What was it about the dark police procedural True Detective that got all of us so hooked? Well, there were the basic requirements that were fulfilled: A-list actors at the top of their game, an expertly-written script about depraved child murderers, and an abundance of side stories and subplots to keep the viewer fully engaged. Those elements alone are enough to make any gritty cop drama work, but there were a few other ingredients in the mix that took the HBO series to the next level. 

“Each episode was crafted to stand alone as its own mini-movie …”

There was one particular aspect of True Detective that kept the series smoldering along from one week to the next. It was the perfect pacing and mood-setting of each single episode. Even though there was an ever-present sense of impending evil, each episode was crafted to stand alone as its own mini-movie. Every episode invited the viewer to get lost in the myriad facets of the script; whether it was Marty’s (Woody Harrelson) infidelity and parenting issues or Rust’s (Matthew McConaughay) disturbing and twisted existential philosophies. The subject matter was bleak and very dark, but there were approachable elements of humanity that came through in each episode: our common struggles, our vices, our religious doubts, and it was all delivered under the guise of a neo-noir detective series.  

Perhaps that’s why the final episode proved to be a letdown for so many. We finally came across an episode that focused solely on the scary boogie-man and no matter how evil and menacing the Yellow King ended up being, we still expected more. But that was always bound to happen; the methodical build-up had been so intricate and precise that the climax was always going to come up short. It’s okay though – we can all openly admit that True Detective Season 1 was a marvelous accomplishment of modern television. Even if the finale was a little soft, in the grand picture, the show still kicked ass.

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