True Detective

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
True Detective TV Poster Image
Parents recommend
Unsettling crimes make for complicated character studies.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The overall tone is dark and foreboding, painting a picture of an unsettling world that's peopled with characters who have questionable motives.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although they're good at their jobs and dedicated to their careers, both main characters are complex and deeply flawed.


Crime scenes feature dead bodies and some unsettling imagery, but there's minimal blood. On-screen violence is rare.


Nudity includes bare breasts and buttocks, with implied and simulated sex. Some crimes have sexual overtones.


Unbleeped swearing includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and "t-ts."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking, occasionally to drunkenness, plus allusions to illegal drug use (including pot, crystal meth, and LSD). A main character smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that True Detective is an anthology series that structures each new season around a different murder case and the detectives investigating the crime. It plays as decidedly adult pay-cable fare, with dead bodies and bloody injuries, unbleeped swearing ranging from "f--k" to "t-ts," and visible nudity in the form of breasts and buttocks, along with simulated sex. There's social drinking and drug use, too, from prescription pills to crystal meth.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9 and 12-year-old Written byloco-geologico June 21, 2014

Great but for adults

Great show, but not for kids. For adults I could give a great review. But for kids it has lots of sexual situations and strip bars with breasts, and graphic chi... Continue reading
Adult Written byviper_wings March 18, 2014

Life as it is at his darkest

I thought this one of the best series I ever saw Just because the deeply flawed persons > Cause we are all on some level deeply flawed and to show this i... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byfellaZ November 1, 2014

Great series but read what is down here

This is a very dark, unexpectedly scary, intense series, with the overall theme being of an ongoing Satanic cult committing ritualistic murder and sex crimes. N... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byLeonvol February 16, 2021

Season 3!!!!!

This review is for season 3!!!!. This show is a fantastic hbo series. It’s about an old cop that tells about a case he had for some years ago. This case ruined... Continue reading

What's the story?

Designed to run as an anthology of individual miniseries, TRUE DETECTIVE devotes each new season to a different case that's being investigated by a different crop of crime solvers. Polar-opposite partners Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) star in the series' first season in Louisiana with a search for the twisted mind behind a series of chilling murders, all while they grapple with their own personal demons. The second season shifts to California, where a trio of brooding cops -- Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), and Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) -- come together to solve a disturbing crime.

Is it any good?

Named in homage to a popular true-crime rag that debuted in the 1920s, True Detective isn't necessarily a period piece, although it does play with chronological structure via a series of flashbacks that bounce viewers back and forth between decades. It's definitely not a traditional crime drama either, thanks to creative choices that set it apart from competing crime shows and, in the end, make for smart, cerebral TV that's as challenging as it is chilling.

One of those choices is the decision to center each season on a separate murder case, involving different characters and casts from year to year, similar in structure to American Horror Story. That makes it hard to predict what kids will see on-screen -- and whether a new season will be as good as its predecessors. But judging from the show's first two seasons, it's a sure bet that adults are the intended audience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages True Detective sends about good and evil, crime and punishment, and human nature, particularly in terms of criminals and the law-enforcement agents who bring them to justice. How do the main characters measure up as role models?

  • How does True Detective compare to the slew of crime dramas currently on television. From storytelling to cinematography, what things does this series do differently -- and do they work?

  • How does True Detective play with traditional structure? What are the pros and cons of its anthology approach that devotes each new season to a different case and a different set of characters?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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