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True Detective

True Detective (series, season 3) (2019)

After a few years of silence, here we have the third season of “True Detective”. The first season was brilliant, the second less so, it was different, good, but not like the first season. This review of the third season is a bit like that of the second.

The first two episodes are great and like the first season. Very slow and minimalist, a droning soundtrack that suggests something terrible. Then we continue with a police investigation of two quite different officers, quite like in the previous series. The initial investigation is repeated a decade later and again later, so we get the story in three time-lines. The case itself looks small. Two kids get lost. Initially something sinister is suggested, but as the investigation continues, the focus of the series goes more to the drama of the investigators and the parents of the lost kids.

The series gets a bit of a Memento edge as one of the main characters’ memory starts to fail him in the timeline in which he is old. The story of the lost children is told in bits and pieces and in the three timelines only slowly clearing things up.

Season 3 is descent, mostly moody and well-written, but just as the previous one, 3 does not really rise above the level of descent.

True Detective (series, season 2) (2016)

I already knew that the second season was going to be different from the first, but this different? Perhaps the novelty is off, the new directors could not uphold the level of Cary Fukunaga or the creators wanted to do something different, but season 2 is by and far not as interesting as the first.

Season 1 was directed by one director, Cary Fukunaga. Season 2 by no less than 6. I had pretty high expectations after the moody first season. Initially the new one was promising too. The opening credits are great with a magnificent song of Leonard Cohen (a bit long though for an intro). The first two episodes are great, they remind of the first season with their slow pace, rumbling soundtrack and brownish colours. The next four episodes are simply police/crime/thiller type of episodes. Actually, they remind of a lot “Intelligence“, but not as good. You get different views of the same story. Three different kinds of (unpopular) investigators work together on a high profile case that turns out to be a snakepit. Each has his/her past and personal and professional problems. The same goes for the other parties involved. This is worked out extensively during the series, so you get not only the solving of a case, but also the ‘soap’ of the opening personalities, especially the darker sides. The last two of the eight episodes are again great with again the slow pace, brownish colours and a hard pressing tension. The lengthy final episode is quite depressing too.

I think in the above you can read that I am slightly disappointed in the second season. Did the creators perhaps target a larger audience? Did Fukunaga make such a big mark that could not be reproduced? New insights? In any case, after a promising start, season 2 is but a descent police thriller series. The two final episodes make up a lot though, but I hope a possible third season will keep the atmosphere throughout the series, not just in the beginning and the end.

True Detective (series, season 1) * Cary Fukunaga (2015)

A story that could have fitted in the length of a film is spread over 8 episodes; a story not untold in the film world either. Two detectives try to find a brutal serial killer with a satanic approach. Still, the series are highly regarded. Currently has it rated on 9.3! Now of course that happens more often with series that are new, but with about 160.000 voters and having heard a lot of compliments about the series, I decided to watch a series that is not yet finished. It is said that each “True Detective” seasons stands on its own, even with new main characters for every season (and a new director?). That was another reason for me to get season 1.
A story that could have been told in a third of the running time, that tells you that “True Detective” must be very slow, right? It is! Very slow. The creators took their time to make lengthy, moody shots and a story that unfolds slowly. Here we immediately have the biggest strength of the series. It is extremely moody. It has that ‘Scandinvian bleakness’ with touches of darkness.
The story is about two detectives Marty (Woody Harrelson) and Rust (Matthew McConaughey) who have completely different characters. Marty is the usual cop; a hard worker with a lot of experience. Rust is the younger of the two, but he is a too well-read misanthropist who does have a way of finding out what he wants. The story is told in different ways, in interviews with Marty and Rust and in flashbacks. What is well done is that the two sources of the story do not always overlap, but the viewer seems to be able to make the picture as it should be. The story is told in such a slow pace, that is was not really necessary to build in surprises, yet still there is a slighly dull ‘whodunnit’ suggestion towards the end.

So indeed, “True Detective” is a great series! The sympathy-raise for both main characters works most of the time. The atmosphere and camera work is superb, the music fitting. The story is not really original, but at least the creators did not use the usual brutal violence of the usual serial killer story. Their suggestion works a lot better than that!
Do not read too much about “True Detective”. Just get it and watch it. It is only 8 episodes.