You’ve finished Breaking Bad, binged on House of Cards, and are looking for a new show to tide you over until Game of Thrones comes back. Well, look no further, because HBO’s True Detective is one of the most riveting shows to grace the airwaves. Set primarily in 1995, the show is a gritty take on the pulp neo-noir genre twisted with elements of supernatural horror, and trades the urban decay of New York or Los Angeles, for an eerie look at the backwater depravity of 1995 Louisiana.
The show stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey (still looking thin from his role in Dallas Buyer’s Club), as a pair of detectives investigating a series of depraved occult murders. Along the way they are forced to confront not just the degenerate criminal elements of society, but their own debilitating inner demons. Marty Hart (Harrelson) is your typical homicide detective – full of machismo and character flaws. Hart generally tries to do good, but his inconsistent moral views end up causing him to give often gives in to his most basic urges. In many ways, Hart’s character resembles that of fellow homicide detective Jimmy McNulty from The Wire. Meanwhile, Rustin “Rust” Cohle (McConaughey) is a psychologically tortured man, haunted by his past and plagued with PTSD, Insomnia, and the occasional acid flashback. Cohle’s experiences have left him grim and nihilistic, but this bleak fatalism allows him insight to the motivations and moral character of those he works with and those he hunts.
Many critics have been commenting about the advent of a golden age of television; how the wide breadth of media and programming are churning out some of the most acclaimed series ever created. Many A list actors are now pursuing roles on television, a career choice that would have seemed desperate 15 years ago, but is now a way to portray characters and stories which are more nuanced and enthralling than anything on film. Indeed, every element in the show is a testament to the shift in TV’s status in the media paradigm. The acting is every bit as excellent as you would expect from such acclaimed talent. The cinematography is haunting and mesmerizing. The soundtrack perfectly fits with the gritty Dixie lawlessness. The story is a well-crafted, postmodern tale of human depravity. Like American Horror Story¸ True Detective is an anthology, and each season features different locations, characters and stories. Unlike American Horror Story, the cast of actors will vary from season to season, so don’t expect McConaughey or Harrelson to show up next season. As of now, the first six episodes are out, with the final two of the season due to be released in the coming weeks. That means you have plenty of time to catch up. Winter may be coming for Westeros, but for now, enjoy a hot summer in Louisiana.