The third season of True Detective was sold to us as a lone wolf operation, with Mahershala Ali playing the part of said lone wolf. Whereas the first season was co-headlined by Matthew McConnaughey and Woody Harrelson and the disastrous second season was a group effort, with Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch sharing top billing, the show’s third season was pulling it back some. Whatever the case was this season, it was Ali’s to solve. In the first few trailers HBO rolled out, Ali was the main attraction. It was his show, which was something no one was too upset about because dating all the way back to his role on House of Cards, people knew the dude had chops. The third season of True Detective was finally his time to shine.
Through four episodes there has been little doubt that Ali has done that; playing three versions of a character, each in a different time period (1980, 1990 and 2015.) While we might not know who killed Will and abducted Julia Purcell, we definitely know that the story being told this season is that of Ali’s character, Wayne Hays, and his experience with the case that opened in 1980, was re-opened in 1990 and in 2015, appears to still have some lingering questions attached to it. The case altered his life forever and along with solving that case, understanding how it changed Hays’ life is what we’re looking to find out.
However, I think we need to give some love to Ali’s wingman this season, Stephen Dorff. Playing Roland West, who in 1980 was Hays’ partner and then in 1990 his superior, Dorff has been low key the MVP of the season so far. He’s an excellent second fiddle here, seemingly 100% comfortable with letting Ali do the heavy lifting. There are traces of season one’s Rust Cohle in his character, but those traces are largely just generic character traits of a southern white dude. He also lacks Cohle’s detached gravitas and philosophical ramblings, which is kind of good thing. I always know what Dorff’s West is saying, while I rarely knew what McConnaughey’s Cohle was saying. WHAT DOES TIME IS A FLAT CIRCLE EVEN MEAN??? If greatness is sometimes achieved thanks to the company of those you keep, then if we’re going to applaud Ali’s performance this season, then we need to do so with Dorff’s as well. He might not win any awards for what he’s doing, but goddamn it, he’s earning our respect.
There’s something Dorff is doing, especially in 1980, with his body that makes him so interesting to watch. He is incredibly laid back and loose while Ali is stiff, rigged and on edge. Dorff’s character is obviously at ease in the town they are living in, something that comes across in how he’s able to carry himself and do the talking when it’s clear the voice of a local white dude is needed. But in his eyes, West lets you know that he feels for Hays. He respects Hays and isn’t necessarily cool with the way he’s been treated. And that’s before whatever happens in 1980 happens, because something is going to happen that results in West having risen up in the ranks and Hays manning a desk. In 1990, once they’re reunited, a familiarity exists between the two that can only be found in people who have a shared experience some time ago and have drifted apart since then. Regardless of how they may or may not have changed, that shared experience will always exist in a common language either spoken or unspoken between the two. It’s like how you might be with a buddy from college, one you were close with but haven’t seen in a while. Years might have passed since seeing them last, but the time you spent together created such an impression on both of you that upon seeing them, you are able to instantly fall into the rhythm of familiarity.
What will be interesting is if that familiarity and respect is there when the two meet in 2015, which happens next week.
Dorff has been such a revelation this season that I found myself checking out his IMDb page because I needed to know what was the story here. Is this a comeback for him? Is it part of a late-game resurgence? Is this something else entirely? I also realized that I couldn’t name another movie or show he had been in and now, as someone who was becoming a Dorff-head, I found this disheartening.
Our dude has been busy, I can tell you that. It’s not as if he was on the shelf and then dusted himself off for the True Detective gig. Although truth be told, I’m not sure what many of the projects he has worked on past years even are. What the hell is Sex Guaranteed? It sounds like a porno. It might be.
“Kevin has sworn off sex to win back his former fiancé when he meets a beautiful escort named Zade. Over the course of a legendary party, Zade just might provide the spark that this heartbroken idealist needs to turn his life around.”
Yeah, it might be porn. Or close to it.
Okay, there’s also Jackals, it’s about a cult, and a horror movie, Leatherface. In 2016, he did something called Albion: The Enchanted Stallion.
Yeah, not porn, but like, I guess it’s also something you’d watch by yourself in a dark room.
The Motel Life, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, Tomorrow You’re Gone, Carjacked. I’ve never heard of any of these. In 2012, our man Dorff had a role in The Iceman, which is something I’ve heard of, but never saw. In all fairness though, I definitely thought about seeing it at least twice. Maybe three times. Dorff was in Public Enemies, which is something I have not only seen, but have seen multiple times. He played a member of Dillinger’s gang.
I think he died in that one.
That’s basically the story of Dorff’s IMDb page. Not that he died in that one, but that it’s a bunch of stuff you’ve likely never heard of, with a few that you have mixed in, Blade for instance. He was in a couple Britney Spears’ videos too.
Take that Mahershala Ali.
But the past is the past man! This is about right now and right now, Stephen Dorff is straight up killing it. He’s killing it in a way that makes me want more Dorff, but I know that’s not likely to happen because again, this season of True Detective belongs to Ali, which is totally fine. Dorff is just having one of those runs that if it were sports, if he were doing this during a team’s championship run and he was a role player just knocking down buckets game after game, he’d be looking at a hell of a sweet deal once the season is over. We see it all the time. And it’s not just sports; it can definitely happen in movies or on television. It’s not as ifTaylor Kitsch started out as the star of Friday Night Lights, but then everyone quickly realized he kind of was and then that propelled him forward. All the way to True Detective, season two.
Ugh. Bad example.
After True Detective, Dorff has two movies on deck. There’s Music, War and Love, a period piece about two lovers separated by the German invasion of Poland. Dorff does not play either of the young lovers. He plays some dude named General Huber. After that, it’s Embattled – “a High School wrestling prodigy must face his fiercest opponent, his UFC Champion father, to finally prove that he is his own man.”
Whatever. The future is the future man! This is about right now and right now, Stephen Dorff is straight up killing it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a movie about an enchanted stallion I’d like to watch.