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True Detective keeps getting better with each episode

Viewpoints Editor

Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 01:02

I remember watching HBO back in November and between programs, a preview for a cop show called “True Detective” starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson briefly aired.

I knew I had to watch it.

Little did I know that three episodes in, I would stop streaming the show on HBO’s online service, instead opting to tune in to HBO at 8 p.m. each Sunday, so I see it as it airs.

I also didn’t know that five episodes in, I would be reading theories about characters and the show’s central mystery the way “Lost” fanatics did five years ago, obsessing over plot details and still shots like Kennedy conspiracy theorists over the Zapruder film.

Simply put, this show is the best thing on television right now and just keeps getting better.

Without spoiling the plot, the story centers on two homicide detectives in Louisiana, Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Harrelson) who are assigned to investigate the 1995 murder of prostitute Dora Kelly Lange. The plot isn’t linear and jumps between the pair attempting to solve the murder in the mid-90’s and the present day, where both have washed out of the police force and are explaining the past events to two investigators.

Cohle is a haunted ex-undercover narcotics officer who meanders into ramblings about nihilism and a strange metaphysics that often irritate Hart, a straight-laced family man with little patience for Cohle’s preachings.

The two have a compelling dynamic and bring complementary skills to the table during the investigation. Hart’s by-the-book police style contrasts well with Cohle’s hunches, interrogation style and undercover ability.

What pushes “True Detective” from excellent, well-filmed show into greatness though, is the story.

The show plays out as a fairly straight cop show through the first three episodes. There are allusions to grand conspiracies, but nothing concrete. Like most cop shows, Cohle and Hart spend their time tracking down leads and interviewing suspects.

The series’ fourth and fifth episodes are where it begins to be less formulaic and consequently more compelling. The violence and action are more prevalent and those grand conspiracies come to fruition in more ways than any viewer had anticipated.

By the fifth episode, the two narratives (one past and one present) begin to tie together expertly and viewers are left to question the true motivation of the show’s two flawed protagonists.

The appeal of “True Detective” however lies in the series’ structure. It’s an anthology, not a multiyear serial. None of the characters will return next season, as the entire show will be recast and take place in a different setting.  FX’s “American Horror Story” started this trend, but HBO took it A-list with McConaughey and Harrelson.

This means that unlike “Lost” which threw up an indefinite series of red herrings and subterfuge to keep viewers guessing, “True Detective” will wrap this storyline up after its eight episode first season and come up with something else entirely for season two.

With five episodes in and three to go, HBO’s “True Detective” has quickly ascended to the throne of TV programming. Lovers of high-octane cinema quality programming need no longer despair in the wake of Walter White’s demise.

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