True Detective, S03

TrueDetectiveS03“An anthology series in which police investigations unearth the personal and professional secrets of those involved, both within and outside the law”. Created by Nic Pizzolatto, with Mahershala Ali (as Wayne Hays), Stephen Dorff (as Roland West) and Carmen Ejogo (as Amelia Reardon). In the deep America Arkansas in the 1980s, two kids go missing a few weeks after Halloween. The boy is found dead and the girl is never seen again… In 2015, the crew for a crime investigation TV show is interviewing the retired detective who was in charge of this unsolved crime. The storytelling keep switching between the two era (and many years in between) as the detective remembers the details of the investigation — that’s IF he can remember, because he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In this rummaging of the past, he becomes determined to solve this mystery once and for all.

The first two seasons (set in Louisiana with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, and then in California with Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams) were more about the horrors of the crime, the darkness and corruption of the human psyche, wrapped in a mysterious aura. This time, the series seems more down to earth as the detectives are investigating a rather ordinary crime that is made to look like a horrible case of pedophile ring by the simple incompetence of the police work and high level political interference. The interest of the story now lies somewhere else, more into the form and less into the content. This simple case is rendered complex through its maniacal storytelling with constant flashbacks alternating with flash-forwards. It’s as if the script had been shred into pieces and we try to reconstruct the plot strip by strip, in random order. This is purposely and skillfully done to make the viewers deeply feel the confusion in the mind of the main character who suffers from dementia. As annoying a device as it could be, it is VERY effective — mostly because of the dazzling acting performance of Mahershala Ali (Academy Awards winner for Best Supporting Actor in Moonlight in 2016 and in Green Book in 2018).

If solving the crime is the obsession of the mains characters, the story itself is less about the investigation as it is about the conflits between the protagonists: between the two detectives themselves, between the detectives and their higher hierarchy, between the victims’ parents, between Hays and his girlfriend/wife — who are all under tremendous pressure to see the case solved — or even within Hays himself as he struggles to remember. This series might also have a slight supernatural aspect when Hays (haze?) confronts the ghosts of his past (the Viet congs, the conversations with his dead wife) — or is it rather due to the disease? The series exposes the emotional range that the characters go through as they all try to successfully resolve their conflicts — or not. In the end, despite the laboured and twisted storytelling, the mystery will be solved—but the man who once was a ranger in Vietnam slowly gets lost in the jungle of his own mind…

Despite lower Nielsen ratings than the previous two seasons, the series was well received with an overall IMDb rating of 9.0 (for all three seasons) and Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 85% / 83% (compared to 87% / 97% for the first season and 64% / 60% for the second). All in all, for me, it’s an excellent TV series and probably my favourite of the three seasons. stars-4-0

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