It harks back to HBO’s early 2000s glory run of hits

TOP OF THE COPS HBO are back on form with a new existential crime drama. Brian Donaldson watches True Detective in awe as two Hollywood stars create TV heaven with a story from hell

O n paper, the pitching of True Detective might not have set many pulses racing: two mismatched cops investigate a possible ritualistic serial killer in 1995, with both men having a list of l aws longer than the longest arm of the law. But, like sporting outcomes, landmark dramas are not made solely on paper. Up on the screen, True Detective l eshes out its bare bones with an almost extra- terrestrial magic as Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson dig out the performances of their already illustrious careers as a pair of Louisiana cops.

McConaughey is Rust Cohle, a morosely deep thinker with an eye for weakness and a tragic past that shadows his every move, while Harrelson plays Martin Hart, a straight-talking

investigator whose working and family life are at the mercy of his own tendencies (violent) and predilections (sexual). They get to speak lines which most actors would die for in this HBO show which harks back to the cable channel’s early 2000s glory run of hits, including The Sopranos, Deadwood, Six Feet Under and The Wire. But it’s not just the stirring writing from crime novelist Nic Pizzolatto or the leads’ acting that gives this eight-part drama its wondrous power: the structure and visual telling are also electrifying. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (whose previous credits are headed by 2011’s dark adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre), there are constant delights for the eyes and some brutally searing imagery that will stay

imprinted on the mind for much longer than is healthy. Perhaps most triumphant of all is the way the story switches between its two time frames. True Detective is being told in the here and now, as Cohle and Hart rel ect back to 1995 while being separately questioned by two ofi cers investigating a new series of murders. These fresh slayings have hints of the old case, but this can surely only be an instance of a copycat killer given that Cohle and Hart put the right person away in 1995? Surely . . . ?

Running side by side with the story of the original case the relationship between Cohle and Hart and how an already fractious working partnership i nally broke down, the pair not having exchanged a word since. ‘A is

30 THE LIST 23 Jan–20 Feb 2014