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  • Awesome Music:
    • The opening music for Season One is "Far From Any Road" by the Handsome Family.
    • The closing music for the season one opener. Rust says, "Start asking the right fucking questions," and takes an enigmatic drag as the darkly melodic first riffs of "Young Man Dead" by The Black Angels swell.
    • The song for the closing credits of the season one finale, "The Angry River," by The Hat ft. Father John Misty & S.I. Istwa.
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    • Season 2's opening credits song "Nevermind" by Leonard Cohen is a definite Ear Worm, and the lyrics (which change at the start of each episode) perfectly encompass the feeling of the season.
    • Lera Lynn's original songs for season 2, especially "The Only Thing Worth Fighting For" and "This is My Least Favorite Life", have received considerable acclaim.
    • The Black Angels pop up again at the end of "Church in Ruins." As the detectives escape Tony Chessani's sex party in Monterery they dodge their pursuers, get on an open road, and the camera pans up to a full moon just as "Black Grease" kicks in.
    • In Season 3, we get Cassandra Wilson's cover of "Death Letter" by Son House as the opening credits music. It's incredibly haunting, and really emphasizes the Arkansas environment the main characters live in.
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  • Best Known for the Fanservice: For some (emphasis on some) viewers, the gratuitous nudity in the first two seasons (especially Alexandra Daddario's in 1) is the main selling point. Pizzolatto seemed to notice this, as Season 3 is devoid of any nudity whatsoever, and the only two sex scenes that occur happen offscreen.
  • Better Than Canon: A host of various theories that deal with what may or may not be hanging plot threads are sometimes considered better than the actual ending provided. Of course, people entertaining these theories tend to ignore (purposely or otherwise) Pizzolatto's advice.
  • Broken Base:
    • The season finale, to a point. The two most contentious elements seem to be a) whether the series leaves too many questions unanswered, and b) whether its surprisingly happy final scenes jibe with the bleak tone of the rest of the show. Opinions vary greatly regarding each point. Pizzolatto was entirely up front about there being absolutely no surprises in the whodunnit aspect, and said, straight up, that the fans making up crazy theories were going to be disappointed that none of their predicted endings would come to pass.
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    • Another regarding the finale is the Green Ears clue. It's either a clever way to lead Marty and Rust to Errol or it's really, really stupid and bad writing.
    • The above two cases are examples of how the fanbase is split between the fans who like this show for the character drama, and those who like it for the Cosmic Horror vibes. The latter group more often than not ends up disappointed that the show generally falls on the mundane side of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, and many of the criticisms regarding the conclusion stem from that disappointment.
    • The casting of Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn for the second season has received major backlash for the most part. After the show premiered, opinions about Farrell's performance have been quite positive, though Vaughn's reception was mixed.
    • The entirety of Season 2 is this, with one set of fans claiming the second season is terrible, another set saying that it's good but unfairly compared to the superior first season, and another set believing this season is better than the first.
    • Season 2 concluding on a Downer Ending. A fitting end to a noir mystery/corruption story, or a series of Diabolus ex Machina events, Contrived Coincidences and Ass Pulls to ensure the protagonists never get their happy ending?
  • Captain Obvious Reveal: At the end of season 2, it's revealed that Ray Velcoro's son is Velcoro's biological offspring rather than the rapist's. But this should have been obvious once it's revealed that the real rapist is a dark-skinned Latin or Native American who couldn't be the father of a red-headed white kid.
  • Critical Research Failure: In season 2, Eliot Bezzerides says his daughter Athena is named for "the goddess of love," but Athena is the goddess of wisdom. Aphrodite is the goddess of love in the Greek pantheon.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • Rust's recommendation to the Marshland Medea that, should she end up in prison, the smart thing would be to commit suicide.
    • Ray's handling of his son's bully Aspen, from the lame insult "Ass-pen", to beating his father in front of him and the motivational little speech: "You ever bully or hurt anybody again, I'll come back and buttfuck your father with your mom's headless corpse on this goddamn lawn."
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Despite being a racist, Yellow King worshipping child-rapist, Reggie Ledoux has a growing fanbase even though he appeared only twice during the whole first season.
  • Ending Fatigue: The Season 2 finale was 90 minutes long instead of the regular 60. Some viewers felt the extra half hour made the episode drag on longer than it should have.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Nails, Frank's stoic and loyal bodyguard from the second season, has gotten a lot of love from fans.
  • Epileptic Trees: LOTS. Fan theories ranged far and wide, probably prompting Pizzolatto's assertion that there wouldn't be any big twists in the end of the show.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • When Hart and Cohle are looking at possibly-related cases, they find a report of a young girl who reported being chased by a "green-eared spaghetti monster". For anyone familiar with the satirical Flying Spaghetti Monster concept, it seems appropriate given the religious themes in the series.
    • There are several subtle references to the short story collection The King in Yellow. These include cinematographic choices, and easy-to-miss drawings of Carcosa's black stars.
    • The "Marshland Medea" is a reference to Medea of the Jason myth, who killed her children to get vengeance on Jason. The show even shoots down an opportunity to explain the reference.
    • Cohle references "Munchhausen By Proxy" to the Marshland Medea, a real syndrome where caregivers neglect or harm their wards, which accurately describes the Marshland Medea's behavior.
    • In season 2 Frank's avocado trees aren't fruiting. Avocado is derived from a word for testicle, a clever joke about his infertility.
    • In the finale, Mayor Chessani is murdered by his son to usurp his power. A quick shot reveals he was drinking Kraken brand rum. The Kraken was a mythological sea creature who's presence meant plentiful fish but could pull ships to the bottom of the ocean if you risked catching them. Chessani was complacent among men much more dangerous than he realized and was killed by drowning in his own pool.
    • The season 2 episode that introduces Woodrugh's former comrade from Black Mountain features a song by the rock group Black Mountain.
  • Growing the Beard: Episodes 4 and 5 of season 2 are considered to be far stronger than the first three, with greater plot development and better showcases for the actors' talents.
  • He Really Can Act:
    • Any remaining Matthew McConaughey doubters will likely be won over by his performance.
    • Kitsch's performance in episode 3 and 4 of Season 2 redeems his not-so-convincing acting in previous episodes.
    • Vaughn was complimented for his acting in episode 5, after somewhat lukewarm reactions to his earlier episodes.
    • Before Season 3, Stephen Dorff was probably best remembered as the villain of the first Blade film and an infamous e-cig advertisement. As Roland, he holds his own against an Oscar-winning actor in Mahershala Ali, and gives an affecting performance even with heavy old-age makeup to contend with.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Just try not to think of the infamous Fauxlosophic Narration in Matthew McConaughey's Lincoln ads whenever Cohle goes into one of his monologues, especially in the car.
    • The scar that Paul Woodrugh has in his left arm is identical to the grayscale mark of a certain character from another concurrent HBO series; same form, same arm and same position. Reviewers duly noted it
    • One of Lacey Lindel's lawyers is played by the same actor played Pied Piper's attorney in Silicon Valley. Given the latter's proclivities it's hard for fans of both shows to watch his scenes with a straight face.
  • Ho Yay: So much between Cohle and Hart.
    • The scene where Cohle approaches Ginger with the coke-for-meth deal. Just watch their body language.
    • In Season 2, a major aspect of Woodrugh's beta story line is his status as an Armored Closet Gay: though he has a girlfriend, he has to take Viagra to get physically intimate with her, a problem he doesn't suffer from when he runs in to an old army buddy...
    • In Season 3, Tom and Roland have a friendship that could definitely be interpreted this way, especially considering that Tom is proven to be repressing his homosexuality. Roland is protective of Tom and cares about him to the point of Hayes using that friendship against him to get his own way.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!: Some fans were terribly disappointed that season one didn't have a Genre Shift into Cosmic Horror following the reference to The King in Yellow, seemingly unaware that the first King in Yellow story, The Repairer of Reputations, had no overt supernatural elements outside the word of an Unreliable Narrator that makes Cohle look stable.
  • Les Yay: Season 2 ends with Ani and Jordan, the only two surviving leads living together in Venezuela and apparently raising a child together. Though there's nothing explicitly stated, it's easy to take the fond looks the two exchange and a few hints about Ani's possible bisexual tendencies in earlier episodes and come out thinking they might be more than just roommates.
  • Like You Would Really Do It: Season 2 teases that Colin Farrell, one of the top-rated stars of the season, is killed in the second episode. That doesn't happen.
  • Memetic Badass: Rustin Cohle in season 1.
    • Paul "god warrior" Woodrugh in season 2.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Cohle's philosphical nihilistic ramblings which fans like to put on Valentine's day cards. Also Reggie Ledoux himself arguably and green ears as of the finale.
    • Semyon's monologues from season 2 seem to be headed for this trope.
    • #TrueDetectiveSeason2
    • Dr Pitlor's similarity to Benedict Cumberbatch has definitely been noticed by fandom.
    • 4chan has become fond of "Vinceposting", where they emulate and mock Frank Semyon's pseudo-philosophy, lectures, propensity for nostalgia, and bizarre metaphors. It's also making a presence in reddit.
    • "Caspere knew this" when describing a fact or theory for season 2. Funny, since Frank never actually says this.
    • Referring to Paul as a "god warrior," after his actions in episode 4. It got even bigger after his Dying Moment of Awesome in episode 7.
  • Misaimed Fandom: There are some fans of the show that think Rust is a cool guy because of his nihilistic views and how he doesn't concern himself with how other people feel about him or what he says. However, the latter aspect means that nobody can stand to be around him, with Marty telling him he needs to stop with the nihilistic rants. And Rust's nihilism leaves him genuinely deeply depressed and stops him from achieving any real happiness at all. It's only after a Near-Death Experience that causes him to reconsider his world view that he receives any closure and begins to repair his life.
  • Narm:
    • Taylor Kitcsh's "Look mom, I'm ACTING!" face during Paul's suicidal motorcycle ride, not helped by his cheeks flapping in the wind.
    • Paul Woodrugh's left arm scar is accidentally distracting and hilarious, given its striking similarity to another one from Game of Thrones.
    • As noted in Narm Charm, Season 1 was lucky enough to get two lead actors who could make Nic Pizzolatto's particular dialogue style sound natural. Season 2 is a rather more mixed bag, with Vince Vaughn faring the worst.
    • Paul's fiance appearing to psychically sense his death, like Yoda. Maybe the first season could have gotten away with it, but the second with its complete lack of hints to the supernatural has no chance.
    • Paul excitedly exclaiming that the contracts the group just liberated have the signatures of everyone involved. Kitcsh's delivery makes it sound more like signatures were the last thing he was expecting to see on a bunch of contracts. Appropriately, Velcoro's expression when he glances at Paul in the rear view mirror can be interpreted as him thinking his partner has lost his mind.
  • Narm Charm:
    • Some of Cohle's dialogue is admittedly over the top, but McConaughey's delivery is so compelling that you completely buy him as a verbose misanthrope. He brings enough depth and vulnerability to the role that Rust's existential despair never once seems melodramatic. It's perfectly natural for Rust to speak with that poetic flair because he really is that tortured, and not in the sappy, self-indulgent way that a lot of "angsty antihero" characters tend to be. When Rust talks about human consciousness being a mistake, you can feel he means what he says. It helps that Hart regularly lampshades Rust's tangents, acting as a nice, grounded counterweight to the cloud that hangs around Rust. Creator Nic Pizzolatto has stated that many of the lines would sound terrible in the hands of a lesser actor.
    • Errol's old-timey Hollywood London accent comes completely out of nowhere in a setting where almost everyone speaks with a Deep South drawl, and sounds silly. It also perfectly compliments the strange, unnerving atmosphere of the scene. When combined with his dilapidated, clutter-filled house and half-sister's ramblings in the background, it will make the viewer feel more uncomfortable as the scene progresses.
    • The locker room scene from episode 2 is hilariously over the top in its macho-ness. Cohle accuses Hart of having "pussy" on him, leading Hart to pin Cohle aggressively against the lockers and force him to say it isn't his wife's "particular scent". And yes, this is played absolutely straight.
  • Never Live It Down: Pizzolatto has only written one character prone to long, flowery monologues regarding his nihilistic philosophy. You would be forgiven for thinking that is the only thing he knows how to write, if word of mouth was all you had to go by.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Reggie Ledoux appears in two scenes, a Wham Shot at the end of Episode 3 and his arrest and murder in Episode 5, but he makes a definite impact.
    • And Jay O. Sanders as Reverend Tuttle in Episode 6.
    • Rick Springfield as the spacey, lecherous psychiatrist in Season 2.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • If you know what to look for, it's easier to see the facial scars on Errol when he's first introduced and see him mowing in a spiral.
    • It's easier to spot the Arc Symbols in general on a second watch.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Betty Childress (Ann Dowd) might seem familiar to fans of a laterHBO drama.
  • Shipping Bed Death: Invoked in a particularly brutal fashion in episode 6 of Season One. The low-key Unresolved Sexual Tension between Maggie and Rust finally comes to a head... in a single instance of depressing sex that destroys what's left of not only their own burgeoning friendship but their respective relationships with Marty. Rust appears to be off the wagon when it happens and both feel nothing but regret when it's over.
  • Squick: The crime scene.
  • Stoic Woobie: Cohle lost his daughter, and the grief tore apart his marriage. He shows few signs of it, but the loss was likely responsible for his pessimistic view of the world.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Perfectly good actress, rather; some viewers were a bit perplexed that they got the fairly well-known and Emmy-nominated Elizabeth Reaser for a bit part in one episode. It was originally going to be a larger part, but got reduced.
  • Tough Act to Follow: The show's first season was nigh-universally acclaimed and the two lead performances beloved. Unfortunately, its being set up as an anthology series in which each season is completely unconnected means that first season is also the worst enemy it could have, with every review of Season 2 noting that it might very well have been seen as a great story in its own right if not for the specters of Hart and Cohle standing behind it, making everything seem lesser in comparison.
  • What an Idiot!: Velcoro finds Caspere's secret sex house, and spots a fresh-looking pool of blood on the floor. His response is inexplicably to put his gun away as he keeps searching.
  • The Woobie: Tom from season 3 has it really bad. He is a legitimately kind man who loves his kids and seems to feel genuinely bad when he drunkenly calls Hayes a racial slur. Stuck in a loveless relationship with his wife who sleeps around and a repressed homosexual, his kids get kidnapped and murdered (his son is definitely murdered at least), his life falls to pieces. Though Roland helps him get back on his feet (to a degree) between '80 and '90, things only get worse when a phone call comes in to the police from his daughter that apparently accuses him of being the kidnapper/murderer. Roland, his only real friend at this point, accuses him of the crime destroying his trust in Roland, and when he gets set free 24 hours later, he is able to figure out who the responsible party was only to get murdered. To top it all off, the killer sets his body up to make it look like a suicide with a note confessing to the crime. Life was not kind to Tom at all.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Although it is a stretch, it is pitiful to see the reality of Errol Childress. He is obviously mentally unbalanced and stunted, disfigured by his own father, whose corpse he keeps in his shed. He and his sister-wife, who is clearly mentally retarded live in a secluded, rundown, and horded-up house and they ultimately act like, as Pizzolatto said, a pair of kids left to play alone through the decades. In one interview, Pizzolatto implied that Errol made the crimes so dramatic and theatrical as a way to draw attention to the cult- the people who raised and abused him.
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