True Detective (Blu-ray Review)

This is going to be a hard one to write about because HBO broke some serious ground when they aired these eight episodes of I guess what can be best described as an anthology series.   If you have a better way to describe it, then by all means please chime in below in the comments section.  True Detective, for lack of a better explanation, is a slow building dual-character study from the moment you turn it on until the final seconds as we follow the trials and tribulations of two detectives assigned to a grisly and cultish murder case in the Louisiana bayou country, which takes place over a lengthy period of time.  You know how they say everyone gets their day in court eventually?  Well, I guess you can say this one’s all about redemption and getting past those seemingly unmovable barriers no matter how much time passes.  However, that’s just a very high level look at the critically acclaimed show.  What you’ll find under the surface, should you decide to scratch that, is so much more complex and intricately woven that it yields such a great case in being called some of television’s finest hours.  And now that the Blu-ray is finally out, what better time to take a closer look at this “case” and everything else this HBO Blu-ray set has to offer.


I came in late to the game here.  I unfortunately did not have HBO while these eight episodes were originally airing so I basically sat on the sidelines trying my best not to spoil it for myself as everyone posted one praising comment after another on Facebook.   It’s a discouraging way to live life, but I survive on a tight budget in hopes that one day I’ll actually be able to retire if I live that long.  So my decision to pick up HBO some months ago was warranted and justified by the fact that I could watch the crowd pleasing Game of Thrones as each fourth season episode aired.  The fact that I could finally watch True Detective as well was only icing on the cake.  And watch it I did.  I felt like an obese person binge eating and swallowing a large pizza whole as that’s exactly what we did with True Detective.  I was at home on a Saturday, sick and on call for work, with nowhere to go.   Do I need to give you anymore reasons as to why I ingested the entire eight episodes in one day?  Okay.  I’ll give you one more.  With the exception of a few nitpicks I have, which we will get to more in a moment, it was some of the finest hours of television I ever watched (starting to sound like a broken record).  It wasn’t heart-pounding and jaw-dropping like binge watching a season of 24 for the first time, but instead it was a slow burning and tension filled addiction (because of the brilliantly crafted writing and spotless performances) that kept making me mindlessly hit next on my remote to watch the subsequent episodes one after another.  Yes.  It’s true.  I became an addict and hopefully the same thing will happen to you if you’ve never seen this show before.

First things first, we got some housekeeping and background to talk about in regards to this title before getting down to the nitty gritty of what really goes down here.  And that’s what this paragraph is all about.  So this crime drama series was written by Nic Pizzolatto and all eight episodes were directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.  It stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, both of whom also serve as executive producers of the series, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts and Tory Kittles.   Of course there’s also a slew of recurring cast members, but for brevity’s sake let’s stick to the major players in this review.  I should also point out that these eight episodes originally aired between January and March this year.  And remember me talking about the fact that this series transpires over multiple timelines?   Well, I think we got enough of the boring history part out of the way and it’s time to start chewing on the plot.  What say you?   You down with that?

Our story begins circa 2012 when Louisiana State Police Detectives Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Harrelson) are brought in to answer a bunch of grizzly questions in regards to a brutal homicide case the former partners worked together in 1995.  The only caveat to this is the fact that they’re questioned separately.  I think you can put two and two together to know how that’s all going to go down.  Episode after episode the two ex-detectives recount their side of the story regarding the investigation.  If you know anything about basic psychology, then you would know this would realistically reopen unhealed wounds in them both.  Essentially, this is all done to draw into question their supposed solving of a bizarre murder in 1995.  Was it really solved?  How is there now another victim with similar evidence to the original case in 1995 that was never shared with or released to the public?  Eventually the timelines slowly intertwine (this is that slow burning aspect I was going on and on about before) and finally converge into our 2012 starting point as each man is pulled back into a world they believed they’d left behind and more importantly, what exactly happens when they are put back together again.  Are the old wounds still there?   From the interview recounts these guys gave they sure sound like they would be.  LOL.  One thing becomes clearly evident to the two, the darkness in life lives on both sides of the law.   If you learn nothing more from a good police drama, you should always at least take that away from it, no?

So I’m truly hoping that just with my quick one paragraph synopsis above you can clearly see why I say that True Detective is a complex, slow building dual-character study of two tortured souls.  I just love the contrasting dynamics between the two lead characters and basically how they seemingly always clash.  No matter how good of intentions they have in life and in regards to upholding the law in their jobs, their flaws are clearly on display for all too see and scrutinize if you will.  Just like you and me, these characters are fleshed out thoroughly and as real as can possibly be.   I used the word character study over and over in this review for a reason.  If you’re a writer and you want to learn solid character development I don’t believe there’s a greater teaching resource available than True Detective.

Besides the incredibly intriguing story, the one other thing that makes this series so outstanding and noteworthy is it’s phenomenal cast.  While it’s true that the story is being told through the point of view from the two detectives and that no words can ever describe how flawless their performances are the rest of the cast can’t be snuffed either.  Equally as important to the two leads is that of Michelle Monaghan’s role, which is reminiscent of some of the finest performances I’ve seen from my favorite actress, Ashley Judd, too.  She takes the audience on the tragic journey with her as well.  However, I digress because if you are asking me to find fault with anything cast or character related in this series, you’re going to have to torture me furiously and you still won’t get me to speak a negative word.  It’s that good!

So I guess the only things I have not covered up above as of yet is that gorgeous cinematography the show presents (shot on 35mm) as well as my little nitpicks, which I made known there were a few.  I could go on and on at how breathtaking things look here and how intricately this show is shot, but I think I should leave that for you the viewer to experience and most of all relish.  And now on to my nitpicks.  Don’t worry.  They are very minor.  First and foremost, with such heightened tension this show builds the ending came with mild disappointment.  Don’t worry, without going into spoilers, the show does wrap everything up.   It’s just that by the final episode your expectations are so high that I don’t think they could have done anything to match them.  And finally, my only flaw I found with the production of this is the fight scenes.  There are certainly punches thrown that painfully don’t look remotely like they connected, but as I mentioned before, this complaint is only minor because the good completely outweighs and flattens any bad here that you can possibly find.  The three C’s (characters, core story and cinematography) are absolutely perfect here and therefore couldn’t possibly be more deserving of my perfect score awarded up above.  The only odd thing that you’ll notice is nowhere on the cover art of this True Detective Blu-ray set does it say Season One or anything like that so it’s really anybody’s guess as to what is next for the show.  I have heard so many rumors that I hate to even speculate.  The only thing I heard that I hope is true is the fact that Rhona Mitra is supposed to be involved.  God I hope so!  Until we know more, let’s talk about what we do know best…the Blu-ray presentation and extras.

True Detective 3


I really can’t say enough good things about how this presentation looks, but ah what the hell I’ll give it the old college try down below as we break apart and dissect the different visual categories we grade on here.

  • Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Clarity/Detail:  As I have made known already in this review and will also make mention of down below again, this show is shot on 35mm and because of that the detail and clarity is very natural and defined.  The various textures from the wrinkles and blemishes in the skin, out of place hairs and corduroy blazers to leaves, twigs and outside foliage are all accounted for, sharp and detailed throughout and the only areas of softness are inherently so.  This one looks and feels like a bonafide movie!
  • Depth: I’ll say it again.  The show looks like a movie.  Doesn’t that say it all?  Haha.  Okay, I give.  Depth is prevalent throughout with even those scenes of three-dimensional Blu-ray pop we all know and love on the format.  The depth of field is quite remarkable with this one.  One scene that comes to mind oddly, besides the geography of Louisiana, is the older version of Cohle (Matt) puffing away while sitting at that table in the police interview room behind a row of 4 Lone Star beer cans.  Haha.  Priceless.
  • Black Levels: The black colors, for the most part, are deep and inky throughout the show’s 8-episode runtime.
  • Color Reproduction: Besides the intentional tweaks, the colors and contrast here are warm and lifelike, almost organic like the three-dimensional onscreen characters are.  What I’m trying to say is basically things look normal and in check here.
  • Flesh Tones: In my opinion, the skin tones are rendered and captured spot on here with a very natural appearance throughout.  You really can’t ask for anything better.
  • Noise/Artifacts: So because this one as I said over and over (in a very good way) is shot on film, grain is naturally inherent.  However, with that one small exception, which I don’t consider a nuisance at all, things are crystal clear here completely free of any blemishes, noise, artifacts or what have you.  Pick you poison…it’s not here!

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Equally impressive as the video presentation up above, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 leaves no prisoners as it slays all the bad guys in your living room with its perfection.  Long story short, HBO does NOT disappoint with their Blu-rya releases.

  • Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 2.0
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Dutch, Danish, Finish, Norwegian, Swedish
  • Dynamics:  The dynamics of this surround sound package really just simply immerses you in the elements of the story.  You have so many different arenas to play with from tight interview rooms to vast open fields and this audio track perfectly captures it all, every little nuance.  The way this show cleverly balances quiet to chaos is the key here.  The score of T Bone Burnett is another item to take note of here and it’s every bit as aware and organic here as you remember it in the show’s original broadcast.
  • Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel is also strong and makes itself known that hey I am here and I’m a force not to be reckoned with.   It’s not going to go bump, bump throughout like a hip hop song, but believe me when needed, it delivers.
  • Surround Sound Presentation:  And here’s always my favorite part of surround sound packages!  The rear speakers are alive throughout the show as they engage you from start to finish with every little thing from loud ringing gunshots to the more quieter of moments with light winds and whatnot.  The atmosphere of the show is what’s on display here.
  • Dialogue Reproduction:  The dialogue is perfectly prioritized throughout as it’s always loud, clear and intelligible.  You simply can’t ask for anything more!

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Here’s the one thing I love about these HBO Blu-ray television sets…they’re da bomb in the Special Features department.  No, they many not give you every single supplement you’re looking for or an audio commentary for each episode, but what they give you is so much more valuable in my opinion.  They give you both an iTunes HD Digital Copy and an UltraViolet Digital HD version of every single episode in the season for you to enjoy on the go anywhere you want no matter what your flavor is, iOS or Android.  I fricking love this about HBO Blu-ray sets!  However, I digress because even if you set aside these digital copies of the episodes, you’re still getting some bang for your buck in way of extras here.  I laid out some strategic bread crumbs while watching all of these bonus features so I could follow the trail of clues on my way back to writing about them all.  So what do you say we pick up these bread crumbs and like the sleuth we all are we can recap everything you’ll find here behind police lines.  Sound like a plan to you?  Let’s unleash the hounds.  We have a lot of ground to cover here despite the small quantity of listed extras.

  • Audio Commentaries – Alright.  I’m clearly aware that there are eight episodes of True Detective here, but I’m sorry to report that only two of those have audio commentary available.  I’m not sure why that is, but always remember to be grateful for what you get, right?  So without further ado, I wanted to disclose what episodes have who.  Episode 4, “Who Goes There,” features a selectable audio commentary with executive producer/writer Nic Pizzolatto and composer T Bone Burnett.  Episode 5, “The Secret Fate of All Life,” features those previously mentioned gentlemen as well as executive producer Scott Stephens.  And rest assured, there’s a lot to talk about here and equally a lot to absorb so once again, please accept my sincere apologies to the diehard fans wanting a commentary track on every episode here.  Enjoy!
  • Making True Detective (HD, 15:02) – In only 15 short minutes we cover eight chapters of wealth here: “The Story,” “Cohle and Hart,” “Script to Screen,” “7 Minutes of Hell,” “Louisiana,” “The Look,” “Creating a Crime Scene” and “Hand of the Killer.”  The cast (even in character) and crew talk about pretty much everything here as the chapter titles suggest.  Through interviews, landscapes and behind-the-scenes we pretty much tackle every facet of the series in such an unbelievably short time.  It was amazing to learn the scripts equated to 550 pages and was written in only 3 months.  Say what?!  I know!  I’m speechless.  Nic also talks about how amazing it was to be on set and the director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, admitted it was a blessing to have him there.  Interesting!  I hope that same approach is taken with my future movies I write.  They also talk about how frustrating a seven minute take that gets botched up in the six-minute mark becomes…hence “7 Minutes of Hell.”  LOL.  they even talk about adventures with wildlife, a 6-foot alligator and snakes.  Hell yeah!  Give me more!  Okay!  The last thing I wanted to say and comment on here is the show’s one last romance with 35mm film.  Beautiful!  Moving on…
  • Up Close With Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (HD, 8:03) – Believe it or not in this eight-minute featurette there are four segments packed in: “The Dinner Scene,” The Fight Scene,” “The Bar Scene” and “Fatigue.”  There’s an option to play the segments individually or all together.  Matt and Woody chat about their scenes as well as their experience on the show.  I wish this one was much longer!  They show the footage from the show as well as dissection on the scenes from Matt and Woody.  Man how cool would it have been to have an audio commentary on episodes with these two fellows?  Damn cool in my opinion!  It was funny to hear them discuss the fight scene…beast mode rage according to Matt…LOL.
  • A Conversation with Nic Pizzolatto and T Bone Burnett (HD, 14:25) – If you watched the episodes with the audio commentary mentioned up above, chances are this is rehashed news to you in a briefer more concise format to take it all in.  However, if you skipped the audio commentaries, then this edited and condensed version becomes really valuable to you!  Nic kind of interviews T Bone here.  It’s cool to hear how T Bone got the scripts and what directions he was given, to make it a kind of Louisiana we never heard before.  They wanted a psychology of the place instead of its musical history as it enhances the emotion of the characters through the score.  Cool stuff here folks!  They even talk about the selection of songs included here too like in the strip club scene for example.
  • Inside the Episode (HD, 36 mins.) – Here’s another extra that as a fan I wish was much longer in runtime, but in retrospect there’s a behind-the-scenes featurette here for every episode that dissects and dishes real quickly on everything in that episode from the story to the production and features key members of the cast and crew all chiming in complete with show footage.  Give me more!  Truth be told though each of these “Inside the Episode” segments are about 4-5 minutes in length and appear on the respective discs that their episodes are housed on (see my unboxing shot down below for that information).
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 10 mins.) – There are a total of two deleted scenes here.  If you don’t check these out, then in my opinion you’re not missing much.  The first one is from Episode 3, “The Locked Room,” and the second one is from Episode 8, “Form and Void.”  Like the extra discussed up above, the Deleted Scenes extras appear on the respective discs that their episodes are housed on (see my unboxing shot down below for that information).


I think one of the things that separates my Blu-ray reviews from the many other sites is my level of passion I put into them.  In my opinion, anybody can write Blu-ray reviews.  I could think of a few sites that my theory applies to, but I will take the higher road.  I get off on every facet of the review from removing it from its shipping mailer to tearing off the plastic and smelling all that Blu-ray goodness, whether it’s getting a whiff of the “blu” case opening for the first time or unravelling an intricately packed cardboard assortment like this set.  It’s that passion that I hope shines through in my reviews and differentiates them from the hundreds of others littering the web.  I also believe that another thing that sets me apart from the many others is my attention to capturing all the little details such as the stupendous packages that HBO bestows upon their High-Definition fans and this True Detective set is no exception to the rule.  So join me in my Blu-ray orgasm as I unwrap and unpack this 3-disc Blu-ray set below.  I hope you enjoy it because I sure as hell did!


Here’s the front of the Blu-ray set moments before ripping the plastic off.

True Detective Blu-ray Unboxing 1


Here’s the rear of the Blu-ray box set right before I tore the plastic wrap off.

True Detective Blu-ray Unboxing 2


Take notice that the rear of the exterior shell and the loose pamphlet back are identical!

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Here’s the front of the interior cardboard clamshell that houses the three Blu-ray discs.

True Detective Blu-ray Unboxing 4


And here’s the back right before we’re just about to unfold all this Blu-ray goodness.

True Detective Blu-ray Unboxing 5


Is your appetite whet yet because I’m about to unveil the inners?!

True Detective Blu-ray Unboxing 6


Here is what you can expect to find on each of the Blu-ray discs.

True Detective Blu-ray Unboxing 7


And finally…the Holy Grail themselves…the Blu-ray discs!

True Detective Blu-ray Unboxing 8


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The only thing left to be said about this Blu-ray package, truth-be-told, is the fact that if you haven’t seen it yet, True Detective is a MUST-SEE event.  And quite honestly, if it is your first time viewing the series, what better way to experience the drama, take in the gorgeous cinematography and watch some of the most brilliant performances onscreen and behind the pen than on the Blu-ray format!  This HBO set is relentless in the way it consistently crushes the benchmark in delivering to you an outstanding audio/video presentation with a healthy dose of extras thrown in for good measure to leave you hungry for more.  If you want a close point of view in your storytelling, you’re not going to get any closer than in here.  This is text book learning for the classroom!  I’m excited to see where a new season of True Detective takes us, but for now I’m just happy to have this 3-disc set in my home video HD library.  I loved every minute of this Blu-ray review.  If you think you’d feel the same way too, then hit up the Amazon purchase link below or click here to help support our site.  Thanks for reading Blu-ray review number one hundred and eighty-one.  Do yourself a favor and fill yourself with wisdom with True Detective.  Like Fight Club, this one has a lot of great “life” quotes to take away.  Enjoy!


2 Responses to “True Detective (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brandon Peters

    Wooooahhh! Dynamite coverage here! Massive labor of love on this review. Love this show, love this review. Its great when there’s a site that actually, you know, REVIEWS stuff, not just recapping what happened with 2 sentences of actual personal thought and analysis. Also a site actually has the technical merits to educate and inform people about these releases! An even greater plus is that the reviewers actually do research and keep themselves informed for the stuff they are writing on. No amateur hour here on Why So Blu, no way! 😉

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