REVIEW: True Detective
Years ago, there was a CBS miniseries, Chiefs, based on the Stuart Woods novel and featured a murder mystery that spanned the years, embroiling three different police chiefs. In 1983, it ran for three nights and I was captivated. When HBO debuted True Detective with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in January, I was immediately reminded of that event. Here, both men were involved in a 1995 murder and now, 17 years later, they get drawn back to the case.
The excellent serial killer serial ran eight episodes and maintained a nourish mood and style that set it apart from all the other serial killer serials that are currently running or recently ended. On the off-chance you missed it, HBO Home Entertainment is releasing a box set this week and it’s well recommended. A lot of the credit and perhaps the reason I was reminded of the earlier series may be that this too comes from a novelist, Nic Pizzolatto. Marty Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey), members of Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division, are interviewed regarding the ’95 case where a woman’s body was found, the corpse artistically arranged. Since they stopped talking in 2002, the men are interviewed separately by detectives Thomas Papania (Tory Kittles) and Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts) allowing for varying perspectives, points of view and slightly varying details.
Over the course of the episodes, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, another reason the series is consistently excellent, we learn about the initial investigation and the two deeply flawed men who were haunted by its gruesomeness. Hart has been cheating on his wife, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), with court reporter Lisa Tragnetti (Alexandra Daddario), while Cohle is battling a drug dependency and is grieving over his dead daughter. Neither man is a saint and is far from perfect, so when a second body turns up, it makes them question the man they arrested nearly two decades earlier and is still in jail. Of course, stirring up the dark past is never good although it allows the actors a chance to shine time and again.
Pizzolatto and Fukunaga deftly intertwine the two timelines as we see the previous and current investigations unfold, each step rippling across the tortured psyches of the two detectives. And then comes the finale which, like so many before it, infuriated and tantalized its fan base. We wanted Rust to find the Yellow King but found physics instead, which left many scratching their heads n confusion. There remain threads and questions for season two although some felt more should have been resolved to make the first eight episodes more satisfying.
The eps are neatly transferred to the three Blu-ray discs tucked within a nice slipcase. The show’s art direction is well replicated on the packaging giving it the same dank, creepy feel. Visually, the three discs are superb matched with excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. They are accompanied by some very nice bonus features starting with commentaries on episodes four (with Pizzolatto and Burnett) and five (Pizzolatto, Burnett and Executive Producer Scott Stephens). These are interesting (I wish there was one for the finale) although the chatter is not wall to wall as we’ve come to expect these days. HBO’s patented Inside the Episode featurettes are included followed by two deleted scenes from episodes three and eight. There is also “Making True Detective“, a fifteen minute overview which emphasizes the production design; an eight-minute chat with McConaughey and Harrelson; and, a fourteen minute dialogue between Pizzolatto and Burnett. The box set comes complete with a digital copy of the season.