TRUE DETECTIVE Season 3
Your Quarter’s Worth Rant & Review
By John Andreula
Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
Television shows are not usually the right medium for me to comment on. I have a habit of being ridiculously late to any popular television viewing party. This is why I don’t write reviews on TV series or their many individual seasons. Generally, they would not be timely.
I’ve decided to make an exception for TRUE DETECTIVE season 3. I felt compelled to write one. I found this season of the show amazing. It was a superb, artistic example of what is possible in modern visual story-telling.
Normally I don’t catch a TV series as it is releasing to the American viewing masses. My typical system of discovering and consuming television content is oftentimes years or decades behind the rest of the viewing public.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS went off the air in 2011. I began watching the series in 2016 or 2017. It was spectacular, and I have no regrets about catching on late.
Similarly, THE WIRE, a crime drama about drugs and violence in inner-city Baltimore, ceased airing episodes in 2008. It has been considered one of the best TV series of all time. It had deep and driven writing, as well as compelling acting. It launched the acting careers of more than a couple of today’s biggest stars; see: Idris Elba & Michael B. Jordan.
I finished watching THE WIRE in 2016.
Breaking Bad, FREAKS AND GEEKS, Arrested Development; the list is endless. There have been countless shows I have been extremely unfashionably late to watch.
It’s almost time for me to commence watching The Sopranos and Doctor Who. Once THE WALKING DEAD and GAME OF THRONES end their respective runs this year my countdown to “way too late” will begin. When that undetermined amount of time lapses I can buckle in for a serious binge run.
Much of the reason I don’t watch television shows as they air are the commercials.
I hate commercials with an indiscriminate passion. They are a constant reminder that the advertisers are the true cable and satellite companies’ customers. In fact, my viewership is the product they are selling.
Adverts are loud, obnoxious, and repetitive. The ten plus minutes of commercials per half hour of viewing time left me wondering if there is any value in the monthly connection fee for a television service provider.
I have long since cancelled paying for COMCAST, Dish Network, and DirecTV, or whatever mega-company they have all merged into at this point.
Even YouTube and Facebook video are shoehorning ads into the middle of their video content. This is inevitably reducing the frequency of my visits to their sites to nearly none.
Time is the other issue I have with staying up to date on recently released television shows.
I do make some time for watching shows with my family. And, on rare occasions, I even watch a show myself. However, I am limited to how much I can take away from activities much higher up my priority list; like writing for 5280geek.com.
Occasionally I finally get around to plopping down on my couch with some POPCORNERS, or some other obscure and justifiably healthy-ish snack. When I do, I do so strategically.
Binge-watching becomes the solution to my obstacles preventing me from consuming television shows. Yet, binge-watching and staying current on shows at the same time is still nearly impossible.
Most shows take a week between each episode’s initial airing. That means I am forced to wait seven days or more to see what happened on my other favorite shows, like Ballers or WESTWORLD.
The suspense is painful. I want quicker resolution to all the inevitable episode concluding cliff-hangers. Luckily, on-demand services such as NETFLIX and Amazon Prime Video have corrected this.
Both have few ads, and when they release their newest content they do so a season at a time. That means I can watch entire story-arcs in one to three sittings. Hallelujah!
It makes for convenient and comfortable bingeing. This is the way to do it. This is modern television watching. Gone are the days of appointment television viewing.
TRUE DETECTIVE is one of these binge-worthy shows. Similar to the other aforementioned HBO series Ballers and WESTWORLD, when the show releases on Amazon it does so one episode at a time. Like I stated earlier, this is a recipe for me viewing the show in the far distant future.
Yet, by some random act of the universe aligning perfectly, I began watching the show earlier this week. I was able to binge this third, and most recent, season of TRUE DETECTIVE on the week the season finale released.
This fortuitous method of viewing may have become a hack I will adopt as I plan to navigate the most current seasons of all my favorite shows. I’ll just wait until the week of each show’s finale to begin watching the seasons of these other shows as well.
TRUE DETECTIVE originally aired in the beginning of 2014. The show was created for HBO by Nic Pizzolatto. It’s a noir story of some very dark crimes, conspiracy, and the relativity of time.
It starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The two mega-stars displayed tremendous acting ability in the inception season. McConaughey and Harrelson did double duty as executive producers in the first season as well. They have maintained their production credits through the subsequent two seasons.
Many critics complained when it was announced that the subsequent seasons would not star the first season’s two leading actors. Instead, the second season starred Rachel McAdams, Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch, and Vince Vaughn. Despite the star-studded ensemble, many felt the second season was a letdown in comparison to the critically and fan lauded first season.
I disagree with those who said it was bad and not worth watching, but I cannot argue that it lacked something that made the first season so special and unique.
Whatever it was that was missing in the second season and made the first season so watchable and loved is back in a big way in season three.
The third season stars Mahershala Ali, Carmen Ejogo, and Stephen Dorff. (Yes, that Stephen Dorff!)
It takes place on three different timelines. They are 1980, 1990, and 2015. The story follows two detectives and a K-12 teacher-turned-author. The three, as well as all supporting characters, are interconnected by the mysterious disappearances of two siblings in rural Arkansas in 1980.
The acting by the three leads is powerful, but the portrayal of TRUE DETECTIVE season three’s protagonist Ali was extraordinary. I believe it is the secret to the success and critical acclaim this season will receive.
Ali plays an Army vet detective with borderline PTSD. He acts the part as a young and middle-aged man through the 1980 and 1990 time periods. His character comes with the demons and moral ambiguity that can be expected in any of the main characters of the TRUE DETECTIVE show.
Where Ali truly shined though was his incredible performance of the same character in 2015. Then, a seventy-something year old retiree, Ali acts out senility through layers of perfect aging make-up.
Everyone knows a family member or an acquaintance who has struggled with memory loss at an advanced age. I will never forget what it looks like. Ali plays the role perfectly. It feels as if I am actually watching someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia during these scenes. I think these moments are a huge piece of what makes season three so amazing.
One minute Ali’s character Wayne Hayes lucidly recounts the events of the past or uncovers a new insight on what he missed. The next moment, he is staring off into the void, only to return his attention to his partner or his son and greet them as if they just entered the room.
The shows creators take this element of the show to a whole other level by introducing schizophrenic hallucinations and paranoia to some of the scenes. The hallucinations are visually created using intricate lighting effects and staging costumed extras.
The character’s senile moments, as well as his vivid hallucinations, balance the first and third person realities flawlessly. Additionally, Mahershala Ali’s Detective Hayes character seemingly catching glimpses of his future or past selves during stylish scene transitions allow the three timelines blend with ease.
There are characters viewers will feel bad for in this story. There are other characters they will hate. Yet, strangely divergent from normal TV dramas, there aren’t many characters viewers can love, save for the few children cast.
All of the supporting characters add to the story though. None attempt to steal their scene or act poorly. There are no lame cameos or super-stars that risk overshadowing the story. This makes suspending reality and disbelief easy from the opening scenes all the way through the concluding moments.
For the first time in the shows run there is even a brief mention of the events of the first season. This finally ties this dark and unique universe together. Hopefully, it is a subtle foreshadowing of an entire story-arc to come that may even bring back the beloved characters portrayed in the show’s earlier iterations.
The events and mysteries of TRUE DETECTIVE Season 3 brought the original TWIN PEAKS series to my mind. TRUE DETECTIVE has a near—but not quite there—supernatural nature to its style of story-telling. I remember feeling similarly when watching the other two seasons as well.
Due to the quality of the show, and the proximity of the finale’s release, I will not give away any more of the story. However, you can bet the conspiracy aspects of the two earlier seasons are present in the show.
As per the TRUE DETECTIVE standard, the cinematography is dark and deliberate. My favorite shot of the season is the moon’s reflection shining in a puddle within a pothole.
Arkansas is the perfect setting for this unsettling tale. It is the perfect middle-of-nowhere backdrop that becomes as much a part of the story as any of the characters within it. The woods, the run down houses and trailers, and the old buildings blend perfectly to create a believable world for the drama to unfold in.
The soundtrack is haunting. The show is not quite a thriller, but the spooky sounds and music give off that eerie feeling that someone might jump out and startle an actor, and subsequently the viewer, all throughout the show.
Similar to the tales in the earlier two seasons, this story stands on its own. It can definitely be watched without seeing seasons one or two, but I do recommend watching them as well. TRUE DETECTIVE is one of the best shows available on TV today.
I recommend everyone go and watch TRUE DETECTIVE. But be warned it is definitively not a feel good story. It’s just a really good story!