In Depth

True Detective: 'revolutionary' drama to rival Breaking Bad

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson star in ‘most ambitious TV drama for a long time'

true-detective.jpg

THE first episode of True Detective aired on Sky Atlantic this weekend and critics are already comparing it with Breaking Bad and The Wire.

The crime thriller, set in Louisiana, stars Matthew McConaughey as a loner detective Rustin Cohle and Woody Harrelson as his partner Martin Hart.

Unusually for an American show, the eight-part series has been authored solely by its creator, Nic Pizzolatto, and is directed only by Cary Fukunaga (Jane Eyre and Sin Nombre). Most US series employ a pool of writers and directors.

The plot swings between 1995, when Cohle and Hart are investigating the ritualistic murder of a young woman, and 2012, when the pair are being interviewed about the case by police 17 years after it was apparently solved.

In the Daily Telegraph, Chris Harvey gives the show five out of five stars, describing it as the "most ambitious TV drama for a long time", while Andrew Billen in The Times calls it "slow, hypnotic and brilliant", also giving it five stars.

"Saturday's first episode reminded us that television no longer needs to cringe at the edge of its ancestor's red carpets," says Billen. "True Detective delivers all the satisfactions of a Hollywood classic but with the additional opportunities granted by eight hours of storytelling."

The series is "stunningly cinematic and literary in a manner that at least matches Twin Peaks, Breaking Bad and The Wire", says Jim Shelley in the Daily Mail. He notes that in America, where HBO has already aired five episodes, True Detective has already generated the same obsessive following as Breaking Bad.

"This is as cinematic as television gets," says Ellen E Jones in The Independent. What makes it so distinctive is that "when it ends, it ends", she adds. "There will be no irritating cliff-hanger to be taken up next season, and if a second season does materialise, it will be with different actors, different characters and a different setting."

The Daily Beast's Andrew Romano, who has watched up to episode four, describes this format as "revolutionary", suggesting that other shows such as Homeland would have been "vastly superior" if they had wrapped up at the end of season one.

"True Detective is the rare show that's brave enough to make viewers so uncomfortable," says Romano. "And brave enough not to overstay its welcome once it has."

Romano is already convinced that the show will "reign supreme" when he compiles his Top Ten list of 2014 television shows in December, adding that it is "not only one of the most riveting and provocative series I've seen in the last few years; it's one of the most riveting and provocative series I've ever seen".

Recommended

Podcasts: middle age, sport and criminal minds
Lindsey Hilsum: a “total blast” on The Shift podcast
In Review

Podcasts: middle age, sport and criminal minds

Podcasts: sleep, fraud and lexophilia
Cassell’s Book of Birds
In Review

Podcasts: sleep, fraud and lexophilia

TV crime dramas to watch in 2021
Chris Rock stars in the fourth series of Fargo
In Review

TV crime dramas to watch in 2021

Podcasts: exploring work strife and faked deaths
Alice Fiennes and Poppy Damon: exploring pseudocide
In Review

Podcasts: exploring work strife and faked deaths

Popular articles

London mayoral race 2021: who will win?
Night Tube Sadiq Khan
In Depth

London mayoral race 2021: who will win?

Laurence Fox to Count Binface: the most colourful London mayor candidates
Count Binface
Behind the scenes

Laurence Fox to Count Binface: the most colourful London mayor candidates

UK elections: why the results matter and who is tipped to win
Boris Johnson in Hartlepool
Getting to grips with . . .

UK elections: why the results matter and who is tipped to win