True Detective DVD Review
DVD Review- True Detective: The Complete First Season
Distributor: HBO Home Entertainment
Street Date: June 10th 2014
Technical Specifications: 480P, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround
Runtime: 458 Minutes
I’ve been watching HBO’s excellent programming since I was a teenager, back in the good old days of Tales from the Crypt and Dream On. In High School, the network introduced me to The Sopranos, The Wire, and Six Feet Under, all of which I still consider among my favorite television programs of all time. In college, it was all about Deadwood, and even though it was incredibly short lived, it’s a series that I’ve revisited multiple times on home video. And right now, we have several great shows airing on the pay network, including Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire. Unlike the aforementioned shows, I wasn’t immediately drawn into the trailers and television promos building up to the premiere of True Detective. In fact, my wife and I casually sat down on the living room couch a few months back, unaware that the premiere was about to begin as we turned on the television, and decided to give it a chance. From the opening moments, we were hooked.
True Detective follows the seventeen-year long investigation into a gruesome murder from the perspectives of Detectives Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey). In the beginning, it’s 1995, and the mismatched partners from Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division (C.I.D.) are assigned to solve the ritualistic murder of Dora Lange, a young woman whose killer has left her naked and bound to the roots of a tree, deer antlers affixed to her skull, with strange homemade artifacts left behind. Marty is the faithful believer, married with children, but with problems he doesn’t want to confront. Rust is the existential atheist with nowhere to call home, obsessed with the murders and motives behind the crimes he is tasked to solve. True Detective features a non-linear narrative, frequently jumping back and forth between the present (2012) where Marty and Rust are interviewed separately about the Dora Lange investigation, and the past where the investigation leads them down increasingly dark and sinister paths.
The worst thing that a reviewer can do is spoil a show that has so many surprises to offer, so I’ll leave my synopsis at that. True Detective features career-best performances from both Harrelson and McConaughey, who utilize their distinct abilities (and the incredible screenplay) to believably bring their characters to life. These are hardened men, who have seen things that many people will fortunately never have to experience. They’re also flawed human beings, who each have something they can learn from one another.
It’s commendable and impressive how much style and suspense True Detective offers up in only eight hour-long episodes. The cast is superb, the music is unnerving and beautifully composed to each sequence, and the story itself is consistently captivating. Rarely in a television series do we get a finale that is so utterly perfect as well, completely tying up any loose ends and character arcs. I am thrilled that HBO has decided to continue this series, with each new season featuring a new case and detectives to follow. Though the 8-episode first season could have stood all on it’s own as a memorable miniseries, I look forward to seeing what’s in store for future seasons. True Detective receives my absolute highest recommendation.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get my hands on a Blu-Ray edition to review, but this DVD set looks surprisingly good for an “inferior” format. True Detective is a show that features a very stark and gritty visual appearance, and the solid black levels and subdued color scheme look fantastic here on DVD. Definition isn’t quite as clear and precise as it would be on Blu-Ray, but overall this is a fine looking release. Judging from screenshots I’ve seen for the High Definition edition, that is obviously the preferred format to own.
Again, the DVD edition lacks the DTS-HD Master Audio track of the Blu-Ray, so while this does sound plenty powerful and dynamic for a DVD release, it will always sound better in High Definition. Dialogue does come through very clear, and background music and action is well balanced.
HBO Home Entertainment has provided fans of True Detective with a somewhat generic, but enjoyable set of special features to accompany the show. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Making True Detective– Running over fifteen minutes, this is a decent, if somewhat standard, making-of featurette from HBO. Like most “making-of” segments from the network, this reveals a bit too much about the show, it’s central mystery, and it’s character arcs, so if you’ve never seen the show, avoid this until you experience it in it’s entirety. With that being said, this is a nice overview of the series and you get to hear from the central cast and crew including Nic Pizzolatto, Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, and many more.
- Inside the Episode- This portion of the special features offers two separate featurettes on specific episodes including After You’ve Gone and Form and Void. You can choose to watch them separately or “play all.” Both segments run 4-5 minutes each, and offer a short inside look at the meaning behind the episodes, especially some of the more existential questions viewers may have about the characters and the mystery at hand.
- Deleted Scenes- I’m not even sure you could call these deleted scenes to be frank. Running nearly four minutes long, this is a series of scenery shots of various locations from the series: a burning field, Louisiana swamplands, roadways, graveyards, all set against some unnerving music. There is not a single set of dialogue throughout the entire sequence. It’s almost as if random pieces of cinematography from the entire series (those in-between moments of Marty & Rust driving through the country) were assembled together here in one long sequence.
- Up Close with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson- Though short, this is probably my favorite special feature on this release, with introspective interviews with both stars on four different scenes from the series including: the dinner scene, the fight scene, the bar scene, and fatigue. It’s a heck of a lot of fun to hear Harrelson and McConaughey discuss their characters’ reasoning and choices in the select scenes. The two stars discussing their fight scene from the series is especially fun and hilarious, and it’s obvious they enjoyed working together. You can choose to watch these separately or simply “play all.” The entirety lasts about eight minutes.
- A Conversation with Nic Pizzolatto and T-Bone Burnett- Running slightly over fourteen minutes, this is a video discussion between Musician T-Bone Burnett and Series Producer and writer Nic Pizzolatto. If you enjoyed the fantastic and moody music from the show, you’ll really get a kick out of hearing from Mr. Burnett. He obviously studied not only the script itself but also the music and social scene in Louisiana. Great stuff!
- Audio Commentary (2)- Nic Pizzolatto, T Bone Burnett, and Scott Stephens provide commentary on two select episodes.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this DVD release from HBO Home Entertainment features some fantastic artwork that mimics the poster campaign during broadcast, and captures so much style in subtle fashion. This is a hard shell slipcase, with the special features and series synopsis on the reverse of the packaging. Inside you’ll find a fold-out digipack with individual episode listings, some nice background art, and three DVD discs.
True Detective is a stylish thriller series featuring career-best performances from Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. The writing is superb and believable, the cinematography gritty and gorgeous, and the brilliant musical score just adds to the effect. I love the journey that both detectives take throughout their investigation and the aftermath, and this features one of the best final episodes of any show in recent memory. I’m excited to see what the creators have in store for subsequent seasons, which will each feature different actors and storylines. The DVD edition features solid picture and audio quality, but the Blu-Ray edition is the one to pick up for video and audiophiles alike. The special features left me wanting more, especially for a show with so much to offer. With that being said, this is simply one of the better television shows of the past decade, and is a must own on either format. True Detective comes Highly Recommended.