Words by Chelsea Lorren Brown
It seems as though HBO’s gritty crime thriller True Detective popped up overnight. With no hype, no original book or comic series and a virtually unknown writer, the show has all the makings of a small cult hit. But the undeniable brilliance and suspense of the show has shone through and is already causing quite a stir amongst critics and TV fans alike.
As with most slow-burn series, a fan-base and break into “mainstream” consumption is a gradually growing thing; it wasn’t until the penultimate season, perhaps even final season, of Breaking Bad, that the show left the realms of only passionate long-time viewers to mass-obsession. True Detective is sure to be the same; still in its infancy, but promising and exhilarating enough to have critics screaming its praise and avid TV buffs bugging their friends to watch. As one of the latter, it seems my duty to prove to you why you should be watching. So here it is, a list of three reasons why you should be watching True Detective…
1. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson
They’re just about the last two people you’d expect to be the leads in a HBO drama; film stars known mostly for work of a more light-hearted nature, with no show in a declining career anytime soon. Harrelson found his way into the limelight through TV years ago (Cheers), but has stuck with film for the past two decades, mostly being known for his comedic work.
McConaughey is much the same, being known for many years as the hunky star of romantic comedies and feel-good flicks. Only in the past year has McConaughey been stepping into more high-profile and meaty roles, most notably in Dallas Buyers Club, which has earned him countless award nods, and re-branded him as a “serious actor”.
Once you get over the immediate confusion of seeing such unusual actors in the lead roles, you’ll notice how completely perfect they are for them. Harrelson plays what seems like the quintessential family man, but soon turns out to be vile, adulterous and violent. He plays the part brilliantly; his goofy, chilled out vibe that we know so well is out the door and forever forgotten.
McConaughey plays the “wild card” detective with a family lost to tragedy and a mind damaged from years of doing undercover drug work. He’s spacey, intense and the character you undeniably root for out of the two. McConaughey and Harrelson complement each other perfectly – they’re vastly different actors, playing vastly different characters, coming together for a perfect fit.
2. The cinematography
In recent years we’ve seen television shows flirt with the sort of cinematography we usually expect from film; color co-ordination, interesting compositions and experimental shots. But it seems like True Detective could quite easily become the poster-child for aesthetically crafted American television, boasting beautifully composed scenery and one of the most dramatically shot scenes I’ve seen in quite some time.
The show is set in South Louisiana, and takes full advantage of the strangely eerie and dilapidated setting, using super wide shots and birds-eye-view overheads. Every scene is shot with conviction and underlying meaning, making for a truly visually astounding series. A true standout of the show so far is the six minute long tracking shot in episode four, which blew the mind of every viewer and the TV-loving Internet as a whole. Finishing up the episode on an incredible and nail-biting high, the camera seamlessly follows McConaughey through several houses and backyards amongst gunfire and violence. It has to be seen to be believed and indeed appreciated; the long-shot being both impressive, visually mind-blowing and a great addition to the already intense happenings.
3. The slow-burn
Whilst agonisingly suspenseful, the TV slow-burn rewards viewers with one hell of a pay-off. As with most shows of this nature, the set-up and development of a storyline is the root of the show and True Detective is no different. It reveals so little, yet there’s a distinct feeling that every miniscule detail is of huge importance, slowly adding to its growingly disturbing puzzle.
The problem with the slow-burn is that sometimes the suspense and gradually moving story seems forced and completely boring, often promising so much, but leading to one big cliffhanger, only to suck you back in for the next season with no big pay-off (did someone mention The Walking Dead?) True Detective remains riveting in its gradual pace, captivating audiences with multiple interlinking story lines and the vibe that something much bigger and more treacherous is hanging overhead. Plus, there are enough moments along the way to get your heart pounding and your mind racing.
My problem with a lot of American shows is how long and drawn out they can become; a show you were once addicted to slowly becomes a chore to watch as the seasons, episodes and storylines drag out. This has become such a problem that these days I almost hope for an early cancellation, purely to save a show from dragging into the realms of, “well, it used to be good”.
Part of the greatness that is True Detective is the assurance that all this will probably never happen; with a short eight episode season we’re promised a conclusion to all our questions in the perfect amount of time, not to be drawn out in agonizing fashion, à la Lost. Not to mention, True Detective is set to be an anthology series, meaning new characters and storylines every season, keeping our viewing experience fresh and continuously riveting.
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I could go on forever about how bloody great True Detective is, but I suppose we’ll just have to settle for those three reasons. With solid storytelling, stellar performances, unnerving music and a general foreboding feel, the show has expertly created a disturbing and realistic world for us to watch. It’s undeniably going to be “the next big thing”, enough to rival the likes of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad; so get on it while you can still have the “I was there first” bragging rights.