True Detective Season One Review

Alright, I have no sarcastic comments, no grandiose proclamations, I just want to talk about this unbelievably brilliant show.

So True Detective is a show that began airing on HBO this past January, and since I am not a subscriber to HBO, I just got into it now after it’s been released on iTunes, DVD and people have put the recordings of the DVD online. Mostly that last one.

So I had actually never seen an HBO show before this one. (John, you gotta watch Game of Thrones! Yeah, yeah I know…) I also knew that HBO makes absurdly good content. I mean The Sopranos is widely considered the best show ever, Game of Thrones is really hyped up, but I think True Detective was a really good place for me to start. Probably because I’m really into crime shows, and thought that the two main stars gave some credibility.

Before I talk about how exceptional the actors were, I’ll talk about the premise. So Season 1 is only eight (8) episodes long. And yeah I know, you guys are like: 8 episodes? Are you kidding me? While most episodes of shows are like 43 minutes with commercial time worked in, each episode of this is 59. And the short season really gives the show its finite beginning, middle and end. The show is Matthew McConaughey’s character and Woody Harrelson’s character each being individually interviewed in 2012 about a week apart. And each of them is giving their full story about a big case they worked in 1995 as partners. Though the story is being told in 2012, almost the entirety of the show is the story in 1995, despite some occasional cutaways to the present. And this is a really interesting technique. (A friendly reminder this review is spoiler free, so do not fret, nothing will be ruined for you.) The first couple scenes of the show are them in 1995, and then when we see them (particularly McConaughey) in the present and you jump a little bit. This is some REALLY good aging makeup. Another interesting use of the interview technique is that you see as the episodes go on, not everything they’re telling the detectives interviewing them is true. There are often times where they’ll say, for instance, “oh, well we went in, asked him if he knew anything and he told us what he knew.” But what they would actually do is break in the door and rough the guy around until he gave them their info. I don’t know, I thought that was pretty cool.

But talking more about the premise, this show follows an anthology format which means this season is the only time we’ll see these characters and this plot. Season 2 there’s a completely new cast and new location. And like I said about the episode number, that’s fantastic. It’s a beginning, middle and end, it doesn’t have the chance to drag on like Dexter or How I Met Your Mother. And this whole anthology, beginning middle and end thing is a real selling-point of the show. Not only does the anthology format sell the show, but this season has the same writer and director for all eight episodes, making it feel like an 8-hour movie. This is the type of show you binge-watch.

The director of this show has some really stylistic techniques, like one extended shot of McConaughey in an episode, and then some shots from afar. Very cool. And then the writing. The writing of this show is superb. I won’t give all the credit to the writer because I really think it’s the actors and overall tone/direction that fill it in, but the writing is very, very smart. As I said, it’s only one guy who wrote the whole season, and you can tell this is the story that he wanted to tell from beginning to end, the way he wanted it.

But going to another key selling point of the show is the tone. This show is dark and dreary and depressing and dismal and most of all: dramatic. This is a wicked morbid show, let me say off the bat. You can feel the extreme over-shadowing of morbidity which sells the realism. The sets all give a depressing feel, the actors are downright sad, and the writing has such a dark tone. It’s awesome!!

But the actors. Jeez. Here is a true statement: if/when this show is nominated for the Best Drama Series Emmy, Matthew McConaughey could/will win for Best Actor in a Drama Series. I have confidence he could even beat out Bryan Cranston. Honest to God, this guy is DEEP. He’s coming off of his Oscar win BIG in this role. He plays the extremely dark and extremely damaged role of Detective Rust Cohle. If I tell you too much about his character, it will kind of ruin the charm, but imagine a much more damaged and dark Sherlock Holmes (the BBC version) crossed with a much, MUCH darker and MUCH more damaged Ryan Hardy from The Following. Like I said, I have confidence he will probably win the Emmy for this show, it’s my favorite performance of his so far. And Woody Harrelson was really good in this too. The first few episodes he was just kind of the by-the-book guy, but then he has drama outside of the workplace that really sells you his character. I don’t feel like I’ve seen enough of Woody’s work to say this is my favorite performance of his, but it is a definite step-up from Charlie in 2012 and Haymitch Abernathy.

The show isn’t really funny, as I said it’s extremely dark and extremely depressing, though it does have its moments. I don’t think there’s a single joke in the whole season, though there is a lot of “wink, wink” stuff. Like they’re doing an interrogation for this guy, and he’s trying to tell them he had nothing to do with it, and McConaughey says, “we’re not gonna give you the Oscar no matter how hard you try!”. And there’s another episode where in 2012 McConaughey is telling the detectives that time is more like one definitive sculpture and not a line like we think. That straight-up reminded me of the Interstellar trailer. And then there are a couple Mud references in the finale. Very movie guy humor, in an unintentional way.

Wrapping up, True Detective is currently right up there on my list of the best shows on TV, right next to Bates Motel, Sherlock and Walking Dead. It feels kind of weird saying that because we know so little about Season 2, but even if Seasons 2 and 3 (the creator/writer said there would only be three seasons) are less than average, Season 1 will be excellent. In fact, let’s say we lived in some weird universe where the show was cancelled after this past season. It would probably be in at least my Top 3 Shows of All Time. But I can’t OFFICIALLY say that yet. But now I’m really jacked for Season 2! I know there have been tons of rumors flying around that Brad Pitt or Jessica Chastain would be in it, but I guess those have been debunked now? Any significant Season 2 news that is confirmed, I’ll do a post on because for this show it’s worth it.

I’m buying this season on Blu-Ray, that is a fact. Fantastic writing, brilliant acting, outstanding directing, a show that’s dark and dreary, yet at the same time relatable and heart-breaking. It’s totally worth it to check out if you haven’t already. I don’t really “rate” shows or movies, but if I did, True Detective is without a doubt Five Full Stars.


So have you guys seen True Detective? As you can tell I completely recommend it. Only advice going it: it is on HBO, so this a mature show, just beware. And what is your favorite TV drama right now? Whatever those shows may be, let me know down below and as always, thanks for reading guys.

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