Review of True Detective (2014)

Moving picture, 22 hours

Seen in 2020.

Review refers to seasons 1 through 3.

“Being police, there’s no certainty.”

In season 1, the choice to go with the Todorovian uncanny disappointed me. Instead of confirming a Lovecraftian premise, the last scene merely undermines Cohle’s nihilism with a comforting vision reminiscent of a pop-Abrahamic afterlife. That nihilism wasn’t presented very well to begin with, being little more than Ligotti’s incoherent absurdities packaged in a badly acted Southern drawl. This is not Delta Green, just a slick resection of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) with a domestic drama and a cop show.

Season 2 drops the pretense of supernatural horror, replacing it with endless HDR helicopter shots of California cityscapes. Less ambitious and inventive, it’s solid modern urban noir. As with the first season, the ending is just a little too clean.

Season 3 continues to add variety to the formula, being neither slick nor urban, instead putting strong emphasis on systemic inequality. The three-and-then-some interwoven time frames don’t really serve any purpose, but they’re done well enough. Again, though there is a ritualistic and religious aspect to a murder, there is no pretense of supernatural horror and no Chambers, but there is a tenuous connection back to season 1. Stating the obvious, Nic Pizzolatto commented on that connection in an Esquire interview: “it could have been that, but we’re not interested in that.”

moving picture fiction series