No matter which side of the law they operate on, Nic Pizzolatto’s three-part HBO crime series Real detective was defined by its brilliant collection of cops and complicated criminals. In season one, a plague of satanic murders brought detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) together to solve the case in Louisiana.

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In Season 2, organized criminal Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughan) sees his legitimate business fall by the wayside following the death of his business partner in the fictional town of Vinci, California. In season 3, detective and Vietnam veteran Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) battles dementia while trying to solve a 35-year-old cold murder case in Arkansas. A common theme throughout the show is that these characters are usually quite intelligent.

9 Paul Woodrugh – Season 2

One of the most cryptic characters in the series is Highway Patrol Officer Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch), a dedicated cop who goes to great lengths to conceal his PTSD and wartime homosexuality during season 2.

Woodrugh, who is more muscular for the brains of the police force, is less interested in solving crimes than in becoming a good man. In the end, Paul succumbs to his blackmailer and is embroiled in a fatal shootout in which he kills several criminals before being shot down by the crooked Lieutenant Burris.

8 Frank Semyon – Season 2

Frank raises a glass in True Detective 2

Despite his lofty ambitions, organized criminal and businessman Frank Semyon has most of his important business affairs handled by his calculating wife, Jordan.

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When Frank’s high-speed rail project falls apart following the death of City Manager Ben Caspere, he uses his connections on both sides of the law to investigate. However, despite having friends in high places, Frank cannot escape the wrath of the Russian mobster Osip and ends up being killed and left for dead in the desert.

7 Roland West – Season 3

Roland at the desk in True Detective 3

Of all the main detective characters on the show, Roland West (Stephen Dorff) took the biggest backseat across from his crime-solving partner. Painted as a bit of the south, West’s main role during season 3 is to help out the brilliant police work of Detective Wayne Hays, but not to do much of his own.

While West’s greatest strength is his loyalty to Hayes, he uses his intelligence to photograph the license plate of a mysterious car that was spying on the two men. Despite being largely ineffective, West is smart enough to avoid danger and stay alive at the end of the season.

6 Ray Velcoro – Season 2

Ray sits at the desk in True Detective 2

Caught on both sides of the law, Detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) is one of the most complex characters in the series. When he’s not complying with his corrupt police superiors or acting on behalf of mobster Frank Semyon, Velcoro tries to keep his sanity while solving a murder conspiracy.

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Despite his volatile temperament, Ray is far more intelligent than he lets on. He manages to untangle the complex web of crime before helping Frank raid Osip’s stash and raise enough money to retire. Ray is also wise enough to sacrifice his own life to ensure the safety of his closest loved ones.

5 Amelia Reardon – Season 3

Amelia reads a letter in True Detective 3

Although it doesn’t become apparent until the end of Season 3, Amelia Reardon (Carmen Ejogo) is the main reason her husband, Wayne Hayes, who suffers from dementia, can solve Julie Purcell’s disappearance. Thirty-five years after the case is closed, Hayes and his partner Roland West try to find out what happened to Julie.

Through a haze of memory loss, Hayes finds the crucial piece of intelligence to solve the case of the non-fiction book Amelia wrote in 1990. As a school teacher and newspaper writer, Amelia wisely kept track of the case of a So it was worth a quarter of a century later.

4 Marty Hart – Season 1

Marty seeks field in True Detective

At first glance, Detective Martin Hart appears to be a womanizing sex addict who repeatedly cheats on his lovely wife, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan). However, as the lead detective trying to solve a series of ritualistic murders, Hart demonstrates his procedural acumen.

In addition to handling paperwork and speaking to the public, Hart is smart enough to allow his eccentric partner Rust Cohle to carry out his unconventional methods without interruption. Hart is also smart enough to help capture the Yellow King and express regret for not paying enough attention to his daughters when they were little.

3 Ani Bezzerides – Season 2

Ani in the driver's side window in True Detective 2

Given the intelligence she displays to ensure her ultimate survival, Detective Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) is the smartest character in the world. Real detective season 2.

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Despite nearly losing her life in a criminal case that claimed the lives of her fellow police officers, Velcoro and Woodrugh, Ani’s cunning police work allowed her to escape to Venezuela with enough money to retire and raise her newborn, fathered by Ray. . Though crude and rebellious, Ani uses her wits to overcome past trauma and deliver the incriminating evidence from the entire case to a journalist at the end.

two Wayne Hays – Season 3

Wayne works on the bulletin board in True Detective 3

Despite battling dementia and dyslexia in his old age, Detective Wayne Hays manages to recall vital information from an unsolved case reopened after 35 years. Somehow, Hays can overcome his own health issues to be one step away from catching the culprit.

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When Hays loses his wife and his memory, he still has the means to contact his former partner Roland West to help him find closure in the most important case of his life. In the end, Hays manages to find out what happened to Julie, which required all the intelligence he had.

one Rustin Cohle – Season 1

Rust gives a desk interview in True Detective

With philosophical expressions like “time is a flat circle” and “everyone is nobody”, Rustin Cohle is the smartest Real detective character of all.

Despite his troubled past and crippling dependence on alcohol and barbiturates, Cohle harnesses his fractured soul and damaged spirit to pull off some of the most skillful and incisive police work in the entire series. His eccentric nature and unique working methods allow him and his partner, Martin Hart, to locate the sinister Yellow King.

NEXT: Time Is A Flat Circle: 10 Scariest Moments From The Real HBO Detective

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