Review: HBO's 'True Detective'

HBO has put together an all-star cast for what it hopes is its next big hit original drama series, True Detective.

The series centers on a 1995 ritual murder investigated by Louisiana State Police detectives and partners Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson). When the homicide case is reopened 17 years later, the two detectives — no longer partners in the present day — are asked to revisit the details of the grisly crime, in which a woman is found bound and naked with ritual items found around her body and attached to it.

Details unfold as flashbacks, driven by separate current-day interrogations of Cohle and Hart by investigators played by Michael Potts and Tory Kittles. It soon becomes clear there’s no love lost between the old colleagues. The aloof, cerebral and detail-oriented Cohle — nicknamed “tax man” by his antagonistic fellow detectives for his penchant for taking notes in a large ledger — and the more volatile Hart, who has a wife (Michelle Monaghan) and two young kids plus a mistress on the side, often bump heads in their approach to investigating the case. They do, however, develop a mutual respect for their respective skills.

The first few episodes of True Detective look to establish the personalities and characters of the two lead detectives, with the case itself serving almost as a backdrop to the quickly deteriorating relationship between Cohle and Hart. It often devolves into a psychological study of how the two detectives eventually end up in the vastly diverse situations that they find themselves in the present day, tending to slow down the pace.

Great performances from both McConaughey and Harrelson drive the first few episodes of True Detective, but the series will have to add more action and plot reveals quickly if the series is to keep viewers tuning in to the end.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.