True Detective: With Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, this is as cinematic as television gets
It’s worth staying on the trail of this slow-burning Deep South crime drama
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Sunday 23 February 2014
They call it the McConaissance.
Matthew McConaughey’s transformation from shirtless himbo to enthralling actor has already earned him his first Oscar nomination. His new-found intensity is perfectly showcased by True Detective, the eerie, Louisiana-set crime thriller, which started an eight-week run on Sky Atlantic on Saturday.
He plays Det. Rustin Cohle, a loner given to nihilistic speechifying, much to the annoyance of his gregarious good ol’ boy partner, Det. Martin Hart (played by fellow Texan, Woody Harrelson). It’s 1995 and the pair are investigating the ritualistic murder of a young woman, somewhere out in the Louisiana sticks. But it’s also 17 years later, and our two detectives – now a little balder, a little fatter and, in Cohle’s case, a little crazier – are being interviewed separately by police. This supposedly closed case is attracting renewed police interest, for reasons that remain unclear.
This isn’t just the usual difference in policing styles, then. Rust and Marty are also rival narrators recounting the same story from alternative perspectives. There’s the straight-up heroic procedural that Marty’s told in every cop bar from Houston to Biloxi; and then there’s that darker tale that Rust continually hints at, a dread-filled supernatural horror, full of occult symbolism, drug-induced psychosis and abandoned meth shacks. “This place is like someone’s memory of a town and that memory’s faded,” drawls Rust. “Stop saying shit like that,” replies Marty.
True Detective is as cinematic as television gets and, in many ways, is superior to its more prestigious cousin. It’s not just the movie-star cast, or that it was shot on 35mm, or the soundtrack by T Bone Burnett. It’s not even the unusual amount of creative control given to writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga.
What makes True Detective such a distinctive piece of television is that when it ends, it ends. There will be no irritating cliffhanger to be taken up next season, and if a second season does materialise, it will be with different actors, different characters and a different setting. So, like one of Rust’s rambling monologues, True Detective might feel like it’s veering into the chaos, but there is a finale in sight. That monster out there in the woods is gradually moving into view.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens trailer: The most extreme fan reactions on Twitter
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
Madonna might be a stand-up comedy virgin - but she wasn't terrible
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a white stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Russian warships in English Channel 'to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine military drills'