When a TV show takes over the pop culture landscape and simply has every one transfixed to their TV screens, the natural reaction is to take it all with a grain of salt and wait for yourself...and then there are shows like this. "True Detective" is quite simply one of the most grandiose in scope TV experiences that I have ever seen. It is cinematic and even operatic in nature as it will undoubtedly stand the test of time as one of the single best series ever produced for North American television.
The life of a homicide detective is hardly an easy one as they are forced to see some of the worst things that humanity has to offer. In 1995 in the swamps and wiles of Louisiana, detectives Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) from the Criminal Investigations Division are assigned to a macabre and grizzly murder with some disturbing occult connotations unlike anything that they have ever seen before. As they delve deeper into the secrets of this darkly bizarre crime their own lives begin to collide and become increasingly intertwined in some rather unfortunate and occasionally catastrophic ways. 17 years later in 2012, when a similar case leads to an investigation of the original murder in 1995, these two former partners are inadvertently brought back together as they tell their story from their own perspective on how this case changed them as detectives, friends and men who realize that they need to definitively close the book on the case that brought them together in the first place.
While the hyperbole on "True Detective" has been running absolutely rampant over the past few months since it initially began airing in January of this year, it has unquestionable raised the bar for the crime procedural into the damn stratosphere as it crafts a hypnotic and dark underbelly of a world that you know is seedy and wrong, but you just can't look away either and it makes for some epic television.
Written and created by Nic Pizzolato with all 8 episodes in this crime anthology directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the tone and pacing of the story hits a grand epic tone as this is truly an example of large scale, ambitious storytelling at the highest level. Shot on 35mm film it has a softer and even dirtier edge that allowed them to create and capture the darkness and inherent foulness of humanity that the show wanted to show. None of this was ever meant to be pretty, and the cinematography from Adam Arkapaw put this show on a technical level rarely seen before. It was so conscience of the visual tapestry that it was creating and nothing was ever wasted, every frame meant something and along with some excellent musical work from T Bone Burnett, this show was dripping with mood and substance at every single turn to go along with some excellent leading performances to put it all over the top.
The McConaughey gravy train is simply not stopping and here his turn as the calculating, socially off putting but brilliant Rust Cohle is one of the more nuanced performances of his career. He dives into the psyche of this broken but driven man with absolute aplomb and ease that it is actually a little scary to watch and these men get consumed by the evil that is out there they are sworn to stop and even the evil inside themselves that they have to channel in order to get the job done and make sure it doesn't hurt those around them. Harrelson is more then up to the challenge opposite him as the gregarious and womanizing family man that is his Marty Hart. While McConaughey's character fights against his flaws, Harrelson embraces them until they come perilously close to the destroying him. Both characters cannot stand each other, but they remain inexorably drawn to one another, and that's why it works so well, as both these characters play off of and complete the other one. To operate in normal society, it makes no sense, but as two cops who have to deal with the worst things that humanity has to throw at them on a daily basis it makes perfect sense, and both actors play into that dynamic and off of each other exceptionally well.
Michelle Monaghan leads the rest of the supporting players rather well, but it all comes back to the dynamic between our two leads which is like watching two masters as at work as they draw us deeper and deeper into the world that they have created for themselves.
Picture and sound quality on this 3 Blu-Ray set are exceptional and the bonus features include a look at the making of this groundbreaking show, an up close talk with stars and producers Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, a conversation with writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto and music supervisor and composer T Bone Burnett talk about how the use of music was so key in the series, looks inside some of the episodes with Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga, audio commentary on two of the episodes and a deleted scene.
TV is such a disposable beast, but there are the rare one's that sustain. This first season of "True Detective" has truly changed the game and will endure as one of the single best pieces of television ever produced and the next time you hear someone tell you how there is never anything good on television anymore, you simply just drop this series into their lap and walk away.
5 out of 5 stars.
"True Detective" is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital On Demand from all major providers.