Emmy Episode Analysis: Can Woody Harrelson (‘True Detective’) outshine Oscar-winning costar?

Emmy winner and eight-time nominee Woody Harrelson reenters the derby as a Best Drama Actor nominee for his portrayal of Detective Marty Hart in HBO’s “True Detective.”

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SYNOPSIS: In Harrelson’s submitted episode, “The Locked Room,” Marty Hart continues working with his partner, Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), on the Dora Lange murder case, which engulfs him to the point of affecting his family life. His young daughter is acting out by creating a series of inappropriate drawings and showing them to her classmates. Then his wife, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), calls him out on neglecting his home life, and he breaks down.

Later, Marty takes Maggie out for a double date with her friend, whom she’s set up with Rust. During the date, Marty spots his mistress, Lisa (Alexandra Daddario), out with another guy. They argue at the bar, with his wife just a few tables away, and Lisa says she wants their affair to end. But later that night, Marty drunkenly barges into Lisa’s apartment and threatens the man she’s with.

At the end of the episode, Marty and Rust discover a new suspect in the case and drive off to find him.

Will Harrelson win over Emmy voters? Let’s analyze the pros and cons:


Harrelson gets two emotional fireworks scenes: a great scene with his wife where he breaks down and confesses his fears and perceptions about himself, and a drunken scene where he breaks into his mistress’s apartment in a jealous rage over her relationship with another man.

Harrelson is an Emmy darling. He’s been nominated eight times — five for his supporting role on “Cheers,” one for guesting on “Frasier,” one for the telefilm “Game Change,” and this year’s “Detective” bid — with one win for “Cheers” in 1989.

Harrleson’s last Emmy win was 22 years ago! Emmy voters may think it’s time to reward him for his jump from comedy to drama in one of his most critically hailed performances.


Matthew McConaughey. In this episode, Harrelson is equally matched by the impressive performance of his costar and rival nominee.

It’s been 22 years since Harrelson won his previous Emmy. He’s been nominated several times since then, so maybe voters figure one is enough.

And again, Matthew McConaughey. Harrelson’s role lacks the tortured, philosophical gravity of McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, who also has the benefit of changed drastically between past and present scenes. It doesn’t help that McConaughey is on a hot streak right now, fresh off his Oscar win for “Dallas Buyers Club.”

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Harrelson, himself a two-time Oscar-nominee, currently ranks fifth in our predictions with 50/1 odds. Are we underestimating this previous Emmy champ? Make your predictions below.

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