EW TV critics Jeff Jensen and Melissa Maerz agree on a lot of things—that Transparent, Rectify, and Fargo were the best TV series of the year, that The Mysteries of Laura is one of the worst. One thing they can’t settle on? HBO’s Emmy-winning anthology series True Detective—and specifically, whether its first season was a captivating masterpiece or an overhyped disappointment.
See their brief arguments for and against the show below—then choose a side in our poll.
Murdered girl with secrets. Serial killer as enlightened madman. Bickering, troubled, odd-couple cops.
Sick of this story? Sick of the necroporn imagery, reductive female representation, and great white male redeemers that it often brings? Me too. But I’ll never weary of TV as novel in form and format as True Detective, the high-strange, intricately constructed detective yarn worthy of instant-classic status for the elevated performances of its stars, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, and storytellers, writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga.
The characters haunt me. Rust Cohle and Marty Hart presented as same-old antiheroes, but exited as welcome rebukes to pulp pop’s nihilistic philosophies and retrograde masculinity. Although I see the flaws, I can’t deny it mesmerized me. May this messy masterpiece inspire more, and better. —Jeff Jensen
The only thing worse than a terrible show is a promising one with a terrible ending. Why did I waste two months soldiering through this brilliantly acted, exquisitely directed mystery, only to discover that its “clues” added up to nothing beyond coincidences and red herrings?
Yes, great art leaves things open to interpretation, but after too many characters and story lines were introduced and immediately abandoned, it seemed Pizzolatto didn’t have any answers himself. True Detective offered all the signifiers of gravitas—the dark lighting, the dead children, the easily Wiki-ed cultural references—without the profundity. And that treacly, lightness-wins-against-darkness ending? We’re supposed to believe that Rust—who, just moments before, seemed ready to die—has resolved a lifetime’s worth of guilt and grief in an instant because…he had a vision?
C’mon. I’m all for fighting the darkness. But with lightness this forced, no one wins. —Melissa Maerz
So, which camp to you fall into–and which critic do you think made the more convincing argument?