True Detective

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If you are like me, you are always excited about a new drama series on HBO, hoping that the new series will take its place next to The Sopranos and The Wire and Deadwood in the HBO pantheon. (I’d also like to put Game of Thrones up there but it’s not complete yet.) Is True Detective, which premiers on January 12, the next great HBO series?

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True Detective Season Two

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Okay, so the first season of True Detective wasn’t as good as people wanted it to be, including the conventional way the central mystery was solved. And, yes, the treatment of women was embarrassing. Maybe writer Nic Pizzolatto took the valid criticisms to heart and made a better season two. Maybe.

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True Detective Form and Void

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There are two parts to the first season of True Detective. There is the part in which Marty Hart and Rust Cohle seem to have finally solved the murder of Dora Lange, seventeen years after finding her body. Then there is the part about the arc of the two main characters and how the case did or didn’t change them. How you feel about the first season of True Detective may come down to which part of the story matters most.

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True Detective After You’ve Gone

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So it seems like True Detective is going do it, to solve the mystery of the murder of Dora Lainge and possibly the mystery of Carcosa and the Yellow King. Cohle has been working the case and now he has enlisted Hart’s help and there is only one episode left. Plus, the man on the riding lawnmower has scars on the lower half of his face. Next week we’ll get all the answers, right? Boy I hope not.

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True Detective Haunted Houses

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Part of the appeal for me about True Detective is the feeling that this isn’t just another show. Maybe its the years of brainwashing by HBO (“It’s not TV”) but I am more willing to give a series on HBO slack than on any other channel. (FX probably comes next.) I don’t know what True Detective is about but I’ve figured out a way that I can enjoy the series even if there are parts of it that don’t really seem to fit together. I say this because it is discouraging how much “Haunted Houses” felt like it could have been an episode in any TV series.

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True Detective The Secret Fate of All Life

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I don’t know what True Detective is about. I don’t know anything about Carcosa or the Yellow King or beer-can men or time as a flat circle. There is a story being told that feels like it’s a journey into the dark heart of one or maybe both detectives, and the end of that journey isn’t the cookhouse of Reggie Ledoux. The end is still out there and I have no idea what is it. And that’s what makes True Detective compelling.

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True Detective Who Goes There

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While the first three episodes of True Detective were talk-heavy and light on actual police work, “Who Goes There” appears to quickly move the case forward, bringing Hart and Cohle within one degree of prime suspect Reggie Ledoux. And then there is the long take at the end of the episode which would feel like showing off if it wasn’t in service of the story.

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True Detective The Locked Room

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The critics that reviewed True Detective were given three episodes, which is the point that I’ve now reached. What would my review have been? Very positive. Very, very positive. Now, full disclosure: I am fascinated with stories about the lies we tell ourselves in order to make life tolerable. I’m so interested in that idea that I tend to see all stories through that lens. It’s why Mad Men and Breaking Bad have so much resonance for me. True Detective, especially in “The Locked Room”, is explicitly about these lies. Detectives Hart and Cohle have built elaborate structures in their minds to stop themselves from going insane (with varying degrees of success). This case may cause those structures to collapse.

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True Detective Seeing Things

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There were a few things that occurred to me watching “Seeing Things”, the second episode of True Detective. One was the recommendation of David Simon not to judge a season of television until the season is complete. While I liked the first episode of True Detective, I had doubts about it. After “Seeing Things”, I’m committed. Watching this episode, I also thought of how where we live shapes our behavior. I thought the stoicism of my father, a lifelong Vermonter. I thought of the vigilance of my wife, Brooklyn born and bred. And I thought of the long conversations in the car between Marty Hart and Rust Cohle and what that says about their part of Louisiana.

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True Detective The Long Bright Dark

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Your milage with True Detective may vary based on your fondness of hearing “serious people” say “serious things”. It may also vary based on how much you trust HBO and Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. And it may be affected by how which TV critics you believe, the majority of whom are very positive about True Detective or the few, like Andy Greenwald and Emily Nussbaum, who aren’t as impressed as the others, although they think the series is good. For me, I’m in until the end of the season based on HBO and the opinions of the top critics. As for the serious people saying serious things, I can understand why people could be turned off in the first episode.

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