BluRay/DVD Reviews

TRUE DETECTIVE Season One (HBO Home Video)

By • Jul 4th, 2014 •

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Earlier this year, HBO wowed viewers, and beat some of its own ratings milestones with an eight-part, self-contained mini-series. TRUE DETECTIVE covers seventeen years in the lives of two detectives: ‘Rust’ Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), a subdued, haunted man with a deeply pessimistic view of the world, and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson), an angry, impulsive family man with extreme personal problems. We follow the two men at three points in their lives: 1995, in which the pair pursue a ritualistic serial killer; 2002, in which the two have a bitter falling-out; and 2012, in which they must confront the truth behind the events in 1995 and 2002.

The bar for television drama has been set higher than ever in the wake of HBO’s own THE SOPRANOS, DEADWOOD, and THE WIRE, and expectations were understandably high for TRUE DETECTIVE, especially with the pedigree of the two leads (McConaughey won an Oscar while the show was airing). Critically, TRUE DETECTIVE met expectations, and gained a huge following online while it was airing. “Time is a flat circle” became something of a meme, and comedian Patton Oswalt came up with some intriguing theories on how he thought the series would be resolved.

Although there is a second season planned (writer Nic Pizzolatto states he wants a maximum of three seasons), it will be a completely different story and cast. There’s no cliffhanger, and the story comes to a very definite conclusion. It also manages not to overstay its welcome in the slightest. This first season tells a compelling, fully realized story in just under eight hours, and gives a well-rounded arc to the two leads. Although the show is a crime thriller and a mystery, the focus is almost entirely on Cohle and Hart. It isn’t until very late in the series that we leave their perspectives.

As Cohle, McConaughey continues his recent string of fantastic performances, transforming radically between the different time periods the series depicts. Harrelson plays Hart as a ticking-time-bomb of rage, whose horrible decisions . Michelle Monaghan, as Hart’s long-suffering ex-wife Maggie, stands out as the most important supporting character, with the scenes of marital strife between her and Harrelson carrying an uncomfortable amount of emotional realism.

The show’s use of Louisiana (which has been a favorite location of visually astute directors post-Katrina) gives the director and writer an outlet to explore both the beauty and stark hideousness of rural America. You can practically feel the muggy, unrelenting heat whenever Cohle and Hart are outdoors. The show’s rich visual palette, from Cohle’s hallucinations to the abandoned schools and churches, really comes alive on the Blu-Ray, and is owed in part to the series being shot on 35mm.

HBO’s Blu-Ray package comes with an assortment of behind-the-scenes features, some of them fluff pieces made to show between programs on HBO itself, some a little more in-depth, such as the one-on-one interviews with Harrleson and Burnett. The two audio commentaries shed some light on the production and writing, but aren’t required viewing.

Overall, TRUE DETECTIVE lives up to its reputation and pre-release hype, presenting two fantastic performances and an intriguing mystery. This Blu-Ray offers a fantastic audio and video presentation, even if the extras aren’t much to write home about. If you can find the Blu-Ray on sale (Amazon usually does a massive HBO sale once or twice a year) its well worth picking up.

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