TV review: “True Detective” is truly amazing

By Columbus Alive
From the January 9, 2014 edition

I know it’s early, both in the year and the series’ run, but there’s a very good chance HBO’s “True Detective” will be one of 2014’s best shows — if not the best. Boasting two phenomenal lead performances, a compelling narrative that involves both an unsettling murder mystery and fantastic character development along with some incredible visual artistry, “True Detective” is just purely great.

Straddling between 1995 and 2012, “True Detective” is ostensibly the investigation of an occult murder in Louisiana; detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) investigated the original crime and are called back in 2012 when a similar murder occurs.

In reality, “True Detective” is so much more. As Rust and Martin are drawn deeper into this murder, the audience learns much more about these (flawed) men and what makes them tick.

The first kudos goes to creator and sole writer Nic Pizzolatto for creating profound, multi-dimensional leads, while deftly careening the narrative between the past and present. The structure of Rust and Martin retelling the course of their 1995 investigation to two new detectives working a similar murder — while flashing back to these two as younger, clearly different versions of themselves — builds immediate stakes.

Adding a sense of haunting beauty to Pizzolatto’s words is director (also of all episodes) Cary Fukunaga. With the rural Louisiana landscape as his palette, Fukunaga paints a masterpiece. Imagine a modern-day, dark-and-twisted version of “The Usual Suspects” meeting David Fincher’s “Seven” and “Zodiac” with a dash of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.” Yes, it’s that great.

Lastly, and most importantly, the cast, especially the summiting McConaughey, is outstanding. Harrelson is also incredible, but McConaughey pours intelligence, torment, heart, desperation, despair and mystery into Rust. It’ll be hard to find a better performance on TV this year.

“True Detective” is an anthology series (think “American Horror Story”) that will wrap up this story by the end of this season. If Pizzolatto changes his mind and brings McConaughey and Harrelson back because of how great their story is, that would be great too. Regardless, these eight episodes are must see.

Photo courtesy HBO