Episode 1, "The Long Bright Dark": 2014 may be remembered as the year TV landscape changed, although some may argue that the change started in 2013 with Netflix's House of Cards or even 2011 with American Horror Story. Notwithstanding, 2014 may be the year that the mini-series, anthology-format of story-telling really comes to the fore, and it all started with HBO and Nic Pizzolatto's modern-retro gothi-noir. Written solely by Pizzolatto and directed throughout its 8-episodes first season by Cary Joji Fukunaga who gave us one of the best adaptation of Jane Eyre and introduced the world to the fabulous Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, we have a sumptuously gorgeous series, that is written with meticulous care and detail, and acted with the intensity and brilliance that is so rare. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are spell-binding. Their characters could not be more opposite, but yet both actors imbued such complexity and intensity into their roles that it is almost impossible to not want to get to know these two fellows more. Kudos to Pizzolatto and Fukunaga for giving us a first episode that not only relied on exposition to set the ground, but also gave us a hook to bite into. And this hook is two-pronged. Not only do I want to find out more about the Hannibal-ish crime(s), but I want to even find out more about these two men. Their past, their present, their future. What happened to them to change them? Especially McConaughey who was rather annoying with the psycho-babble (an effective tool by Pizzolatto to alienate his character even subconsciously in the audience) but then became this rough talking town drunken philosopher. We have 1995, set in a gorgeous late-autumn kind of palette. and we have 2010 which initially was as stark but slowly faded into a more summer-ish, high-noon kind of colour tone. The beauty of having a self-contained anthology format is that we can lose of the filler stuffs and the time in between can be spent on slow, deliberate moments, enhancing the details and adding layers. T Bone Burnett is the show's composer and his scoring was spot on. Adding tension and suspense, but without the melodramatics. "True Detective" gives us a series that is written by only one writer and directed throughout by only one director, ensuring narrative and visual cohesiveness throughout the season. Factoring in the two lead actors who are clearly in a class of their own here: the intense McConaughey and the solid Harrelson, you get an arrestingly gorgeous, smartly written, retro-modern gothic-noir appointment TV.
Episode 2, "Seeing Things": The crime continues to unwind slowly as Fukunaga and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw fill the screen with luscious wide-angled landscapes. The music by T Bone Burnett continues to give an atmospheric twinge to the series. On the relationship front, we begin to see the start of the conflicts that may have torn the two men apart, although the words that come out of McConaughey's mouth is starting to sound a bit overly pretentious (time to tune it down Pizzolatto), it's lucky McConaughey is able to drawl them words out believably. The acting is still ace, and this episode, Michelle Monaghan also starts to stand out. However, on the 2012-front, not much updates there, although McConaughey's backstory got some fleshing out. This would have made a good binge watch.
Episode 3, "The Locked Room": The words coming out of McConaughey's mouth, especially the future him one, is getting more and more pretentious and annoying. At this stage, Harrelson's character actually seems more complex and complicated despite (or because of) all his flaws, and this episode, Harrelson really nailed his scenes. The murder case continues on and that is actually developing rather nicely. At least Pizzolatto and Fukunaga got us hooked to tune in again for the next episode to see what happened.
Episode 4, "Who Goes There": A good episode that is just filler. Kind of oxymoronic. We get a bit more character development and backstory (and backstory of the backstory), and thankfully very minimal pretentious lines from Pizzolatto. The last 10 minutes or so had really good directing from Fukunaga, and after these couple of weeks/months or riding the McConnassaince, I am ready to say that, yes he has improved a lot but he's really not that great with only a couple of repertoires that he uses again and again, at least in here.
Episode 5, "The Secret Fate Of All Life": Like most shows, the half-way mark is when things get flipped around and it is no difference here. For one, the format gets shaken up a bit. We leave 1995 behind and looks like the story is going to focus on to 2002 and 2012. Still 2002 seems more interesting because 2012, McConaughey is just so annoying with all his pseudo-psycho/science philosophy. Pizzolatto needs to be reined in. At least we are getting somewhere with the 2012 detectives, and what they are up to. Fukunaga really knows how to amp up the atmosphere.