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Featured TV on DVD Review: True Detective: Season One

June 9th, 2014

True Detective: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

True Detective earned a lot of pre-release buzz and opened with great reviews. The series debut earned more than 2 million viewers and by the end of its 8-episode run, its ratings grew by more than 50%. On the other hand, there were many people who were let down by the ending. Did I get drawn into the show like most critics were? And did the ending let me down?

The Show

The first episode begins with a field burning before we see Detective Marty Hart, and shortly after that, Detective Rust Cohle, being interviewed separately in 2012. They had a falling out in 2002 and haven't spoken since. They are asked about each other and the Dora Kelly Lange killing. In 1995, they were called to a crime where the body of a woman, who was killed elsewhere, was posed praying to a tree with symbol on her back and a rack of deer antlers on her head. Around her are woven twig sculptures, both on the ground and hanging in the tree. We later hear them called bird traps or devil nests.

It is at this time that Marty invited Rust to dinner. His wife has been bothering him about that. We don't actually see the dinner, at least not right away. We do get to learn a bit more about the two detectives. It's not pretty. (Rust calls himself a pessimist, but he's more like an antinatalist.) Marty comments that they've been partners for three months and he's gotten almost nothing from Rust, but now that he's talking, Marty just wants him to stop. I can see why, as Rust certainly is creepy.

The pair continue to investigate and they get some leads. Prints come back and match Dora Kelly Lange, a former prostitute. They also learn of a missing girl, Marie Fontenot, who disappeared several years ago but no investigation came from it. (The local police at the time thought it was a case of parental kidnapping, and since the mother was a mess, they thought the girl was better off with her father. Although they never bothered to confirm that was the case.) Another case, this time about a little girl, who claimed she was chased by a green-eared spaghetti monster also comes to light. While investigating Marie's disappearance, Rust spots a devil nest in the back shed where Marie used to play.

The first episode ends with the cops interviewing Rust revealing that they have a new case, one with plenty of similarities to the case he and Marty dealt with in 1995. Only, they thought they caught the perpetrator. So is this new case a copycat? Or did they get the wrong person back in 1995?

This is just the first episode, but it is a good place to end the plot summary before we run into serious spoilers.

I can totally see why people were disappointed in the end of the season. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, the show is about a murder with serious occult overtones. That's not a spoiler. However, and this is a little bit of a spoiler, in the second episode, we learn that the murder victim went to a church and described the leader as the King in Yellow of the city of Carcosa. For those who don't know, the King in Yellow is the name that Hastur goes by in the Lovecraft mythos. This, and other parts of the show, seems to suggest that the show was going to go in a supernatural direction. It didn't. The show really seemed to be setting up something more than it delivered on and it is not surprising that some people would be disappointed in this.

That said, True Detective is still an excellent police procedural with two amazing lead performance by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. The writing is amazing and this is one of the best Southern Gothic TV series ever. The atmosphere is spot-on throughout. Granted, some scenes are slower than others, sometimes feeling unnecessarily slow, but this helps with the atmosphere of the Southern Gothic. The split time line of the series could have been a cheesy gimmick, but it works here. On the down side, most of the supporting characters are not nearly fleshed out enough. That's a minor complaint overall.

The Extras

Extras include four-minute Inside the Episode featurettes for all eight episodes from season one. Disc one also has one deleted scene. Disc two has audio commentary tracks on two episodes. It's odd they don't have an audio commentary track for the first episode. There is a 15-minute making of featurette on disc three. Disc three also has a deleted scene. There are four short Up Close With Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, which are two-minute interviews with the star. Finally, there is a 14-minute interview featurette with Nic Pizzolatto, the writer, and T Bone Burnett, who scored the series.

I don't have the Blu-ray and Amazon is freaking out and still thinks this show has not yet been announced and they don't have prices. The list price is $80, which is $20 or 33% more than the DVD, but I suspect that price will drop when Amazon gets its act together. It only costs $47 on if you want to import it.

The Verdict

True Detective has a great story, with two fantastic leads, and plenty of atmosphere. There are some hints that you hope will pay off in the end but don't, while the supporting characters are not as fleshed out as they should be, but those are minor complaints overall. There are more than enough extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray that it is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey