Do You Ever Wonder if You’re a Bad Man?

Somewhere around a couple years ago, I had the privilege of watching the first season of True Detective. Having first aired on HBO sometime during 2014, it received wide acclaim. This is well-deserved–given its brilliant writing, stellar cinematography, and terrific performances from the cast all around. I tend to use the word “masterpiece” sparingly; be that as it may, I would never disagree with anyone that would call True Detective (Season One) a masterpiece. It is truly something special.

I recall first watching the show and how it made me feel. It was one of the most immersive experiences I have ever had with any sort of creative medium. A large part of this is due to how fleshed out the characters are. The anxiety that would arise within me, the pangs within the heart, during the high tension situations that Marty and Rust find themselves in was surreal.

I am currently re-watching the show. Though it definitely may not be the same sensation as when I first watched, it retains its value–the magic. There are some creative works that have high re-watch/re-read value; in my opinion, True Detective S1 is up on that list. Right now, I do not have the patience to list all of the reasons why this would be the case. If for nothing else, the dialogue is a work of beauty.

It is my gut feeling that anyone who has seen the show knows just how quotable the lines are. Perhaps it is no surprise that the majority of these golden tidbits come forth from the mouth of Rust Cohle. Matthew McConaughey’s portrayal of Rust was nothing short of genius. Nik Pizzolatto’s writing and direction, paired with McConaughey’s personage, initiated a truly iconic character that has and will continue to stand out from the mold of tropes.

When I was watching the 3rd and 4th episode last night, a couple lines of Rust’s stood out to me. Both of these took place in scenes where he is conversing with Marty, which comes as no surprise. The dynamic between the two detectives is unique; the development of their relationship throughout the show is a sight to see.

On the off chance that someone reads this, and has yet to watch True Detective, I will neglect going into the specifics of the situation. My aim is to briefly unpack that line of Rust’s: “The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.” It is a testament to the personality and his character; Rust possesses a radical acceptance of the role he has found himself within, considering his current stance in his life.

At some point in our life, we have to come to terms with who and what we are. His philosophical pessimism aside, Rust is doing just that: attempting to come to terms with himself in the world. Based off of what the show gives us regarding his past, it is clear he has been put through the ringer. He has seen enough and done enough to know that the world is a brutal place; despite this being the case, things are not always black and white. Rather grey.

At its core, the aforementioned statement of Rust’s is an acceptance of reality. The fact whether oneself is a “bad man” is largely irrelevant. We have all done bad things; we have all done good things. Each and every individual is capable of both good and bad. Given that this is the case, there are unfortunately those who wish to watch the world burn. If one has to do bad things (i.e. accept themselves as “bad men”), no longer wondering about their own virtue for the sake of protecting the world from those setting it ablaze, so be it then.

At least I’m not racing to a red light.”

Rust Cohle; True Detective

Our days walking this planet are limited. No one knows how many breaths they have remaining within their lungs. Our clocks will all strike midnight at some point, yet we do not know when. Though, it is obvious to each of us that this will take place for us all. Keeping this in mind, I feel that we need neither beat ourselves up over our shortcomings nor give into unrestrained behavior. As with all things, balance is important. Avoid hesitancy; do not rush. Self-acceptance is a component of self-realization, after all.


Morbid meditations aside, we all are aware that there is only so much we can do with the time that we have left. If you have eight hours or so to spare, I recommend giving True Detective S1 a watch.

Take care,

Joe

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