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The Pro-Family Message in HBO’s True Detective

For those who haven’t been watching HBO’s new series, True Detective, I highly recommend it. It’s an extremely well written multi-timeline crime drama and, as I explain below, contains a powerful message of what it means to be a good husband and father. Minor spoilers ahead . . .

Here’s the show’s synopsis from HBO:

Detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart are brought in to revisit a homicide case they worked in 1995. As the inquiry unfolds in present day through separate interrogations, the two former detectives narrate the story of their investigation, reopening unhealed wounds, and drawing into question their supposed solving of a bizarre ritualistic murder in 1995. The timelines braid and converge in 2012 as each man is pulled back into a world they believed they’d left behind. In learning about each other and their killer, it becomes clear that darkness lives on both sides of the law.

Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey, is a “cerebral, intense thinker” who “holds a negative view of society which sometimes puts him at odds with his partner Martin Hart.” Hart is played by Woody Harrelson and you can think of him as the exact opposite of Cohle. 

We find early on in the series that Cohle, in the 1995 timeline, is divorced, his marriage having fallen apart after the death of his daughter, and a recovering addict. Hart, in the 1995 timeline, is married with two daughters, drinks too much, and is carrying on an affair with a young courthouse staffer.

Hart, in episodes one through four, has been a remorseless adulterer. He plays off his philandering to the investigators in 2012 with a sort of that’s-what-cops-do shtick. But that false bravado all changes in episode five, where he finally — and painfully — reveals how much his actions have hurt and how much he wishes he could make things different. The short clip below finds Hart, talking to the investigators in 2012, admitting how his relationship with his family changed for the worse. (Mild language warning):

It’s really one of the view times I’ve watched a TV show where the consequences of a man’s actions are so realistically portrayed, and portrayed in such a way that it’s a punch-in-the-nose type of wake-up call to be a better father and husband.

I have no idea where the show is going with its last three episodes — that’s what makes it a great show — but I can tell you things got worse for Hart and his family by the end of the episode, and teasers suggest it gets worse. Maybe the best way to be pro-family is to honestly reveal that actions have consequences and those consequences can’t be fixed.


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