HBO TV series review: 'True Detective'

July 31, 2020
True Detective

‘TRUE Detective’ is an HBO crime-drama mini-series that has had three seasons. Each individual season features different stories, all of them very dark in nature, and its own ensemble cast. Season 1 starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as police detectives in Louisiana who pursue a perverted serial killer in the course of 17 years. The style of the storytelling is a very slow burn, but it will reel you in as it gives a fascinating tweak to the familiar crime drama genre.

It starts in 1995 when they investigate the mysterious death of a prostitute. The killer remains at large and in 2012, another woman is murdered and the death scene is similar to that of the 1995 victim. It’s all very complex, but Matthew and Woody are both outstanding in their respective roles, as two men who eventually realized that the universal battle between good and evil will forever go on. 

Season 2 is set in the fictional city of Vinci in California and stars Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch as three law enforcers from different police agencies whose path converge while investigating the bizarre death of a businessman connected with a crime lord played by Vince Vaughn. This is a very well acted series and the four main stars did a superb job in delineating their respective complex characters, who are all very flawed individuals with their own deep dark secrets.

Colin killed a man who raped his wife, but it turns out he’s not really the rapist. His wife gets pregnant and he’s not even sure if he’s the dad but he takes real good care of the boy. Rachel admits she has affairs with other cops and confesses she prefers big dicks, not the length but, says the thickness or the girth. Taylor is a soldier turned cop who has a girlfriend, but he’s actually a closet gay who had an affair with another soldier. Vince wants to drop his criminal activities but is duped by his associate who ran away with his $5 million. The way the series is resolved is not that satisfying and we wish it were better written.

The third season is set in the Ozarks at Arkansas and the story is told in a span of 35 years. This is the best for us. It starts in 1980 and ends in 2015 and the most outstanding thing here is the performance of Mahershala Ali in the lead role. Ali has won two Oscar best supporting actor awards, for “Moonlight” in 2016 (not that impressive) and for “Green Book” in 2018 (truly very deserving as the black pianist who becomes good friends with his white bodyguard.) But he is best here in “True Detective, Season 3.”

The story starts in 1980 when a 12-year old boy and his 10-year old sister tell their dad that they’ll just go to the park but they don’t return home. Ali as Wayne Hays, a Vietnam veteran, is called in to investigate with his partner, Stephen Dorff as Roland West. The boy is later found dead in a cave but the sister is never seen again. The case is pinned on a native American who is just framed upon by higher authorities to give the case a closure.

In 1990, the case is reopened when the finger prints of the abducted girl are found, indicating she’s still alive. Again, the investigation is botched and the crime is pinned on the girl’s dad. Then in 2015, a TV show revisits the crime. By this time, Ali is already in his 70s and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but he is determined to solve the crime and he and his old partner, Dorff, finally discovers what really happened to the children. 

It’s a very convoluted story and the narrative is not told chronologically but jumps back and forth in the three time frames. Whether you’d buy the resolution of the case or not, there is no denying that Ali gives a very compelling performance as Wayne Hays. The aging make up applied to him is perfect and his acting from a much younger man to someone who has dementia is just magnificent. 

This is also actually his character’s own story as it also shows his romance with a teacher (Carmen Egojo) who writes a book about the case that becomes a best seller. Egojo also gives an awesome performance as the wife who eventually realizes that the man she married is someone difficult to live with. Dorff also gives sterling support as the partner who is also shown getting old like Ali. We were teary eyed in its final scenes but we won’t say too much as it will be a give away. Suffice it to say that how the series is given a poignant conclusion at a time when Ali’s memory is fading away is something that will just melt your heart.