Verdict: 5 / 5
No one can deny HBO (Home Box Office) produces quality content. Their extensive catalogue includes the likes of Game of Thrones, Carnivale, Angels in America, and Band of Brothers. True Detective is one of the more recent additions, and its eight episodes continue the HBO tradition of high-quality, atmospheric, and captivating TV. It’s just good TV.
The series can be described as a gritty-cop-drama-neo-noir-southern-gothic-manhunt-thriller. That’s quite a few genres packed into one, but then again True Detective is in itself quite a few things packed into one. It is incredibly difficult to lump the show into one category. How does one really categorise a masterpiece?
The story is set around two detectives, Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Mathew McConaughey). The pair recount a case opened in 1995 to two detectives in 2012. The story opens when a woman is found murdered in a South Louisiana corn field. Her murder resembles an occult ritual, which begins a story spanning seventeen years.
What makes True Detective truly fascinating isn’t the story of the case – which is excellent, don’t get me wrong – but rather the characters themselves, and their lives. Both Marty and Rust’s personal and professional lives intertwine over and over again. They’re often butting heads over moral dilemmas, religion, or ethics, but the two share a mutual and unspoken bond. Their personalities clash, hard, but this only contributes to the ever-growing strangeness surrounding them. These two men show us the world is a moral shade of grey, and not black and white.
The two detectives are deeply flawed human beings. This isn’t a standard cop show where someone’s “dark past” is an accidental murder, or the death of a father figure, but rather traits that make them truly human. At times you’ll love and hate the pair, you’ll want to punch or console them, and you’ll feel for them as you agree or disapprove of their life choices.
True Detective’s supporting characters are superb, with most having real personalities and backgrounds. These characters include Marty’s wife, a preacher, a mentally disabled man, drug dealers, mistresses, and a host of others. Each one gives and takes from the two men’s lives as they shape the dark, depraved world that our protagonists trudge through.
Our two protagonists are taken down a number of paths as they seek to uncover the bizarre truth of the murder. They’re lead to a false closing of the case, paedophiles, drug operations, and a host of other events. Nothing is as it seems in the series and the story constantly keeps you guessing.
The music and cinematography – oh the music and cinematography. The series is filmed using a 35mm camera in order to add a unique and grainy texture to the series. It accentuates the South Louisiana landscape and brings everything on screen to a life in a dark and washed out way.
Music plays a large role within the series as it too adds to the experience. The intro song, Far From Any Road, performed by The Handsome Family, is a subtly haunting yet uplifting melody that evokes feelings of dread. I’ve had it on repeat while writing this review.
I cannot say enough good things about this series. Sure, it starts off slow, but the pacing only compliments the story. Things take time to happen, much like real life. I realise I’ve mentioned “real life” a few times in this review, but only because producer & director Nic Pizzolatto has done such a fantastic job. Something about the series reminds me of Twin Peaks, but on a far darker level.
I highly recommend purchasing the show on Blu-ray and giving it at watch. Be warned though as it’s not meant for the squeamish. This will be a series I’ll continue to watch over and over again.