True Detective: Season One Review

| June 9, 2014

From its original commercial teasers, highlighting its main cast, to garnering the talent behind Sin Nombre and 2011’s Jane Eyre, was more then enough to be excited for HBO’s True Detective. Once it began airing on TV, after the first episode, people knew that this was something special, making True Detective an instant classic, that rightfully belongs to the home of The Wire, Oz and The Sopranos. With a narrative sprawling over a period of 17 years, we follow Detective Rustin “Rusty” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Detective Martin “Marty” Hart (Woody Harrelson), in both past and present, simultaneously, in order to track down a serial killer in Southern Louisiana. As these two timelines weave back and forth, we are taken through both detective’s personal dilemma’s, right along side the swampy setting of the Bayou, as they try to stop women and children from being murdered. Written by Nic Pizzolatto and Directed by Cary Fukunaga, True Detective is an absolute must watch for fans of crime fiction and police procedurals.

The simplicity of the themes of good versus evil, right along side the complexity of its characters is what makes True Detective come to life. Both McConaughey and Harrelson give the performances of their careers as Cohle and Hart, as they struggle as men within their society, but redeem themselves through their hard work as police officers. While many critics and viewers of the series have complained about the female representation, due to the women in the series playing only victims, prostitutes and housewives, many fail to get the focal point and view point of the narrative, which is two male’s. The tagline for the series, “Man is the Cruelest Animal” is a perfect distillation of this and showcased in both the central antagonist of the series, as well as both Marty and Rust’s actions throughout the series.

From the very first episode, the two central characters are faced with absolute darkness, the worst that humanity has to offer and must do everything in their power to stop it. While it affects them differently, both Rust and Marty find themselves at odds with their viewpoint of the world, as well as each other. Its this dichotomy that presents viewpoints that each warrant merit, with both the writing and the acting that present sound reasoning for each way of living and their means of working as officers of the law. Both men are able to gain results, but in different ways, which offers a form of a buddy cop formula. We’re given them as who they are, completely flawed individuals, that are given a seemingly impossible task, but are able to overcome their own personal differences with each other, in order to do the greater good within their own means.

HBO’s home video releases are some of the best on the market and True Detective is another standout title in their expansive catalog. On the video front, the series is presented on a 1080p, AVC encoded HD transfer, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. All eight episodes were shot on 35mm film, which have been faithfully adapted to the HD presentation of the set. From both the color and contrast perspectives, there’s a lot of beautiful range of visuals in True Detective, that is immaculate in this boxed set. Everything has tons of clarity, with no signs of any digital artifacts or any sort of compression issues. The audio on the disc is presented in three tracks, an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, a French DTS 5.1 track and a Spanish DTS 2.0 track. The English track is one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard all year, with its attention to all of the details in the sound design and the mix, as well as the incredible score that was created by T-Bone Burnett. The range of dynamics are pretty faithful as well, being extremely loud when a gunshot is heard and soft and intimate when its a quiet conversation.

There are a few brief extras on the True Detective set, that are fairly short, but very potent in what they offer. There are two commentaries, one on Episode 4 “Who Goes There” and Episode 5 “The Secret Fate of All Life”. Mostly done by writer Nic Pizzolatto and composer T Bone Burnett, these commentaries offer plenty of insight on the process of the series, but leave one desiring commentaries on the other episodes. The “Making of True Detective” is a 15 minute breakdown of how all of the elements came together overall for the series. Things like production design, casting and other things are mentioned, that offer a reasonable amount of insight for the 8 month production.

While the set may be light in the extras department, there’s enough going on in the entirety of True Detective that viewers can fawn over, both in terms of the technical achievements in writing, filmmaking and direction, as well as the talented cast that resides on screen. If you love the long form narrative that TV offers, you owe it to yourself to check out True Detective, because its an absolute masterpiece, from beginning to end. Highly Recommended! 

About the Author:

is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He's an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
Filed in: TV on DVD

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