True Detective not only lives up to the hype and accolades it has received but takes my breath away and leaves me awe struck. Its structure, storytelling, music, visual tone, and tour de force performances makes it one of the GIANTS of our current “Golden Age” of television.
It is hard to imagine what the second season, recently announced, will do to top this freshman season, but I am excited to see the possibilities.
Matthew McConaughey is continuing his current streak of being a world class actor. In True Detective he delivers on of his most layered, fascinating and unforgettable performance to date. Everyone in the show is pitch-perfect including co-star Woody Harrelson. The supporting cast are fantastic, including the breath-taking Alexandra Daddario as a sex pot who airs on the side of crazy and Michelle Monaghan, heart breaking and complex as Harrelson’s wife. However, McConaughey’s meaty role of Rust Chole will rank amongst the most complex of any TV character.
The story covers 17 years of time (from 1995-2012) and thanks to the plots exceptional narrative structure, it does so with astonishing control and awareness of when, what, and how they deliver important story or character information. To complete this illusion is the award deserving makeup used to age up and down the characters.
True Detective also examines the life of a detective and the toll it can take, both mentally and physically. McConaughey is so different when he is young Chole and old Chole. His look and attitude appears as if he is playing two different characters, but he always remains so lived inside his tortured detective you can recognize him no matter how haggard (old) or drugged (young) he may seem. He also tends towards beautiful, wildly insightful, pessimistically poetic ranting monolouges in the vain of Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton and Ian McShane in Deadwood in how they are placed over sequences over the use of a score.
The show has an astonishing singular vision due in large part to its creator Nic Pizzolatto and director by Cary Fukunaga (who directed Sin Nombre and Jane Eyre previously). From the beautiful cinematography to the pale lighting and incredible use of framing, camera movement and editing, it is one of the most cinematically satisfying and intense series. Its narrative playfulness is bold but never tiresome. The series is steeped in style but in the best possible way – where it uses craft to service the visceral/emotional context.
True Detective finds beauty in the framing of the grotesque in life, both visually and metaphorically. It handles action with a less is more attitude. It also has a 6 minute single-shot-long-take that rivals the great long takes in Children of Men. It is dynamic, and never chaotic, flowing with grace, and almost entirely stays on (McConaughey) the entire time.
At this point in time I must rank it along with my personal favorites (The Wire, Mad Men, Deadwood) at least as single seasons go. Since it has a second season with an all new cast and story line, Nic and Cary still in charge of writing and directing, it has wonderful odds that they will hit another one out of the park.
Find True Detective now on HBO and HBOGO.