You might have heard mention of that title. You might have seen the billboards, or the tv ads, or seen it talked about online – either on social media or message boards. You might even be one of the talkers already, if not one of the listeners. The very real fact here is that True Detective has arrived, and those lucky enough to have seen it so far really, really want to talk about it – and everyone else is either listening, or doesn’t know they should be yet.
Finally landing on UK screens last night courtesy of the Sky Atlantic channel – which has nabbed first dibs on HBO’s exported shows – it’s not without a degree of fanfare. Rightly so; were it just a another police procedural show, the draw of stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson would be enough to pull a considerable crowd, but the performances, while key, are not all that make this utterly compulsive viewing. The dialogue these fine actors are given is dizzyingly dynamic, and often the most mundane of conversational settings, the car journey, leaves the viewer completely gripped by the nature, delivery and conceptual thematics of these exchanges. Neither McConaughey or Harrelson are television actors, but an attraction to material of this calibre would be impossible to resist, regardless of the medium – and both are turning in what is potentially career-defining work, which given their history (not to mention the current ‘McConnaissance’) is fairly remarkable. Playing mismatched cops Martin Hart and ‘Rust’ Cohle, one a family man with a secret, the other a philosophical nihilist entrenched in darkness, both actors are absolutely sensational here, and their frictional relationship and actions both in present and the past play at the very centre of the show, the beating heart of a bruised and battered body.
Make no mistake. What writer and creator Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga have crafted here is a monstrously dark drama of completely cinematic quality, with huge scope and wonderfully sumptuous visuals, and to think of it as a ‘cop show’ is to do it a total disservice. There’s a deep-rooted gothic vibe to this disturbing tale of murder and what becomes of the men who try to solve it, and while it is very much based here in the real, the portent of dread is prevalent. We see these men as they struggle with the real horrors around them, and without us seeing anything of the unreal, an undeniable, nightmarish quality runs rich within the veins of the show. It is as if a greater evil, and unknown terror, is scratching at the corners of every frame, and we must simply wait for it to reveal itself. The pacing is clinical and slow, but justly so – it means that when the revelations come, when the shit hits the fan, the cuts are all the deeper. You haven’t seen television quite like this, and likely won’t forget it.
So set your planners, people. The discussion starts now and if you don’t want to miss out, this is the time to get onboard. This is an outstanding, rewarding, devastatingly brilliant piece of television and one you absolutely must not miss. It would, to use an old cliché, simply be a crime.
True Detective is showing on Saturdays on the Sky Atlantic channel