True Detective (HBO series) — Season 1 (early impressions)

Posted: January 20, 2014 in Television
Tags: ,

true-detective-e1-tSo, I watched the first episode of HBO’s new crime series, True Detective. Though perhaps series is not the right term. The first season consists of a mere 8 episodes, and will be completely self-contained. That is, none of the characters will carry over into future seasons. Along with American Horror Story, this suggests a revival of the anthology show format. And I have to admit, based on the premiere, I am very intrigued. I like that the show is more interested in the relationship between its two male leads, and how the crime effects them psychologically, rather than the serial killer they are meant to be hunting (whom I usually find the least interesting part of crime dramas).

There also seems to be hints of exploring the murders as the product urban decay, and a dystopian setting. I think the town is referred to as a “memory that is slowly fading”, which I really liked. There seems to be some cool Nietzschean philosophy going on as well, regarding man’s temporality and dislocation from his environment. I’ve also been told we’ll be getting a some rather unsettling allusions to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, which sounds awesome, and would really compliment the show’s southern gothic aesthetic. I’m hoping they practice restraint, but judging by the measured tone of this episode, I’m not too worried.

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are the leads, and it’s a testament to the quality and acclaim of cable television that they were able to draw such star power to the project. However, a-level or unknown, all that matters on the day is what you’re putting up on screen, and fortunately, both actors are delivering  impressive performances, and really trying to craft distinct, detailed characters. I am worried that the show might be too relentlessly grim to be enjoyable, but I found myself engaged (and even amused) by a few of the minor/bit characters. The story structure is cool, cutting between past and present, and allowing us to piece together the details of the case ourselves. Also, I love the mid-90s look of the police station. It just feels so lived in. I’ll keep watching. What makes me optimistic is that the writers already have the ending in mind, and are thus forced to build towards it like a novel.Hopefully, True Detective turns out to be  more Zodiac, and less The Killing.


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