Sunday, November 1, 2015

True Detective

Review : True Detective (Season 1)
Aired on : HBO (2014)
My rating : 8 out of 10

For over a decade now, Cable (AMC, HBO, Showtime etc) is where good serials have been happening.  I haven’t watched the second season yet, but the first season of  “True Detective” is another feather in HBO’s cap. I say that, in spite of this series not tackling any new subject.

The Movie and TV industry has had a long and strong fixation with serial killers. Way too many movies, and TV serial episodes have been produced about them. It’s not easy for a yet-another-serial-killer story to differentiate itself. We have been shocked in so many different ways that it’s getting more and more difficult to produce such stories that command investment of our time. The unbelievably over the top “Dexter” was one approach to be different. For me, it was too gory to watch, and I gave up after the first season. Thankfully, “True Detective : Season 1” has taken a very different, and much classier approach.

It succeeds in deserving our time, by not overemphasizing the thriller dimension, and getting the two lead characters in much sharper focus. The nice thing is, it excels in both the aspects.

The story is told to us via flashbacks, which come during the interviews of three people - two ex-cops, Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Marty’s ex-wife. Rust and Marty were partners once. Many years ago, they solved the mystery of a series of murders committed as part of some devil worshiping rituals. It was a significant achievement, but their partnership had broke after that. Soon afterwards, Marty separated from his wife. Then Rust left the force, and so did Marty after some time. Now the police want to talk to all of them, to get help on a similar case. But they don’t seem very friendly, and are cross checking stories told by each.

This sets up multiple suspenses. How was the mystery solved? Who was the culprit referred as the “Yellow King”? Was it really solved? What really happened during the investigation? Why did all the relationships broke? Why did they leave the force after such a great success? And so on.

As the episodes progress, you will realize that this is not just another murder mystery, but it’s also a buddy story. Now it’s very common for the buddy stories to feature diagonally opposite personalities, and it’s true to some extent here as well. Marty is religious, while Rust has a very cold logical way of looking at things. But the commonality between them is the drive for justice. That drive binds them together, and makes them overcome the differences. That drive also helps them partially redeem themselves, because both of them are flawed individuals.

This intermingling of personal drama with a very serious crime mystery is done masterfully. Nothing is trivialized, and there are no guilty pleasures here. It’s serious, disturbing and still makes us root for the flawed characters.

As you can expect from this synopsis, the two lead characters together get almost all the screen time. Such an arrangement wouldn’t be successful without exceptional performances by the two actors. Matthew McConaughey has a perhaps the more memorable part as the comparatively flamboyant role of Rust. I was also very impressed by Woody Harrelson, playing a more complex role of a cheating husband who also deeply loves his family.

The characters and the drama is a huge plus. The mystery aspect, is almost as good. Almost. I thought it ended a bit hurriedly. The series is not short, but the way the mystery gets resolved was too quick.

I very highly recommend this season. Every episode wants to make you watch more, so many might find themselves, binge watching this one. According to the format, every season will have a different story, and different characters. So I presume, seasons can be watched in any order. This is correctly rated TV-MA and is not for kids.

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