t like it. I just didn’t seem to have any emotional connection to any of it. The case focused on the crime but without any real attempt to make the victims any more than bodies. It was all very clinical. McConaughey’s character was equally cold and dissociated. I found him just slightly more annoying than I did intriguing. His speech patterns and rambling delivery, lengthy meditations on life and the state of the world just bored me. Harrelson’s character was more interesting but often seemed reduced to second fiddle relatively to McConaughey’s. I enjoyed the moments that he called bullshit on his weird colleague, but it got a bit repetitive.
I was bored by the pilot. It was all very drawn out and ponderous. I didn’t get round to reviewing it at the time, so I’ve just re-watched it and even though I was looking for reasons to continue with the other 7 episodes, and although I wanted to see more of Harrelson’s character, I just couldn’t be bothered to sit through the rest of it.