Crime, Drama, Television, Thriller

True Detective: Season One (2014)

Comments Off on True Detective: Season One (2014) 11 August 2015


Production Studios: Anonymous Content, Parliament of Owls, Passenger, Neon Black, Picture Entertainment Corporation

Distributed By: HBO

Blu-ray Release: June 10, 2014

Created By: Nic Pizzolatto

Directed By: Cary Fukunaga

Rating: TVMA

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’ll watch anything…including True Detective: Season One.

I just need to get on my soap box for a moment and state that season two of True Detective gets a bum rap. If you peruse the internet you’ll see reviews and opinions declaring the show from okay to “the worst show ever.” I submit that True Detective’s sophomore season was just as great of a TV show as many others. Unfortunately it stands to be compared against the freshman season starring Harrelson/McConaughey which was simply brilliant.

When the blu-ray for the second season rolls around I’ll explain exactly why I’m right, but for now we’re taking a look back at season one. The real question surrounding this review is should you buy, rent, or skip the first season of True Detective?

Show Rating: ★★★★★

TD_6Since this is technically a review for the first season I’ll start by saying this…  There is very little I can say that hasn’t already been said. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey play detectives Martin Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey) on the hunt for a killer being called the “Yellow King” in whispers. Martin/Rust are diametrically opposite in personalities and procedure, but both carry dark burdens and demons that define the essence of what made True Detective a brilliant show. The story goes beyond the crime, delving deeper into the personalities of the characters and the rampant corruption deep in the Louisiana communities.

Let’s state the obvious. Nic Pizzolatto’s screenplays are amazing. The story begins with a series of present day “interviews” in 2012 with Harrelson/McConaughey in which each recounts an old case from 1995. Through these flashbacks, we see the past case come to its seeming conclusion and tie in with the present day drama. This structural storytelling mechanism helps give Pizzolatto incredible capacity to pepper the narrative with half-truths and enough red-herrings to keep you guessing through all eight episodes. It’s certainly not the first time a device like this has been used but Pizzolatto expertly structures the writing to cement True Detective as one of the premier dramas of our time and creates a unique hook to keep viewers glued (and subsequently aided in HBO Go crashing).

TD_5Sure director Cary Fukunaga had the powerhouse combination of Harrelson/McConaughey to aid in directing this first rate season, but he also expertly helps define an uncredit cast member – the Louisiana bayou. The atmosphere plays as much of a key factor in the greatness of True Detective. The production captures the landscape and mood perfectly enveloping our cast of characters in a world that is hot, sticky, depressed, and searching for salvation. One of the most talked about sequences is a one-take, 10-minute tracking shot of unbroken action onscreen in which Rust Cohle performs an undercover raid through the projects. It’s some of the most tense television you’re ever going to witness.

And finally there’s the cast. All brilliant. All amazing.

True Detective is captivating because it works on a multitude of levels. It’s a great crime story, mystery, character study, etc. Only the most squeamish or those with a low tolerance for violence and chills may want to look away. But for the rest of us that like gritty and tense drama they don’t make them much better.

Video & Audio Rating: ★★★★★

TD_3Anything less than a perfect technical presentation would have constituted a fail. Fortunately, the audio and video elements here are on par with the rest of the production. Much of the show’s success can be credited to the moody atmosphere created with the cinematography. HBOs blu-ray simply duplicates the televised broadcast/streaming presentation.

Audio options include an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, a French DTS 5.1, and a Spanish DTS 2.0 track. The editors do a superb job finding balance between dialogue, sound effects, and T Bone Burnett’s haunting score.

Extras Rating: ★★★½☆

TD_4Missing from the set appears to be a brief featurette in which Pizzolatto discusses the mythology of The Yellow King and how it influenced the story and characters. It was available on HBO Go for a short while (I haven’t checked to see if they returned it), and it appears to be absent from this set. It’s not heartbreaking that it is absent, but does highlight that the extras are not “definitive” although they remain numerous and insightful.

  • Audio Commentaries: Only two episodes include audio commentaries. “Who Goes There” (Episode 4) with series creator/executive producer/writer Nic Pizzolatto and composer T Bone Burnett, and “The Secret Fate of All Life” (Episode 5) with Pizzolatto, Burnett and executive producer Scott Stephens. Would I have liked each episode to include a commentary track? Absolutely. Pizzolatto, Burnett, and Stephens fill up the duo commentaries with loads of interesting information (especially Pizzolatto), but getting the director and cast involved would have put the commentaries to the next level.
  • Making True Detective: A very brief but also very insightful series of chapters that cover the “best of” moments in the show. Chapters include “The Story,” “Cohle and Hart,” “Script to Screen,” “7 Minutes of Hell,” “Louisiana,” “The Look,” “Creating a Crime Scene” and “Hand of the Killer.”
  • Up Close with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson: A dual interview with Harrelson/McConaughey in which the actors swap insight on their perspectives working together and how they developed some of the more defining aspects of each character. Segments include “The Dinner Scene,” “The Fight Scene,” “The Bar Scene” and “Fatigue.”
  • A Conversation with Nic Pizzolatto and T Bone Burnett: After listening to the commentary tracks, this plays a little like the “greatest hits.” Those not wanting to devote the time to the commentary tracks can get a lot of the same information in these short interviews. It’s not nearly as in-depth, but definitely worth a view.
  • Inside the Episodes: Each episode has a short 4-5 minute featurette covering the behind-the-scenes of that particular episode. I mentioned above, missing is the “The Yellow King” episode of “Inside the Episode.” However, everything else that was available on HBO Go seems to be here.
  • Deleted Scenes: Only two deleted scenes. One is a longer version of a tent preacher’s sermon from “The Locked Room” (Episode 3), the second from “Form and Void” (Episode 8) is entirely made up of aerial footage showcasing the Louisiana landscapes.

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

TD_2How we consume TV has fundamentally changed. Even my two sons expect their entertainment now! So not only what you consume, but how you consume your entertainment can impact the experience incredibly.

Do you subscribe to HBO, HBO Go or HBO Now? Do you pirate it? (For the record I do not condone this practice.) Or do you patiently wait for HBO to deliver it via DVD/Blu-ray? It’s this last group of people for which this review exists. Waiting for the complete set affords you the ability to either take your time or binge watch. And if you’re a collector, as they say, if you can’t loan it you don’t own it. Isn’t the point of this review to decide whether you should spend your money on the blu-ray set?

The short answer is yes.


- who has written 70 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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