Someone I trusted told me I would like True Detective, so I acquired it the minute it was available on blu-ray and watched it over a period of ten days (it only has eight one-hour episodes). I can’t remember who told me about the show, so I would like a confession. Because why would I like this show? I mean, I don’t generally like cop shows and I don’t like serial killer shows (or films) and True Detective is both. Sure, it’s made by HBO and stars Matthew McConaughey, last year’s best actor, along with Woody Harrelson. And sure, it’s directed, in its entirety, by Cary Fukunaga, whose two feature films (Sin Nombre and Jane Eyre) were both among my favourite films of their respective years. But is the presence of great actors and a great director enough? Who is this Nic Pizzolatto guy anyway, who thinks he can create and write a series like this for HBO?
No, no, I do not like True Detective. I LOVE it! If it hadn’t been for the standard serial-killer climax, which was a major let-down for me, True Detective would rank high among my all-time favourite TV shows. Not that it can be treated as a typical TV series, since the first season is its own complete story and the second season will feature different actors and a different location. So this first season of True Detective needs to be reviewed as a mini-series.
True Detective, season one, covers a seventeen-year period in the lives of two very intense and troubled detectives on the hunt for the man or men responsible for the ritualistic slaying of children and young women in southern Louisiana. Unoriginal ending aside, the writing, acting, directing, cinematography and score (the latter by T-Bone Burnett) of this show are extraordinary, not just for television, but also when compared to films. This is an entertainment masterpiece, though certainly not for those who have trouble watching dark serial-killer entertainment (and really, shouldn’t we all have trouble with that?). What makes the writing special is the intelligent dialogue of, and relationship between, the two protagonists (Rust and Marty). Not only does True Detective take the time to develop their characters, it actually spends as much or more time on the drama of their personal lives as it does on the suspense of their work lives (which involves limited action). And while the show does not do justice to its female characters, Michelle Monaghan is perfect as Maggie, Marty’s wife.
As for McConaughey, he is as good here as he was in his two starring roles last year (Dallas Buyers Club, Mud). His performance alone is worth watching the series. Who’d have thought he would become one of the greatest actors of our time? Fantastic TV! True Detective, season one, gets an easy ****. My mug is up.