True Detective as a seven hour film would be just as amazing as the television show is, but it would be very hard to watch. Attention spans aside, it’s hard to sit through anything for seven hours straight. The genius of True Detective is using the traditional television format of “episodes” to break up the content into easier-to-consume pieces. The sum of those parts is equal to — or perhaps even greater than — the whole if it were one continuous entity.
It’s an interesting point to contemplate, particularly in the wake of the second season of House of Cards, released all on the same day. I didn’t watch all thirteen episodes of the latter on the same day — I spread them over three days — but watching about four hours a day of drama is still overwhelming. True Detective and House of Cards share a high-drama, high-tension format, but the latter’s release format offered viewers the opportunity to overdose on it.