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Why you need to watch ‘True Detective’ tonight

Posted at 3:15 pm, February 22, 2014 in TV
fight crime

There’s nothing quite like a sedate, noir murder mystery, is there? Well, there’s nothing quite like ‘True Detective’, the eight-part miniseries coming to UK screens tonight. Here’s why it’s a must watch…

It stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as reluctant murder detective partners.
McConaughey is off-the-charts incredible as Rusty Cohle, wounded, prickly and existential without apology – there’s a touch of the Texan House about him. Harrelson’s Martin Hart is all meaty, affable, God-fearing, hypocritical: your classic hard-drinking family man with a mistress.

True Detective Murder

It’s deeply creepy.
Occult killings, mysterious tattoos, Satanic rumours – but fortunately no
actual ghost stuff. How much noir could this be? None. None more noir. Fans of Twin Peaks’ pervasive sense of dread will find a lot to enjoy here, as will anyone who enjoyed last year’s ‘Top of the Lake’.

And it’s as bleak as all hell.
Cohle, in particular, loves nothing more than embarking on a quotable ‘life is meaningless’ monologue. Several times an episode, in fact, he doles out something like this:

“People… I have seen the finale of thousands of lives man. Young, old, each one was so sure of their realness. That their sensory experience constituted a unique individual. Purpose, meaning. So certain that they were more than a biological puppet. Truth wills out, everybody sees once the strings are cut off all down.”

It would be easy for this to come off as ‘a bit much’, but McConaughey, seemingly shellshocked by some unspeakable cosmic truth, pulls it off pretty much every time.

But it still has moments of dark comedy.
If all the nihilist pontificating sounds like a downer, there are always the reaction shots to savour:

True Detective

“Stop saying shit like that. It’s unprofessional.”

It’s eight episodes long and that’s IT.
No stretching things out for a second series – it all wraps up in eight weeks time. Or so they say. I’ll let you write that down.


The unreliable narrators and untrustworthy flashbacks make things yet more tantalising.

See, the tale is narrated by 2013 Martin:


And 2013 Cohle, now wiped-out, straw-haired and exuding more despair than ever:


As they reflect on the 1992 murder they worked on together:


But why are they being interviewed about it? Why have things gone so wrong for Cohle? And are they telling the truth? This is the kind of show that’s going to have you debating theories, analysing clues and taking part in forthright discussions on the internet. (Be careful with that, though – the first five episodes have already been broadcast Stateside.)

All in all, it’s a gorgeous mini-series that, while very occasionally overdoing the Nietzsche-y stuff, is beautifully shot, intriguingly written, and powered by a pair of slow-burning performances that stick in the memory. The best thing on television for the next two months? True dat.

True Detective is on Sky Atlantic at 9pm, Sat Feb 22. Get excited with the trailer:

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