97%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (10 Votes)

HBO’s crime drama True Detective succeeds immensely in its attempt to stand out in a genre that as of late seems to thrive purely on conformity. Creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto’s background as an author is obvious, as the show plays out like a gripping novel you just can’t seem to put down. The story takes place between a 17 year time period that jumps around occasionally but mostly stays linear. While the overall story is done extremely well in this aspect, the tone of the show is set right off the bat due to the legendary performances from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. It is these performances that draw the viewer into the show, with the addition of an overall great story that really puts True Detective in a class of it’s own. The anthology format has been done, but its never been done extremely well before. This is another aspect in which True Detective not only exceeds its predecessors but also could change the way television is made forever. In the future don’t be surprised if you see big name actors in the same class as Harrelson and McConaughey taking roles in television shows instead of movies. It wasn’t one single thing that set True Detective apart, but how exceptional everything was done. It executes near perfection with all the intangibles needed to make a truly brilliant show.

It had been a rough couple of months for many avid television watchers, many of which were suffering from the Breaking Bad hangover. When a show as brilliant as Breaking Bad comes to an end, many people are unable to cope with mediocre television and don’t know what to do with themselves. It’s the HBO subscribers that always seem to keep calm because they know that soon enough HBO will come through as they always do. Then January 12th came around, the premiere of True Detective, to save television fanatics from hours upon hours of mediocre television.

Pizzolatto shows he is a force to be reckoned with in the future of television and books alike. He had his hands full for his first journey into the television world as he took on the tough tasks of being the creator, writer and executive producer and exceeded any expectations placed on him. In writing the story he did more than enough without trying to be too fancy with his screenplay. He also made the choice of making Cary Joji Fukunaga the full time director of the series; instead of the typical path television shows take of employing multiple directors to put a different vision into each episode. This decision proves the correct one because Fukunaga flourishes as the full time director, and blows the audience away with his vision during the end of episode four, which proves to be one of the best episodes of the series and possibly television entirely. The one-two punch of Pizzolatto and Fukunaga must be credited with the majority of the off-screen genius that make Pizzolatto’s vision and script so much more than simply “entertaining TV”.


Behind every creative mind (Pizzolatto) and vision (Fukunaga) there are the guys who step in front of the camera and attempt make the script and vision become something more than words and ideas. It is McConaughey and Harrelson who take on this daunting task and flourish together on screen as Louisiana police detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart. While the two characters feel so genuinely real and flawed, the two actors performances are engrossing and utterly flawless. Both Rust and Marty are very different breeds of people, and they know this about one another. Throughout the season their differences become much more evident, yet no matter what wrongs are done or arguments take place, the bond of brotherhood that is formed between the two men is never broken.

This is evident in episode 5 “The Secret Fate of All Life”, after an attempt by Cohle and Hart to apprehend their murder suspect doesn’t go exactly as planned due to what could be considered either a lapse in judgment or move of heroism by Marty Hart. This event took place in 1995 and it is made clear that something happened between the two protagonists in 2002 that led to a rift in their friendship, however the bond between the two was never broken. The audience sees the events of the plan gone wrong in 1995 while the protagonists are being interviewed separately in 2012, 17 years after the fact. The brilliance in this scene comes from the separate voiceover from Cohle and Hart of their recollection of the events to the two officers interviewing them. While this event happened 17 years ago, their cover up story from what actually happens remains perfectly in sync. It is this scene that truly defines the brotherhood theme present throughout the series. Even after all the bad blood between the characters, they still have each other’s back no matter what.

The recurring theme of brotherhood and friendship plays an important role in True Detective, and McConaughey and Harrelson are able to do it so naturally. In fact they are so good that they make it seem this is how they act towards one another when the cameras stop rolling. McConaughey’s portrayal of the cynically aloof loner Rust Cohle is truly exceptional as well as Harrelson’s role as the morally ambiguous loose cannon. The faults of these characters are so clear-cut and evident, it makes them feel extremely real to the audience. These faults are not what define the protagonists though, because when their character is truly tested they always end up doing the right thing. McConaughey and Harrelson provide the strong emotional connection to the audience, and despite their faults, we can’t help but root for them for the duration of True Detective.

There are certain details in film and television alike that, at first, do not seem to be as important as others. It is the attention to these small details that set apart good television and film from great television and film. In relation to True Detective, this small detail that really brings a lot to the table would have to be the setting of the show. The show was set along the coast of Southern Louisiana. This setting not only has some importance in the story, but also adds beautiful cinematography of rural Southern Louisiana. The setting gives the audience a sense of realness to the story, especially when Pizzolatto includes real life events like Hurricane Katrina and the impact it had on this evil murderer’s vendetta when Southern Louisiana was dealing with the aftermath of the natural disaster.

Throughout the entire series, the audience is left hanging in regards to who the real bad guy is. The protagonists come up with many ideas and gather up evidence but as things unfold, viewers become more confused. This is where the brilliance of story telling from Pizzolatto and Fukunaga really come into play as they take on an extremely tough task. Their task was to create an antagonist so evil, that the audience is left feeling disturbed. As far as True Detective goes, they succeed immensely. The entire television series makes the audience want what Cohle and Hart desire most: justice.

True Detective is really something special that cannot be missed, because television shows like this only come along once in a while. There are shows with great directing, or a great script, or great acting and so on. True Detective has it all. Pizzolatto’s rookie television debut could be considered legendary, yet you can’t help but feel bad for the guy. The question becomes will he ever be able to top his brilliant creation that is True Detective, or is this simply the beginning for Mr. Pizzolatto?

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