If you missed out on its premiere on Sky Atlantic, not to worry. Enough people are going to be talking about True Detective over the next few months that it'll feel like you've watched it without watching. The new TV miniseries from HBO has gained a cult following in the US and it's going to be just as popular on this side of the world. Directed by Cory Joji Fukunaga and written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto, True Detective is a story about human nature, religion in the American South, sex, murder and figurines made out of beer cans.
Although a lot of noise has been made about the casting of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, it's the writing and the visuals that make True Detective all the more compelling. Cory Joji Fukunaga previously directed the underrated Jane Eyre with our own Michael Fassbender and, before that, the Mexican-Honduran thriller Sin Nombre. His unique visual style is showcased through the series, made up of drenched colours and clever visual cues throughout. What's more, Fukunaga is working with two of the finest actors out there today. McConaughey's career renaissance is the stuff of legends whilst Harrelson has been quietly ploughing his own furrow, fiercely independent and working films he wants to make.
What puts True Detective out ahead of every other crime drama series is the writing. The series has the depth of a novel and all the intricacies of one as well. The story of True Detective is told in flashback; McConaughey is shown as a youthful if pessimistic detective who's obsessed with his job and his monkish existence. It flies forward to, presumably, our time and McConaughey's character is now a husk of a man, downing beer cans and delivering baffling philosophical monologues to the two near-mute detectives who've asked for his input. Harrelson's character is the polar opposite. Clever but direct, Harrelson's detective is trying to fight his animalistic urges whilst McConaughey simply exists in the moment. We see over the course of the series just how much Harrelson's life unravels - and most of it is his own doing.
Nic Pizzolatto's script works like a novel. The story unfolds with each passing chapter or episode and everything you see is relevant. Nothing is left for design or aesthetic; everything has a purpose. The gothic setting and the story itself - a woman's body is found, arranged in some sort of occult ritual - isn't what you'd call original on TV. After all, we've had The Killing, The Bridge, Twin Peaks and more. Yet, what makes True Detective so unique from these is the quality of it all. You can truly see how each and every line and scene is considered and put together. Nothing feels haphazard and the entire show has the slickness of a critically-acclaimed film.
In short, True Detective is the first real replacement we've seen for The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and more.