True Detective — Does it Live Up to the Hype?

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There is no denying the appeal of True Detective. It stars two brilliant leads in the likes of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. And they don’t disappoint. They both do things acting-wise that I didn’t even know they could do. Yes, I know McConaughey has hit a stride of amazing roles these past couple years. It all started with The Lincoln Lawyer. Then he landed great roles in films like Dallas Buyers Club, Mud, Killer Joe, and now this True Detective show. For so many years, I was used to McConaughey the “rom-com-King”. So many years went by where he did just horrible movies. They were all mostly romantic comedies, but this became his image. He was the guy from The Wedding Planner or How to Lose a guy in 10 Days. Luckily, I forgot he even did Fool’s Gold. But he has really turned his career around, picking some truly amazing roles. This HBO show is going to get some Emmy love when the time comes, there is no doubt in my mind about that. But how much love will it get?

Throughout the course of this post, there may be some spoilers or there may not be. I’m just going to write what I want to and if you haven’t seen a single episode or aren’t caught up, approach with caution. You have been warned. The appeal of this show is very strange. Sure, viewers probably got pulled in because it is very difficult to hate on either McConaughey or Harrelson. The trailer for the show didn’t give away too much, so it was this TV show that was kind of shrouded in mystery. To highlight how good this show actually is, that mystery is still there. They do an amazing job of keeping the interests of everyone. And that includes Green Bay Packers sports writer Jason Wilde and Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Don Barclay.

There are numerous people constantly talking about True Detective, and I can gladly admit that I am one of them. The main plot of this story is that in 1995, these two detectives had to investigate a series of murders. They get questioned seventeen years later on said case, ten years after the two had a “falling out”. It has an interesting format, jumping from 1995 to 2012 and eventually to 2002. But the format works.

Is this considered a successful show, even by HBO’s standards? According to an article written by Josef Adalian on Vulture, HBO’s most successful shows to date have been The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and True Blood. But you have to take the numbers into consideration.

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The chart from the same Vulture article shows that the top three shows that hit success didn’t that success into well into their run. The Sopranos hit their high numbers in season five. Game of Thrones hit their high in season three, their most recent season. True Blood also hit their high in season three. But The Sopranos isn’t on anymore and True Blood has severely gone down both in quality and viewership. Game of Thrones is at it’s peak and will probably keep rising. But if you look at the shows currently on HBO, you have Veep, Girls, The Newsroom, and so on. Those shows average from five to seven million viewers. Those numbers are relatively average. Boardwalk Empire strived in its first season, very similar to True Detective’s ratings thus far. But the ratings have gone down since that premiere season. According to an article from the Hollywood Reporter, True Detective is averaging 10.9 million viewers a week. So if this is a sign of anything, its that HBO has a hit on it’s hands. A show that should stick around for a while.

With a show that seems this good, there will be some flaws. A popular one among the audience is that the show doesn’t feature smart female characters. This is a fair assessment, but you also have to look at the structure of the show. I don’t need to sit here and defend the show because the quality can defend itself. But the show is mostly told through the perspective of our two leads, Detectives Cohle (McConaughey) and Hart (Harrelson). You really only see the females when they have to interact with our leads. It doesn’t give them much room to do a whole lot of anything. But this show really isn’t about anyone other than Cohle and Hart. Their partnership, downfall, and what is going on in their heads is the most interesting aspect of this show. And fortunately, that is the aspect that has the most focus.

The content of True Detective is gothic by nature. It does have some graphic images and a lot of blood every now and then. But really it is the two characters that fill this world and make it believable and real. In one of the episodes, you will see on the most magnificent cinematic shots you will ever see on television. I’ll try not to give away too much, but there is a scene where Detective Cohle has to go undercover and rip off a drug stash house. This particular scene is done in one take, and spans what seemed like a half hour but was probably closer to the fifteen minute mark. A fifteen minute action scene done in one take. You have to credit that to the director of this show, Cary Fukunaga. Doing that scene in one take is easily one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen on television. It is something you’d see in an old Michael Mann film. It was truly cinematic gold.

There is all of these good things to say about True Detective, and there is still two more episodes left in the season. The penultimate episode airs tonight on HBO, and I am excited. Does this show live up to the hype it is receiving? You bet your ass it does. It greatly exceeds them. It may be a slow burning TV show, but it has to be. It focuses on details and things can’t be high octane every ten seconds if the show is going to be smart. I will defend the pace of this show as long as I can, because I love it and it works. It is a clear that True Detective is the best new show on TV, with the closest show being The Blacklist; which in all honesty, doesn’t even compare. Not only is it the best new show, it is a very serious competitor for best show on TV now. It has great shows like Game of Thrones to compete with, but in its first season, True Detective is impressing everyone. With two episodes left, there is still this giant cloud of mystery surrounding this show and how it is going to end. Usually I am great at predicting how things are going to end. But I can honestly say I have no idea where True Detective is going to take us in these next two episodes and I have no idea how it will end. But I know I am intrigued and anxious, and I kinda like it that way.

-Written by Tim Morse

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