Performer of the Week: Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey True Detective Performer of the WeekA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Matthew McConaughey

THE SHOW | True Detective

THE EPISODE | “Pilot”

THE AIRDATE | Jan. 12, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | Exactly who the hell is Det. Rust Cohle? Is he the tightly wound, big-ideas-pondering, possibly alcoholic young detective we meet via flashbacks in True Detective‘s first hour? Is he the unkempt, disrespectful, burned out man we see giving videotaped testimony in 2012?

The answer, of course, is that Rust is both of those men – and the reason we buy it, the reason we want to find out what happened to him in the gulf between 1995 and 2012 – lies in Matthew McConaughey’s curious, introspective portrayal of the Louisiana lawman.

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All vestiges of the actor’s other well-known roles disappeared Sunday as McConaughey channeled the disturbed, despondent “Taxman.” His Rust in 1995 is a man who doesn’t fit in anywhere – not with his partner or fellow officers, not as a polite dinner guest – and the result is captivating.

McConaughey’s 2012 version of the same character keeps his shrewd nature – he’s very aware that his expertise is sorely needed — but adds layers of undisclosed trauma and a sense of “screw you” to the portrayal. What, exactly, is Rust’s deal? And what happened to him in those 17 years? We don’t know, but McConaughey’s immense talent means we’re all in until the HBO drama’s creepy, bitter end.

Emily Deschanel BonesHONORABLE MENTION | Wow. Hours later there is still much dust in the air as we reflect on this week’s Bones, in which Emily Deschanel‘s Brennan discovered — and then had to relay the devastating news — that squintern Wendell Bray had Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer that offers as low as a 10 percent survival rate. Over the course of several scenes (including Brennan confiding her grim discovery to Booth, the two of them informing Wendell and a warm moment between the three at the house), Deschanel displayed an atypically emotional Brennan, to the point that the brilliant doc was barely able to disclose the diagnosis to her colleague. Perhaps the most heartbreaking note in her performance: Later in the lab, an informed Wendell laments, “We were becoming a good team, weren’t we?” To which Brennen corrected, after a beat, “We are…. We are a good team, Mr. Bray.”

HONORABLE MENTION | Hot off his surprise Golden Globes win as Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical Series, Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Andy Samberg justified the Hollywood Foreign Press’s vote of confidence with a hilarious, surprisingly tender turn on Tuesday’s episode. In “The Bet,” Samberg’s Det. Jake Peralta edged rival Det. Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) in a wager over who could close more felony cases in 2013, then set off — clad in tuxedo jacket and cargo shorts (gah!) — to take her on the “worst date ever.” A detour to a rooftop stakeout, however, led to some undeniable sparks, and Samberg managed to perfectly capture his character’s romantic awakening — while still racking up his usual number of gut laughs.

Which performances rocked your TV set this week? Let us know in the comments!