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TV Review: True Detective (PILOT)

01.10.2014

PLOT: Seventeen years after they apparently solved a grisly ritual-style killing of a young prostitute, former detectives Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) are interviewed about their investigation by a new set of detectives working on a case with uncomfortable similarities.

REVIEW: Based on the pilot, I think it’s safe to say HBO has got another great drama on its hands. Adopting a limited-series anthology format- which means that if TRUE DETECTIVE is renewed it will continue with a new set of detectives- the show is not unlike the type of short run series you’d see in the UK. The amazing RED RIDING TRILOGY and SOUTHCLIFFE immediately come to mind.

The entire eight-episode run of TRUE DETECTIVE is directed by feature regular Cary Fukunaga- of SIN NOMBRE and the most recent version of JANE EYRE. I’m tempted to say the result gives the show a feature-film feel that’s unique, but truth be told cable has seen such an influx of great directors honing their skills on shows like BREAKING BAD (where Rian Johnson directed some of the most memorable episodes) and HOUSE OF CARDS (David Fincher & James Foley among others) that you pretty much expect each new show to look spectacular. TRUE DETECTIVE is no exception, even if the screener copy I was provided had unfinished color timing. Making the most of South Louisiana location shooting, Fukunaga’s work oozes atmosphere- helped along by a score by Coen Bros regular T. Bone Burnett that gives the show an appropriately seedy feel.

Given that TRUE DETECTIVE is a procedural, what is it that makes the show so unique? In addition to the stylized writing by Nic Pizzolatto, where the detectives are as prone to discuss the existence of God as they are the case, the show is all but defined by the incredible performances by stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

Based on the pilot, McConaughey, who’s in the middle of one of the most incredible career transformations I’ve ever seen, has the more complex role. As Rust Cohle, who’s dubbed “The Taxman” by his colleagues due to his habit of noting things constantly in his ledger, McConaughey’s got something that just may turn out to be one of his all-time greatest parts, on par with KILLER JOE, MUD and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. Wound so tight that he needs to pop Quaaludes just to get a good night’s sleep, it’s clear from his appearance in the current-day parts of the pilot (where he spots long-straggly hair and constantly drinks cheap beer- even while being interviewed- compared to his clean-cut Taxman days) that something pretty bad is going to go down with him by the time the series is over. Right from the start, Taxman is certain the ritual killing, which is quickly chalked up to wannabe-Satanists in their fearful town, is part of a bigger picture and the way his investigation evolves will do doubt be the crux of the series.

By contrast, Woody Harrelson plays the more conventional part, with his present day guise being just as conservative (minus some hair) as his 1995 version. Again though, this might very well be misdirection on the series part, and given that Harrelson’s on-screen wife- played by Michelle Monaghan- is given such high billing, we can expect issues in his home life to have a strong bearing on the case. By the end of the series, who knows what we’ll know about him?

It’s this kind of uncertainty that makes TRUE DETECTIVE such an intriguing new addition to the HBO schedule. By the end of the pilot I still had no idea where the rest of the series would go, although I have a hunch that the procedural aspects will diminish in importance after a few more revelations- whatever they turn out to be. Suffice to say, for me it’s already appointment viewing, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the season.

Extra Tidbit: TRUE DETECTIVE premieres Sunday night at 9pm on HBO. Do you want to see more TRUE DETECTIVE episode reviews? Strike back below!
Source: JoBlo.com

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