Customer Reviews: True Detective: Season 1
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on March 5, 2014
"You're not gonna win the Oscar, no matter how hard you try."

8 episodes. 2 Hollywood actors. 1 director. 1 writer. 1 extraordinary show.

From the mind of Nic Pizzolatto comes True Detective, a dark, profound and masterful crime thriller set in the bayous of Louisiana. Written with a philosophical and sharp acuity, True Detective tells the story of two detectives (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) and their 17- year manhunt for a deranged serial killer.

This is not an ordinary cop show. It isn't about tidy cases, chasing perps or trailing leads. There isn't red tape, standard procedures or closure at the end of the day. What you will find is broken marriages, darkness inherent in the human soul, and philosophical notions on the meaning (or lack thereof) of life.

McConaughey and Harrelson as Rust Cohle and Martin Hart make an unlikely and surprisingly fascinating duo. Cohle is a dark, abstract individual, living alone, full of loss and discontentment with life. He has visions and hallucinations from his 4 years undercover in narcotics. However he is also very smart, rational and lucid, understanding who he is as a human being and his place in the universe. Hart is a seemingly responsible, everyday family man that takes his job seriously. He has a good heart, but through his need for control, manipulates people to his own selfish and destructive ends. They are both dark, bad men. But as Cohle says, "The world needs bad men. They keep the other bad men from the door." There is a yin/yang, religious/atheist, rational/irrational relationship that is both thoughtful and humorous to watch.

True Detective is a self-contained 8 episode anthology series. Each season will feature a new cast and story, completely unrelated to the previous one. This is the future of the story-telling medium. 8 episodes allows Hollywood actors to commit to the show without a huge time commitment. 1 writer keeps the story uniform as there's no writer's room or a panel of writers changing each season. 1 director and cinematographer keeps the vision clear and consistent.

Director Cary Fukunaga does a remarkable, Oscar-worthy job. The realism, tone and pacing are on par with anything I've seen on screen. The 6- minute tracking shot at the end of episode 4 is one of the best single shots in television history.

This is as good as it gets for modern television. After Breaking Bad I wasn't sure how long I'd have to wait for something this good. I didn't expect something this masterful to come along so fast. If you're an action fan, don't like to think too much, or want closure each episode, this show is not for you. But if you want to be challenged, to watch a show that makes you think, doesn't give you all the answers, and keeps you up at night, then you're in for a thrill ride.
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on January 16, 2014
True Detective Season 1 will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD June 10th.

Supplemental features announced:
*Two Audio Commentaries: Featuring series creator/executive producer/writer Nic Pizzolatto, composer T Bone Burnett and Executive Producer Scott Stephens
*Making True Detective: A behind-the-scenes look at production on the series, featuring interviews with cast and crew and including never-before-seen footage from Episode 4 "Who Goes There".
*A Conversation with Nic Pizzolatto and T Bone Burnett: An in-depth discussion with the series writer/creator/executive producer and the composer on both the series and the pivotal role music played in the show's development.
*Inside the Episode: Series creator/executive producer/writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga discuss character development and offer insights into each episode of the series.
*Up Close with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson: Exclusive interviews with the stars.
*Deleted Scenes: Never-before-seen footage from the series

I could go on and on about the amazing cinematography, the great pacing and editing, the set design and location shoots, or even the brilliant acting by Matthew McConaughey and his chemistry with Woody Harrelson. Instead, all I can say is that I've been waiting years for something like this. This is one part HBO's the Wire, one part David Fincher's Se7en, and one part 48 Hours Investigates. This show is very adult in nature, content and subject matter due to nudity and dead bodies and drug use.

McConaughey (Rust Cohle) and Harrleson (Martin Hart) play Louisiana detectives investigating the trail of dead left behind by a serial killer that ends up spanning 17 years. Any fan of great dramas like HBO's The Wire, AMC's Breaking Bad, and fans of slow burn shows with a very gritty and realistic portrayal of character interaction and events will love this. This is easily the best first episode of a show I think I have ever seen. And the show doesn't slow down after that, it snowballs. I didn't go into the final episode expecting all loose ends to be tied up, or for the good guys to win over the bad guys. All I expected was more intensity, edge of your seat suspense and the finale delivered. I'd be surprised to hear if people weren't satisfied with the ending of this season. The finale did a great job of bringing everything full circle, while managing to tie up most loose ends, and ending different than I expected, which is great. Even now, nearly 2 weeks after the finale I still find myself thinking about the case and about the events I witnessed unfold, that's rare.

This show is an anthology so each season will have a different cast and a different murder to be investigated. Nic Pizzolatto has written this entire 8 episode first season himself and Cary Joji Fukunaga has directed each of the 8 episodes for this season, which adds to the cohesive feel of the show. I can't recommend this show any higher. This is the kind of show one could watch a few times through and pick up on things they may have missed the first viewing. This is the must watch show of 2014. Although "time is a flat circle", this show is not a waste of your time. True Detective season 1 comes FULLY APPROVED.
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on February 25, 2014
I must say - this series caught me by surprise. Scenes I saw in advance didn't really appeal at all - then I watched a complete episode. I have no idea where the writer came up with his insights into contemporary human existence, but they are profound and engaging, and captivatingly expressed through the character of Cohle played with Emmy-level skill by Matthew McConaughey. Well done. Not to be missed.
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on February 19, 2014
This is an absorbing and dark crime drama on HBO that only lasts 8 episodes and will have a new cast and story next season. The writing is second to none and every supporting cast member, both small and large roles, fits just right. We all know by now that McConaughey can really act. After years and years of his talents being wasted, recent films like Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club have put him on a career track that few actors ever experience. His work here on True Detective is in my mind the best thing he has ever done. Just hand him the awards and get it over with. Woody Harrelson plays a great foil to his very dark view of the world and the chemistry between the two is outstanding. The beyond beautiful Alexandra Daddario has a brief but "revealing" role. Sorry, just had to throw that in there. Game of Thrones is my favorite show, but now HBO has a real contender to fill that Breaking Bad void in my life.
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on March 10, 2014
True Detective is the best thing I've ever seen. No movie comes close. No show has affected me more. I love Justified, Breaking Bad, Hannibal, and so many other amazing shows, but none of those struck me like True Detective. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson both give career defining performances, backed by a dark, twisting narrative that hooks you in the first episode and doesn't let go, even after the credits of the finale roll. Everything about this show is of the highest quality. Acting, directing, production, casting, sound design; everything is as good as it gets.

True Detective follows Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) as they investigate a grisly murder in rural Louisiana. That is all I dare give away because I will be doing you a disservice giving any more than that away. This is a show to be experienced not described. I'm going to end the review here because there simply isn't anything else to say. You owe it to yourself to experience True Detective. It is a modern masterpiece and an unquestionably mandatory buy.
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on April 16, 2014
Being a fan of both gothic literature and crime fiction and a huge admirer of Tim Willocks' and James Lee Burke's novels, principally featuring the latter's New Iberia detective, Dave Robicheaux and his sidekick, Clete Purcell, I eagerly awaited the appearance of HBO's True Detective. Basically it's a `buddy movie', or more accurately, a buddy anthology, since both its protagonists, spectacularly brought to life in this first installment, by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, play homicide cops for the Louisiana State Police.

Of course, since detectives work in pairs, it's hard not to make a buddy movie about cops; (one notable recent exception being `Prisoners' featuring Jake Gyllenhaal's, billy no-mates). From, Bodie and Doyle, Starsky and Hutch and Cagney and Lacey right up to the recent crop of Nordic Noir imports, The Killing and The Bridge, the crime element almost always takes backstage, slightly, to the (developing) relationship between the cops. True Detective is no exception and it is the character arc of predominantly, Woody Harrelson's, Detective Marty Hart, which provides the interest here: both cops are damaged, or at least, troubled `lost souls', more obviously so in the case of McConaughy's `Rust' Cohle, whose eccentricities are explained by the fact that `he's from Texas'. So it is that, at first, Detective Hart appears to be the well-balanced, sane, `feet on the ground' type of guy assigned a new, slightly strange, partner from out of state. However, initially, at least, this relationship is definitely of the `love hate' variety with the love conspicuous by its absence.

SOME SPOILERS from this point!

They're sent to the scene of, what appears to be, a ritual killing and so begins the investigation of the murder of the unfortunate former prostitute, Dora Kelly Lange. And gradually, as the investigation develops we get the impression that all is not right in Marty's life and, just as there is a very dark undercurrent flowing beneath the seeming respectability of the civic life of Vermilion Parish and the wider state scene of Louisiana, so there are features of Marty's domestic and professional situations that don't bear too close a scrutiny. And, progressively, we begin to detect that the apparently most troubled of the two, Cohle, is, in fact, the one whose integrity remains intact as his partner slowly disintegrates under the pressure of being forced to confront both the unsavoury reality of his working life and the values upon which his domestic `relationships' are founded and the conflict within his soul becomes a raging war between the two sides of his personality.

Duality/duplicity is a constant thread running through the story; from, for example, Cohle's four years spent as an undercover narcotics cop among an East Texas biker gang and Hart's reprehensible antics, to those of the odious Rev. Billy Lee Tuttle and his family. Even Maggie, Hart's unfortunate wife; a victim of his `extra-curricular activities', decides to use his own methods against him, defiling herself and Cohle in the process. Added to this is the destabilizing effect on Hart of his oldest daughter's emerging sexuality signaling her eventual departure from the family home representing, once again, a breakdown of the family as a unifying principle in his life. Thus, when she is caught in the back of a car with, not one, but two teenaged boys his instinctive reaction is to hit out with unthinking violence because, in doing so, he somehow manages to assuage his own guilt at consorting with much younger women, and re-establish the norms of his `social/domestic order'. This partly explains the extremes of Hart's violence whenever he's confronted by his own `indescretions': it is Cohle who holds up to him a mirror from which he can't avert his gaze and which, therefore, must be smashed into non-existence.

Another main character, of course, is the mysterious perpetrator, heard (about) but rarely seen and referred to, variously, as the `Green Spaghetti Monster' and the `Yellow King' who inhabits `Carcosa', which seems to be, in the latter case, a direct reference to the late Nineteenth Century writers of `Lovecraftian' type supernatural tales, Robert W. Chambers and Ambrose Bierce, respectively. Check out the cover art from the recent `CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform' edition of Chamber's `The King in Yellow' to see what I mean.

But perhaps the most mysterious character of all is the Louisiana countryside; an often bleak, flat seemingly never-ending terrain of impenetrable bayous, swampy inlets, bald-cypresses and oak forests; a terrain that gives shelter to the monster towards which the action propels our two driven detectives, who, in seeking to end its nefarious reign, look to salvage some kind of personal and joint redemption.

The whole thing is brilliantly realized: the writing assured, the narrative multilayered, the plot complex, the dialogue rich and authentic and the acting stunning. We've been spoilt by 24, Homeland, The Killing and The Bridge etc. but this is right up there with the very best and the `icing' on this particular cake is the theme song by the Handsome Family that effortlessly evokes the alien nature of the angel-abandoned country through which, with Cohle and Hart, we fearfully tread!

And we hear its echoes still - lingering in our dreams.
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on May 16, 2014
I will keep my comments brief and try to avoid any spoilers that would detract from the enjoyment of others.

There are a handful of movies, shows and series that are virtuoso creations on many different levels - the first season of True Detective is one of those rare efforts. My words may sound like hyperbole, but I believe a large portion of the viewing audience will concur with this description after watching this eight part storyline. This is one of the most cerebral television shows I've ever experienced, yet that aspect of the show lingers with you after it's over. While watching it, the overwhelming reaction is far more visceral.

This is not a cop show. Solving the crime is secondary to telling the story.

The easy description is to say it's about Good and Evil, but that doesn't do justice to what you will see play out. There is an elusive devil, but there are no saints. Every character is deeply flawed and damaged in ways that make this series far darker and grittier than any mundane detective drama you've seen before. Nevertheless, you cannot avoid being pulled in to this world and starting to understand what makes each person tick. It's a triumph of both the acting and the writing - you will care very much about these shattered lives. I was never a fan of Harrellson or McConaughey in the past, but they were born for these roles and they inhabit their characters with a passion for nuance that is a wonder to behold.

One last point: another reviewer mentioned the impact of the theme music and graphic intro to the show as contributing to the overall experience, and I have to agree. The reviewer's comment that you know you're about to see something great when the intro music and imagery is perfectly matched, regardless of genre, was insightful. True Detective's opening theme sets up the "feel" of the show in the same way that Dexter, Game of Thrones, Battlestar Gallactica Reimagined and The Sopranos set the stage for those series. When a show's Producer is willing to spend as much money creating an extraordinary introduction piece as most other shows spend on an entire episode, you know that you're about to see a truly well-crafted series.
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on June 15, 2014
This is just one of those shows that comes along less often than it should; The cable dramas have certainly been getting better over the years, whether they are on HBO or AMC(Even NBC's 'Hannibal' is up there to me...); But this show takes something potentially average in terms of subject matter and character traits and turns it upside down, in a good way. Dark and philosophical, this show covers so much ground in it's 8 episodes(#4 is my favorite w/the housing project sequence...); you get a healthy dose of sex, odd characters, and beautiful scenery...all of which is mixed in w/something purely evil. And yes, Woody and Matthew CAN act, and this show is just one more example of how well they work in their craft, esp. when given material this. Even the opening credit sequence is amazing; it is honestly hard to find a flaw here, although I wish the last episode was a little stronger in terms of more explanation and connections to certain events and characters. But still the usual inspired writing and fantastic chemistry across the board, both in front of and in back of the camera. A very nice final confrontation sequence too, and it's done well as you are not sure how it's going to play out.

Also, the scene where Rust is interrogating the girl about her killing her baby, and then after listing a variety of reasons, tells her 'if she gets the chance she should kill herself' before walking out of the room, is pretty 'holy s***' writing and unlike anything I have heard said on any show in a long time; It is much like when he tells the 2 uncooperative men who won't give the detectives directions to a local brothel that 'they got off on the wrong foot' before Russ slams a toolbox against one of the men's heads before beating the other one down(and leaving w/very detailed directions...).

For a show that is so graphic, disturbing, and covers seemingly almost every 'immoral' activity we as a race participate in, it is equally--and to some surprisingly--rich in thought-provoking ideas and concepts about life that are both surprisingly fresh, but actually make a lot of sense at times; some of the theories actually seem to make the hardships in life a little easier to cope with, as off-kilter as they may seem at times.

I also love how the series has a little bit of a 'Bad Lieutenant' movies and a 'The Salton Sea' feel to it here and there; Russ driving while swigging cough syrup, and hallucinating as he does is what good police work is all about(and not unlike anything you would likely see in the aforementioned films...)

It make take 3 or 4 viewings to put it all together in your own way, but I suppose one of the great things about this show; There are several ways things can add up, and it's nice to have a show that gives you a little room to put your own brain to use as far as figuring out what you think is the logical or most viable explanation(s)for what you have just been though; And who of them may be right!

**MY FAVORITE WRITING EXAMPLE: When Matthew's character is talking about the death of his daughter in the interrogation room; he makes the comment(after a long and deep explanation...)that her death saved him from 'the sins of being a father'. When I heard his explanation why he feels this way and why he said what he said, it jaws most powerful; it was something i had never even thought of, and one of the most unique perspectives of anything I have seen on film. Writing like that doesn't come along too often, and there are dozens of moments in this show that will throw you for a loop, and in a good way...**

Brilliant show!!
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HBO is no stranger to dark, compelling and beautifully performed television. THE WIRE, DEADWOOD, ROME, THE SOPRANOS, and GAME OF THRONES are the most obvious examples of this. THE WIRE, which I still contend is the best show HBO's ever done, took the procedural cop drama that had permeated network prime-time television and turned it on its head. And that's pretty much the formula for all these great television shows. They all bend their genres from Westerns to Sword-and-Sandal Historical Epics to Mob Stories to Sword-and-Sorcery Fantasy. The latest "genre" that has swept television is something I refer to as The Nihilistic Morality Play; basically a show that is so entrenched in thematic and character-based darkness and just barely giving hope to its characters and, by proxy, the viewers only to snatch it away from them and us. Shows like BREAKING BAD, HANNIBAL, THE KILLING, RAY DONOVAN, THE BRIDGE, THE WALKING DEAD, and THE AMERICANS are shows that are excellent examples of this new genre. Don't get me wrong; I love most of these programs, but they are VERY dark. But HBO decided to jump in to the deepest end of this darkness with creator Nic Pizzolato's TRUE DETECTIVE, a rural drama/thriller/philosophical treatise that doesn't just exist in darkness but in most cases, is consumed by it.

The plot and the mystery of TRUE DETECTIVE's narrative are almost inconsequential when it comes to the characters the show focuses around, which are Louisiana State Police Detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrleson). We meet them at two different stages of their lives; first in 1995 when the two detectives are paired up to investigate a murder with seeming occultist ties and then in 2012, long after they've parted ways and "solved" the murder. While the murder investigation does generate enough suspense and drama to power two longer and more acceptable network procedurals, again, when you look at the characters of Cohle and Hart, you see the generators that power the show. You might think that The Yellow King's identity is incredibly important, but it isn't. You might think the fate of Billy Lee Tuttle is incredibly important, but again, it isn't. The mystery, like the masterful first season of David Lynch's TWIN PEAKS, isn't so much the driving force but rather a catalyzing agent that bonds the characters together.

Rust and Marty are incredibly damamged people (and in some ways, incredibly unlikable), and there is an instant and somewhat intense dislike of one another that never goes away in the early parts of their partnership. Rust lost his young daughter which caused his wife to leave as well, which has so deadened his mind to ideas of love and relationships and life in general that he purely focuses on the analytical, no matter the dark places his logic takes him. Marty is damaged also, but in a different way. He believes that his world revolves solely around him so that he can do anything he wants with little to no thought of the consequences, and this not only ruins his own life but that of his wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) as well. But the idea that the show does really explore is that no matter the animosity Rust and Marty share for one another, there is a brotherhood between them that their beliefs, their actions, and their dissonant personalities cannot break. It goes beyond trust, respect and love. It's as if they are two halves of the same person that when together can possibly be made whole, which is punctuated very specifically in the finale.

Another thing that breaks clean from the genre it inhabits is its glimpses at these men in two different times. Most programs that deal with time differentials tend to cheat their audience by intercutting the present with the past in order to get to the present more quickly, but Pizzolato is smart enough to know that the audience for a show like this refuses to be cheated. It allows the past and the present to build logically and organically without haste, which is something that very few shows of this type, if any, allow for.

If I had a complaint about the show, it's the treatment of the female characters; they don't necessarily seem fully fleshed-out and three dimensional, but instead seem to be more reflective of the id, ego and superego (respectively) of the two leads. They're not there just to give motivation or to be plot points either, but rather exist in the ether between the relationship of these two men. It's not so much a criticism, because the show isn't trying to examine gender roles, but rather to explore the character of who Marty and Rust are.

From a technical standpoint, the show is a dreamland of simplistic visual wizardry. Cary Joji Fukunaga, who directed all eight episodes, is a master visual storyteller. There isn't a shot or angle that seems decorative or meaningless. Of course, the one scene that still has viewers reeling and examining that displays his know-how and his pacing genius is the single-take scene at the end of Episode 4, which rivals that of the single-shot takes that made Alfonso Cuaron an Oscar winner. From a storytelling standpoint, Pizzolato, who wrote all the episodes, really knows how to pace a scene and his dialogue has a rich flow that also never really seems false. The show also has the added benefit of the legendary T-Bone Burnett being the music supervisor of this show. It adds a necessary rural flavor to the show that makes it that much more excellent.

Then, there are the performances. It's extremely likely that both Harrleson and McConaughey will be vying for Best Actor when the Emmys and Golden Globes come around in 2014. Respectively, this is each actor's best work to date. McConaughey has been slowly lifting himself out of the dregs of the rom-com hell he seemed to be consigned to, to becoming one of the great actors of our time, with his work in films like KILLER JOE, MUD, THE LINCOLN LAWYER and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. But his work as Rust Cohle is a punctuation mark on that statement. Harrleson has been defying his initial career definition as the brainless good-ol'-boy from CHEERS since his work in films like NATURAL BORN KILLERS, WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP, and more recently in smaller indies like RAMPART and HBO's GAME CHANGE, and while he gave excellent performances in those films, he has never given a performance that's so well-rounded and utterly immersive as his interpretation of Marty. Monaghan is also excellent, even if I personally felt that she was a little underused.

One of the things that will keep bringing people back to TRUE DETECTIVE is not necessarily the mystery, although it is a mighty one, or the plots, but the way that this show is so expertly constructed and so compelling. This is a no-brainer as far as the best new show on television, and it deserves every praise that people can heap onto it.
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on April 4, 2014
I want to start by saying; this show didn't hook me immediately. I am a Woody Harrelson fan and I think Matthew McConaughey might be the most underappreciated actor in the business. This series showcases these two in such an amazing way, so don't give up on this show after 1 episode. It is deep, dark, and thrilling, but it takes its time developing these characters.

This series is very unique. This is a one trick pony with this cast. Eight masterful episodes for season 1, then season 2 casts a new set of detectives with a completely new storyline. Pretty cool premise if you ask me.

Episode 1 lays the groundwork for what is to come in the series. It provides a bird's eye view of the plot and begins to develop the main cast of characters. From that point on, the action and drama builds, ultimately leading up to a very strong finale. There are so many shows nowadays that start strong and leave the fans hanging with a finale that is too cute or artsy and it is so unsatisfying (see Walking Dead Season 4 Finale as an example.) In my opinion, this show kept its potency all the way through to the very end.

I like very dark and mature rated shows. I loved shows like Dexter, Hannibal, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead among others, but I fully realize this isn't everyone's cup of tea. The show has very dark and mature themes, some quite disturbing, so if you are easily put off by violence, gore and nudity, this is not the show for you. In fact, you might want to drop your HBO and/or Showtime membership because that is a common thread with those premium channel's television shows. If you are not put off by this (openly admitting these are the things I actually seek out in shows,) this might be a show for you.

If you can appreciate very well-written, well-acted televisions shows, you'll love True Detective. Having the benefit of watching the episodes back to back, as frequently as you want, is a benefit. There are little details that come full circle, so not having to wait a week in between will help you follow along with the story.

Couple tips when watching:

1. Be fully awake, as to not miss any important plot details.
2. Brush up on your redneck - sometimes the Southern twang is difficult to make out.
3. Turn up the volume! There are so many subtle lines in the show that resurface throughout, so you'll want to be sure you hear them.
4. Commit to watching at least the first 3 or 4 episodes before deciding on whether or not you finish the season. Trust me, you'll be happy you did. It REALLY picks up in the later episodes.

I hope this review helps someone!
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