HomeTelevisionReview: True Detective, 'The Big Never' Keeps the Questions Interesting

Review: True Detective, ‘The Big Never’ Keeps the Questions Interesting

True Detective The Big Never
Credit: Warrick Page/HBO

It’s pretty brave of a mystery series to go a full episode without really providing any answers. It requires an assurance that feels like a bit of a gamble for True Detective — a series that came out of the gate stronger than most freshmen season, and then took an embarrassing stumble the following year. Even after a strong premiere, it requires confidence in your story to have a slow, character-driven episode. But… they stuck the landing!

This week, our three timelines took some interesting turns: In the 1980s timeline, Hays and West slowly start to learn that their missing children may have been lying to their parents about their lives. In the 90s: Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) begins to investigate the sudden appearance of Julie, as Wayne (Mahershala Ali) unravels. And, in the present day timeline, audiences begin to learn more about Wayne’s mental state, as well as the show he’s appearing on.

In terms of mood and direction, this week’s episode is pretty phenomenal — this is a deeply unsettling mystery, and one that could realistically unfold in a dozen different directions. But it’s not so much the theories that make things creepy, but the overwhelming sense of conspiracy and paranoia behind the whole story. One scene finds Hays’ searching desperately for his daughter, who got lost in a department store, and the scene works not just as an exercise in real-world suspense, but because it really does feel like anything could have happened in that moment. It might be a random event… or, it could be connected to the case. Then there are the random props: dolls, tiny notes, maps and action figures, that send shivers down your spine without being specifically commented on. It’s what made True Detective‘s first season so effective.

The show also takes full advantage of its multiple timelines, with various mysteries to keep track of that are unfolded with excellent pace. It’s an undeniable fete of writing to unfold new clues in three different timelines, for separate but interconnected mysteries. True, some scenes are far less interesting than others — for example, as great as Scoot McNairy may be, I don’t need to watch an extended scene of him praying. But, all in all, this show is using three timelines as more than just a gimmick. It’s truly compelling.

Of course, this sort of slow pace won’t work forever — we won’t know how effective this season of True Detective really is until the answers start coming. But, there are worse ways to spend an hour each week than watch Mahershala Ali deliver a brilliant performance as talented directors creep you out. This is a very solid episode of True Detective, and it’s nice to root for this show again.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10

The Big Never is currently streaming on HBO Now.


Matt Taylor
Matt Taylor
Matt Taylor is the TV editor at The Pop Break, along with being one of the site's awards show experts. When he's not at the nearest movie theater, he can be found bingeing the latest Netflix series, listening to synth pop, or updating his Oscar predictions. A Rutgers grad, he also works in academic publishing. Follow him on Twitter @MattNotMatthew1.

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