Title: True Detective “The Big Never”
Air Date: January 20th, 2019
Genre: Thriller, Crime
Check out previous reviews from season three here:
Episode 1: “The Great War and Modern Memory”
Episode 2: “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”
True Detective episode 3 is an episode of highs and lows. The 2 timelines, the 90s and 2015, have been the background to the mystery have now been given time to breathe. It was good timing to flesh them out because the 80s storyline has hit a wall.
Now that each timeline has had an opportunity to establish itself and episode 3 had enough of each, let’s talk about each one separately.
Stellar acting can’t save it this week. The formulaic plot progression has officially become stale after 3 weeks. I don’t think I have heard so many questions be asked in a script before True Detective season 3. Everyone is constantly asking questions. It’s a crime show. They have to ask questions. I get that. The issue is with how boring the conversations become when the question format is the primary driver of scenes.
They also introduced one of the worst story drivers in a crime show, convenience. Figuring out the mystery needs to be earned by the detectives. That’s what makes them fun. Clues should be in front of the detectives and the audience. When a detective finally puts it all together and you see how they got there, you are just as invested because THEY WERE IN FRONT OF YOU THE WHOLE TIME TOO! Two massive revelations to the overall mystery were conveniently found to move the story forward this week. A show can have one or two of those, but too many and it’s tough to buy in and become invested.
The most interesting storyline of the episode. True Detective is about how the scars of circumstance stay with you. Characters either obsess until the obsession wraps its tendrils into every facet of their lives or what they have experienced makes it so they can’t go back to how it was before. The use of Vietnam in previous episodes is an example of how they try to find normalcy, but can’t quite get to it. In the 90s storyline, the Purcell children disappearance is starting to seep into every crack of the detective’s lives. There was a focus on Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) and her attempt at helping with the Purcell case and her new dynamic with Hayes after the fact is something to keep an eye on. The emergence of Roland West (Stephen Dorff) back into the fold of the 90s storyline is refreshing and ends the episode with a fun moment to chew on until next week.
Devastating is the best way to describe the 2015 timeline. Watching a man’s mind slowly wither away after seeing how confident he was in his abilities in the previous times is horrifying. 2015 had the least amount of screen time, but each scene was fantastic. The sobering doctor’s visit, the continuation of the interview, and then Hays’ last scene all painted the picture of a man who is questioning all of his decisions, past and the present.
The one constant of all 3 timelines is Mahershala Ali. He is incredible. They finally let him be the focus and he is absolutely killing it. His acting has been controlled, tempered and subdued, but he had two moments in episode 3, a moment with his children and one with his wife, where he turned it up to 11 and boy-howdy was it intense. Quality writing has helped flesh out Wayne Hays, but Ali has sent the character into the stratosphere with his performance.
One aspect of life True Detective has been able to grab really well is the dynamics of work, life, and love relationships. Relationships have an ebb and flow and can have a certain amount of intensity and then be gone a moment later. West (Dorff) has a great moment talking about how his relationship with Hays and how it fizzled out. Not because of a fight between them or a misunderstanding, but…because. To see them be inseparable and have an almost brother-like rapport in the 80s storyline to only knowing slight updates into each other’s lives 10 years later is one of the most relatable aspects of the series. As these relationships become more and more fleshed out, they will start to hold me each week, if the mystery stays on its current downward slope.
Verdict: True Detective is showing some of its cracks with the main case, but there is still a ton to bring me back. While the 80s storyline struggled, there is a ton of compelling content coming from the other two storylines that I can brush off the predictable aspects. Even if the show begins to fall apart at the seams, Mahershala Ali and the rest of the cast is putting on such spectacular performances that it will still be must-watch TV.
- Mahershala Ali will be nominated for this performance. Soak it in now
- The other timelines are getting extremely interesting
- The overall mystery is falling apart a bit
- The 80s storyline has gotten stale