I had heard such great things about this mini-series that I believe that my expectations may have been a bit too high. First off, the acting was top-notch! There were so many stellar performances in this, it was really hard to single any one particular individual out, although given that the series focused prominently on Kate Winslet's character, she did just a remarkable job. Julianne Nicholson, Angourie Rice, Jean Smart, Chinasa Ogbuagu, Sosie Bacon, Evan Peters, Enid Graham..the list goes on. All of these actors were really tremendous in this project.
I also have to commend the production for creating a female-centric police drama/murder mystery. It isn't often that we see casting such as this for a show of this type, and not only was it was quite refreshing, but it really gave this series that extra emphasis, when it came to the character-driven drama that was the other half of the storyline. It really worked particularly well in this production.
All of this having been said, what I was not impressed by was the writing, particularly how the pieces of the storyline flowed together, some of the dialogue, the apparent lack of research, and the odd character arcs. The script that Brad Ingelsby wrote came across to me as something less that he'd spent time researching the topics of and more drawing from previous television productions. On more than a few occasions, I found myself realizing that specific bits of dialogue or storyline were quite derivative of other shows. Obviously, stories are rehashed, but this seemed much more like a patchwork of pieces taken from other productions and put into this one storyline.
Due to the derivative nature of the story, some of the dialogue came across as very clichéd and out of place, as in it really didn't fit w/ the storyline. For instance, in the scene at the waterfront after Mare and Zabel’s date, Mare made a comment about she just couldn’t let go of this case, b/c it’s one of those that just “gets inside you, you know?” I thought to myself, “Really? This cold case that you’d moved on from, b/c there were no leads and no evidence, where you didn’t want any outside help, but you weren’t actively working it, either.” This is exactly the type of clichéd statement you’d hear in any generic detective drama, and in this particular case, it literally made no sense in terms of the storyline.
As for some of the characters, they came across as really incredibly awful human beings. Then, they seemingly and miraculously grew hearts that allowed them to do selfless things that put them in harm’s way? Again, this was something that just didn’t fit w/ the nature of the story, and it threw the characters into disarray, b/c there was really no need for this type of role reversal. Additionally, one of the characters who was portrayed as this small-town girl w/ no prospects, looking for trouble around every corner, we suddenly find out was a strong student w/ collegiate potential? Some of these character traits and attributes just came out of nowhere and served no purpose in moving the storyline forward.
The last thing about the writing that I didn’t care for was how the pieces around Mare were shifted. It was almost as if she were in a room w/ one door, and everyone else was in a circle that constantly rotated around the outside of the room. Every time Mare opened the door, a new character would be standing before her, and she would interact w/ them before closing the door. She would then reopen it, and new character would be standing there for her to interact w/. It was almost as if many of these individuals were simply pieces of furniture in her life, there as set-dressing, rather than as characters to drive the storyline deeper.
I believe that the one exception to this was Mare’s mother. Her interactions w/ her showed that this script could have been refined in such a way that many of the characters could have been made fuller and richer w/ more meaningful interactions w/ Mare.
The bottom-line for me was, while the cinematography looked fantastic, and it provided a genuine look and feel that really gave this story series credence, there is a big difference in looking spectacular and actually being spectacular. I believe that the director and producers very much went for a True Detective esthetic, but looking like True Detective isn’t the same thing as being True Detective.