Director: Cary Fukunaga
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Dunn, Michael Potts
‘Alright, alright, alright?’ No, Matthew. ‘Best TV show ever, best TV show ever, best TV show ever?’ Now you’re talking. HBO’s latest flagship, True Detective, is genuinely the most engaging television series ever made, and in writer Nic Pizzolato it has the most exciting storyteller on the planet.
Louisiana, 1995. A young girl is found dead in a field, hog tied and paganised for all to see. Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) are the detective duo assigned to the case, and after a little clue-sniffing they catch the scent of the deepest, darkest secret in the swamplands. Across seventeen years, the pair (though mostly Rust) hunt for the killer, tracking an almost supernatural trail that supposedly leads to ‘The Yellow King’.
Criss-crossing between the precarious partnership of Rust and Marty from 1995-2002 and the modern day, True Detective keeps you on constant tenterhooks with its ground-breaking narrative. You’re never fully filled in, and are forced to piece together the tantalising scraps as they’re thrown your way. A foul fog of otherworldly horror shrouds the entire series, with Lovecraftian references to the Chtulu mythos leaving you desperate for answers, but also dreading them.
More intriguing than the case itself is the haggardly Rust, impressively portrayed by an intransigent Matthew McConaughey. He’s a man of many lives, an alcoholic pessimist that could have made it as a prize fighter or a poet, and he’s constantly spouting inspirational prose; ‘We are things labouring under the illusion of having a self’. Woody Harrelson’s pridefully indelible Marty is a less complex and all together less likeable character, with a much more simplistic take on things; ‘What good is cake if ya can’t eat it?’ Michelle Monaghan plays excellently as Marty’s wife, evoking the gnawing pain of domestic dystopia with laudable realism. Those detractors highlighting her character as the prime example of creator Nic Pizzolato’s sexism have fundamentally misunderstood her.
True Detective’s first season has eight episodes, with each hour leaving you more fulfilled than any film you may care to mention. Admittedly, the highlight is the blisteringly cinematic episode 4, but – despite everything thereafter being coloured with impossible-to-meet-expectation – the rest of the series remains incredible. Cary Fukunaga’s (the hombre that did Sin Nombre) jaw-droppingly immersive direction will get you hooked from the outset; the attention to detail is sublime. Beautifully languid wideshots really capture the essence of the environment, lending the series a slow-burn tension to match McConaughey’s incessant, 30-second-long cigarette drags.
It may be just one series in, but its safe to say that True Detective treads along The Wire with ease, while its multi-layered formula is more complex and addictive than anything Breaking Bad ever cooked up – stick that in your meth pipe and smoke it, Heisenberg! Neatly, the characters and locations of True Detective season two will be totally fresh, so cherish every guarded sip of flat beer Rust takes because you won’t get him back. Unless, that is, you re-watch them all, which you most certainly will.