TRUE DETECTIVE – Series Premiere Review

By Jef Dinsmore on Jan 13, 2014 to True Detective


Finally! We have been itching for this series to launch for a while now. HBO is excited about what numbers it will draw and shows its enthusiasm by the large marketing engine it has applied to support this show. It has created a stand-alone promotional website called; did a promo gimmick  by mailing ‘devil nets’ and has generated over twenty-five, yes 25 video bits including 5 trailers, and numerous teases, clips, intros, behind-the-scenes and making-of segments. I, for one, stopped watching them. Just show me the damn show for fuck’s sake!

 Well, the show, TRUE DETTruedetective_teamECTIVE is finally here. HBOWatch will be commenting on each episode as they come along so check back with us on our thoughts. Contained here are thoughts about the show in general and the premiere episode. It is not so much a recap but a review and commentary.

 This look starts with a few reminders. TRUE DETECTIVE is designed as an anthology series, like American Horror Story, meaning this debut season is to contain this one story, this one crime. The story is contained in only eight (8) one-hour episodes. We are not even sure we will see these characters by Harrelson and McConaughey after this so enjoy the performances. And, I think, we are supposed to do that. Come on, the story is not all about the crime, no matter how dark and deadly it is. The story is about the detectives. – the true detectives – the kind of people it takes to delve into the underbelly of society to figure out the cruelest of crimes. This story is about what is at the depths of Rustin Cohle and Martin Hart.        


 Episode # 1 – The Long Bright Dark: Two former Louisiana State CID partners, Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson), give separate statements to a pair of investigators about the murder of a prostitute, Dora Lange, 17 years earlier. As they look back, details of the crime, replete with occult overtones, are accompanied by insights into the detective’s volatile partnership and personal lives. (Written by Nic Pizzolatto; directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga)

The crime in question this season is ritualistic, stylized, but not creepy. Rustin Cohle is creepier. In fact, the only negative point I could point out here about TRUE DETECTIVE is the Cohle character. I love Mr. McC’s portrayal and the character is interesting, but he seems almost an unrealistic character. A person may have one or two traits as displayed by the character, but to have one person embodying all the anti-social traits out there seems a bit far. The exciting element that adds spark to this piece is this character. He will be fun to explore. Maybe, Cohle seems so unreal because the character of Hart is the opposite; he is grounded, he is more acceptable as a person we all may recognize. It just makes Cohle stand out as the odd freak all the more.

The actors certainTrueDetective_Cohle2012ly have the chemistry to make it all work. The scenes in the car are great moments. Mr. Pizzolatto has written great thoughts and themes in those scenes. That is an important issue to point out here as well. If Episode One is any indication any real action scenes will be sparse; the style of the show is more expository as we explore the meaning and ramifications behind the ritualistic crimes; the procedure of solving them and the philosophy and insights of our detectives. That will take some dialogue scenes in cars and squad rooms. If you are not listening to what is said with intent the show might just bore you. Take it in and mull over their words and some rich, powerful truths about mankind will arise. trueDetective_hart1995

 Again, I am not going to give a scene by scene description here, but I will single out some moments. The car ride, as stated, is worthy of another look; the interview with Cohle in 2012, as it plays out in this episode and others, is very important information and, of course, the end. Cohle has information that he is not so forward in giving; he is aloof and toying with the 2012 investigators. Thus, that is the reason for the smokes and the beer and the last comments about “if they want answers than they need to be asking the right fucking questions.” The end should have not been a surprise for anyone who has read or seen anything about this show in advance – the same type of murder surfaces again in 2012; the catch is, as we should see unfold, is that the killer was taken in years earlier.

 We got a myTrueDetective_creepyCopstery on our hands fans and it is going to be quite a treat to explore it all. One clue I offer you and it is a complete guess on my part for I have not seen anything in advance, but did you notice how the camera treated the older uniformed officer, pictured at left. He was in the scene where he barreled in the office after Hart was just handed the duty of the press release and he appeared again in the scene with the reverend. There is something creepy and suspicious about that guy if you ask me.  

 In the end it is a show not to be missed. Yes, it is thickened up with moody, dark tones to try to make it stand out from everyday crime procedurals, but I’m still hooked, are you? I’ll wrap up with a couple of clips. Since I didn’t recap here I offer the Episode # 1 Recap followed by the Episode # 2 Preview.


Check back with us next week as HBOWatch writer Melly reviews Episode # 2: Seeing Things.

  • Absolutely loved the premiere, consider me hooked. Everything about this show screams ingenuity; a tight, streamlined, unified vision, a strong story to tell, a great character study, and some incredible performances!

  • Nahojism

    First episode was good, it looks really promising.

  • Absolutely loved the episode. I agreed with you on almost every point, especially the part that Rustin is MUCH creepier than the actual murder but I think that’s the thing that’s going to get people hooked on the show. We don’t really get to see this side of Matthew McConaughey’s talent so I’m excited to see where it goes.

  • M Coffey

    I agree that the older gentleman has a story. Did anyone else think that when the young lady came in with court files for Martin (Woody) that they went into the office with door to possibly have a fling?

    Lastly, I think when they look ahead several years in the interview with Rustin (Matthew) that the reason that they are no longer friends is because maybe he had something go on with Martin’s wife. I’m foreshadowing at a stretch but that is what I predict happens.

  • I think this series shows a lot of promise. It was a bit slower and a little less creepy than I’d hoped – so far – but I think it’s going to build into something chilling. The acting is superb and I’m looking forward to seeing where this is all going!

  • Jim Watari

    I think the older guy is one of the head guys in law enforcement , its not uncommon for a Sheriff or police chief to be in full uniform and I think Martin sort of saluted him in one of the scenes

  • Nice write-up Jef thanks.
    I agree that old dude is up to something or means something. I bet on subsequent viewings you’ll look at that scene and be like DAMN!.. It’s HIM!

    I told my wife that I don’t think the answer is just “some crazy dude who kills people”. I think there’s going to be something “deeper and darker” than that. Multiple people and parties at play.

    We’ll see!

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