True Detective – Season 1

HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary FukunagaHBO’s latest offering brough us Matthew Mconaughey and Woody Harrelson as two homicide detectives involved in a dark case. With the initial murder taking place back in 1995 the show flits between then and now. Mconaughey’s Rust Cohle and Harrelson’s Marty Hart are first time partners on the original case but in the modern day Rust has gone off the rails and is a chain-smoking alcoholic, and the pair haven spoken for years. Being interviewed separately about the case they believed to have been solved seventeen years ago but another body has been found. All eight episodes of the season are written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga giving the series an overall style and feel that many shows can’t manage as a collaborative medium.

It’s true that there are a lot of detective shows out there, in all different shapes and forms television has always been obsessed with murder investigations and dirty cops. So the question is why should True Detective be the one you watch? Well, where to begin. The most staggering thing about this series is the quality of the writing. It’s a very dialogue heavy show, which may not suit everyone, but this provides an excellent basis for character development and it doesn’t take long before you see these two A-List movie stars as their characters. Pizzolatto’s scripts are deliciously dark with very little in the way of happiness but he has a real knack for creating flawed protagonists that are still likeable if, at times, questionably immoral. As the tension of the investigation builds so does the action, which is handled ridiculously well by Fukunaga, you may have seen around that episode four (perhaps the greatest hour hour of television you will see for a long, long time) features a six-minute unbroken tracking shot during an undercover mission where, to put it bluntly, shit hits the fan making the show every bit as exciting and cool as any blockbuster movie you’ll go and see. And of course, none of this greatness could have been achieved without a cast to match and Mconaughey and Harrelson deliver some of the best performances of both their careers. Mcounaghey, of late, has become the most exciting actor around and his turn here is probably equal to that of his Oscar winning portrayal in Dallas Buyers Club. Harrelson is just as good, neither of the two ever steal the attention and instead manage to create this very real volatile relationship with each other.

Television is improving at such an astonishing rate that we will soon never be without top quality shows like this. True Detective shows us just how far TV drama has come in recent years and brings with it some of the best stuff you will see on your screens this year. let’s hope they don’t ruin it with a lacklustre second season because this is damn near perfection.

 

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Eastbound and Down – Season 4

maxresdefaultSo last week saw the grand finale of HBO’s Eastbound and Down. The sitcom that followed Danny McBride’s Kenny Powers, an ex pro baseballer as he desperately tries to cling on to his fame and win over the love of his life. I was a late-comer to the show but it quickly became one of my favourites, every season managed to create a fresh, new situation to throw this brilliantly observed character into. After initially announcing that the third season as the last after the final episode it was announced that there would be one last blaze of glory for Kenny Powers.

Season four picks up with Kenny having quit baseball and becoming a stay at home dad, while his wife makes her name as a real-estate agent. It’s not long before Powers’ ego gets the best of him and he can’t handle playing second fiddle to his wife and when he is offered a guest spot on a sports TV show it’s not long before he slips back into his fame hungry, selfish ways. What has always been the best thing about Eastbound and Down is that it manages to keep the laughs flowing but also makes you feel for it’s tragic lead character who can’t seem to grow out of his ten-year old mindset. His sidekick Stevie is also a consistent provider of big laughs while being a completely tragic pushover. What the writers do so well is making the drama feel real without going over-the-top. Season four in particular makes use of this emotional connection we have with the characters creating probably the most touching moments of the show and providing us with a fitting end to one of the most ingenious sitcom’s to come out in recent years.

The quality of the show is so high it’s impossible to pick a best season, as every one of them could make a good case. Although the very final moment of the season leaves you wondering what was actually going on season four gives us a fine farewell to a superb comedy creation.

 

Game of Thrones – Season 3

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***WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS***

Well it’s been a couple of weeks now since the third season of Game of Thrones came to its dramatic conclusion, using the word conclusion in the loosest sense possible as I think it ended with more stuff up in the air than it started with. It seems that the show has become perhaps the most talked about programme of the times, with a fan-base that appears to be growing by the minute. After the shocking events of episode nine I’ve never seen Facebook erupt to anything in such a huge way.

I enjoyed the third season, particularly what I enjoyed is that the show has retained its identity despite coming under criticism for certain elements of its choices. We have, in this season, the most drastic difference yet from the shows source material with the continuation of Theon Greyjoy’s story. In the Song of Ice and Fire books Theon is no longer a character after book two but here in season three of the show we learn more of what happens to him. His story is one of the most brutal in the Game of Thrones universe as he’s held captive and tortured horrifically through the whole season. It was a bold move to start adding completely original material but I think it’s one of the strongest plot lines of the latest series and a risk that has paid off. Season three continues in the mould of the first two in that the scale of events is constantly getting bigger. Danaerys Tagaryen, mother of the dragons has become the most insanely powerful individual in the Seven Kingdoms and somehow she just keeps getting fitter as well. Jon Snow’s journey ticks along throughout and one of the shows most emotional moments comes when he is forced to part ways with Ygritte. And my favourite character, Tyrion, is fucked over badly by his ruthless father.

Although I enjoyed the season and I’m liking how the story is turning out I am left wondering how good the show actually is. There’s so many characters it is at times hard to keep track of who’s who, although I think I have a pretty good idea there are still certain characters that I don’t really understand who they are or what the position is in this vast fantasy universe. It’s well made stuff with great acting talent and is very cleverly written but at times I think it perhaps over-complicates itself where it doesn’t need to. What also annoys me is the constant hint of more supernatural characters such as the Wight Walkers, I want to see more of this stuff and it gets frustrating that that kind of stuff only ever briefly pops up. While I still love the show it’s beginning to lose the pull it once had on me, and I’m increasingly starting to think it’s slightly over-rated. There are better shows out there and I find it hard to understand why Game of Thrones is the biggest of them all. It probably sounds like I’m hating on it now, but I’m not, I still think it’s a great show but there’s better stuff out there. Perhaps season four will finally deliver fully on the promise of all-out war and supernatural adventure.

 

Boardwalk Empire – Season 3

Boardwalk-Empire81202012***Spoiler Alert – If you’re yet to finish season three it may be best to save reading this post till you have***

Following on from massive finale of season two this time we properly hit the ground running. The introduction of new villain Gyp Rossetti, played by Bobby Cannavale, gives even the first few episodes flourishes of brutal violence something that in the two previous seasons took a lot longer in between outbursts. I found a shame that Rossetti turned out to be only a season-long obstacle in Nucky’s path as it did feel as though he could have really fucked some shit up, despite this his final scene is one of the shows best moments yet.

With Rossetti leading the way all the consistent characters head even further in psychopathic madness. Nucky, yet again portrayed marvellously by Steve Buscemi, continues on his journey of becoming more and more ruthless and cold. Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) also reaches new levels of insanity, which is hard to believe considering how much of nut job he already was. And Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) commits some horrific acts while facing the grief of her son’s death. It really speaks to the shows quality that these characters can all spiral out of control but everything in the story remains so tight, it was obviously planned from the beginning that this is the kind of direction they would all go in, you’d be hard done by to find a single character that hasn’t got at least one screw loose.

The ending of season three couldn’t have been different from that of it’s predecessor, though. Rather than leaving us on a massive cliffhanger things here seemed rather well tied-up, they clearly must have some ideas of how things are going to get out of hand again in season four. But overall, season three ups the ante to a whole new level bringing a lot more craziness than the two before it, if the show keeps going in this direction by the time it reaches its end things are literally going to get insane.

 

Boardwalk Empire

Based in the Prohibition-era and set in Atlantic City Boardwalk Empire follows the exploits of Nucky Thompson the undisputed owner of the city, no business can happen without his knowledge. Partially based on facts the show seamlessly adds its own elements of fiction which you’d be hard done by to point out without any prior knowledge of the era. Created by Terence Winter (one of the main writers on The Sopranos) and produced by Martin Scorsese this show is the perfect blend of gripping gangster drama and superbly explored character development. There are at least six main characters for which we know a huge amount of back story and this element adds to the shows richness as a whole. It’s not trying to hard to grab your attention, some episodes you can go for the whole hour without so much as a punch in the face whereas others are full to the brim with mass murder and violent brawling. The show picks its own pace, it does what it wants and it rewards your patience. The finale of season two was one of the most gripping sixty minutes of television I have ever watched and the end sets up a whole new direction for the main character to take in season three. This is a show that will be long remembered after it ends, it is almost utterly flawless so, basically, get watching it.

Game of Thrones

 

I have only recently begun watching Game of Thrones, which finished its second season ten days ago but over the course of about two weeks I have already stormed through its entire first series an the first half of the second, by the time I next write on here I will, no doubt, be finished. I must say I was slightly sceptical heading in the only period fantasy thing I’ve ever really got into being Lord of the Rings but it only took about three episodes before I found myself fully enthralled within its grasp. Its strength lies in its versatility, it can flit between moods so smoothly an its character development is second to none.

The contrast of storylines throughout its diverse universe make it impossible to bore you, as it changes from politics to brutality, to prostitution to dragons. It contains a lot less than the aforementioned LOTR, which largely works in its favour as when we are met with a supernatural entity the shock an excitement levels reach incredibly high levels. If you haven’t already, start watching this show.