True Detective Retrospective

True Detective Spoilers ahead.

As the reruns of True Detective season one circulate for anyone who didn’t catch it the first time and might be interested in season two, it is time to ask the important questions, over eight hours of television, was it worth it?

While the first six episodes spent a lot of time establishing characters and developing the Rust/Marty relationship, with a couple of action and sex scenes thrown in, the last two episodes moved quickly without a great deal of tension. Even kidnapping the Sheriff was a little dull, possibly because both Marty and Rust had very little to live for and yet the whole premise was correcting paying their debt. The murder of Ledoux who might have led them to the conspiracy and the yellow king.

So this yellow king, this monster, he certainly was creepy, but was he any more than a seriously messed up guy living a life of isolated and careful debauchery? When you get to the end and journey through the wicker world of an old fort it is creepy and a good idea not to look around. Decades worth of abuse and murder had been piled up in one place ruled over by a brutal and insane individual. The conspiracy plot and the significance of the yellow king seemed to slip away. Rust briefly mentions the men he didn’t get only to be corrected by Marty who tells him they got their man.

Clearly the role of children cannot be undervalued. The loss of Rust’s daughter is a defining moment for his character while Marty’s continued dependence on his family and his inability to maintain the necessary boundaries in order to keep his family led him to destruction. Child abuse and murder then plays a shadowy role in defining and justifying the action of Rust and Marty, but how important was the detective element?

Marty talks about searching databases. Rust spends hours looking through files and visiting rundown buildings. But if detective work led them to the decaying house, it was pretty boring in the last couple of episodes.

The series was exceptionally watchable and well structured. How about a name change? True Obsessions?

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10 thoughts on “True Detective Retrospective

  1. I think these are very salient points! You’re capturing a bit of what I felt and thought when the season ended, albeit you’re putting it into more concise and clear terms than the muddled impressions I had.

    I quite enjoyed the show, too, but it was perhaps a bit too ponderous with too little pay-off at the end to be a true hit with me. I’m reminded of what I just read you write in another post, about the difference between a good, entertaining read, and a dense, challenging book that stays with you. “True Detective” seemed for the first half of the series like it (in TV terms) was trying more for the latter than the former, but then when it ended I wasn’t sure anymore.

    Whereas the other ‘true crime’ miniseries-format newcomer last year, “Fargo”, was a breeze to watch through, one I was sure would be in the former category of great fun but easily forgotten, but then when it ended and I looked back, doggone it, I think it managed to be in both categories after all. I wish “True Detective” had been as successful at straddling that gap.

    Even so, I’m intrigued to see what they both do with the new cast and storyline this year, though.

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    1. Thanks, I am definitely looking forward to the new series, in part because I am curious about the new characters, the new format. Is it going to be a similar crime? Is it going to attempt to recreate the format of the original series or do something new?
      Fargo was a series I wanted to watch, but never got around to it. Now I am really sorry I didn’t. Looks like I am going to have to catch it as a boxset. What did we do before catch-up and boxsets?

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      1. I think there were more frequent reruns (and probably less stuff to bother watching reruns of) in those days. Also, depending on your ethics and Internet connection, there are heaps of streaming sites out there.

        “Fargo” was really good. I’d actually never seen the original film, but I went right out and both it in a used DVD shop the week after the first season ended. As TV is wont to do, the serialized version gets to flesh out its characters more, which makes me prefer it (blasphemy!), but they really did a great job of capturing the same atmosphere and some of the same themes. Having that movie as a guiding star is clearly the reason the show was (is, hopefully) as good as it turned out to be.

        Yup, I’m very intrigued by how they’ll continue the “True Detective” thing, too. The only other show out there to my knowledge that’s been doing a similar yearly reboot is “American Horror Story”, and since I can’t stand entertainment whose primary object is to freak me out, I had to drop that after the pilot, no matter how good television it seems to be. So I don’t really have any points of comparison for this. Even “Fargo” is setting its new season in the same world as its first, just a generation earlier.

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      2. I like the 1950s Florida Freakshow American Horror Story. It doesn’t feel as sophisticated as the others, but maybe I like it because it is different. I will have to find a Fargo boxset. I enjoyed the film immensely, so if the show is better, I’m in.
        These film to TV shows are slightly odd. The From Dusk till Dawn show was not so great. However, I am looking forward to 12 Monkeys.

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      3. I’ve never seen “12 Monkeys” either, actually. The show’s decent so far. My wife really likes it. I think it’s good, but still a bit short of greatness at the moment.

        I don’t know if I can say the Fargo show is better objectively, just that I personally enjoyed it more. But I have a TV > movies bias. That said, I think I can be fairly confident with the following statement: it’s the same as the film, but also quite different. Which I think is an impressive accomplishment.

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  2. Just realised that maybe wasn’t clear – I’ve never seen the “12 Monkeys” FILM, but I’m watching the show. 🙂

    As for “Dusk till Dawn”, seen neither film nor show there, I’m afraid. :\

    I think all the “American Horror Story” seasons sound interesting so far, with perhaps the Freak Show one being the most interesting sounding of all. But as I said, entertainment which has “scaring me” as the primary function just doesn’t actually entertain me, so alas 😦 No second chance for that one, no matter how cool its concepts.

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    1. Thanks. I think 12 monkeys as a film is worth a watch. Classic Terry Gilliam.

      I agree with you on American Horror. It is seriously chilling in places and I am not sure whether it detracts from my enjoyment.

      If you have never seen Dusk till Dawn, don’t bother. There is something to be said for the film, but little worth bothering about in the series.

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      1. Cool. The “12 Monkeys” series — I obviously don’t know how it measures up against the film, but as a show, it’s a bit conspiracy thriller and a bit time travel action à la “Terminator”. It’s doing well at merging the two genres, but I don’t feel like it’s been bringing much new to either as of yet. Though a slightly unexpected decision by one of the protagonists in the latest episode I’ve seen has given me new hope they might be taking me to a bit more unexpected turns in the future.

        Scrapping “Dusk till Dawn” from my list, then! Thanks!

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