Why Everyone's Talking About: True Detective


Over the last few weeks you’ve probably seen innumerable social media and website postings with such portentous headings as ‘Is True Detective The Best Show Since The Wire?’ or ‘True Detective is the Greatest TV event of the Year’ or, if you’re reading the Daily Mail, ‘Study says True Detective 47% better for you than organic spinach!’


So does it live up to the hype?

Happily, yes…so far, at least. But more on that later. Let’s start with a brief summary of the set-up: partners Det. Rustin ‘Rust’ Cohle (played by the still-skeletal Matthew McConaughey) and Det. Martin ‘Marty’ Hart (Woody Harrelson) are separately recounting the details of their biggest case – the investigation of a ritualistic murder of a prostitute back in 1995. Time skips back and forth as both detectives give their individual accounts of events of 17 years ago.

And that’s where I’ll stop, for fear of spoiler-ing all over your True Detective experience (currently only one episode is available legally on Sky as an On Demand preview, with episode debuting on Sky Atlantic tomorrow night). Sadly, the Internet has already tried to ruin the show by encouraging pretentious over-analysis of every single bit of it. Analysis which usually runs from the banal (‘One of the interviewers is the killer!’) to the tedious circuitous (‘In minute 27, when Rust scratched his left testicle and sighed deeply, it was a clearly reference to the scene in Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ where Zarathustra scratches his testicle!’ etc)

But True Detective is an undeniably layered show; unmentioned by most commentators is a strange sub-plot involving Marty’s daughter and her over-sexualised behaviour (as a child she poses her dolls in sexual positions, as a teenager she is caught in flagrante with two boys). I suspect, the viewer is supposed to see what the deeply flawed Marty cannot – that while he was busy busting criminals, drinking and whoring around, his daughter has likely being sexually abused. (Or not – there are still 3 more episodes to come.)

To be fair, by episode 5, Rust’s increasingly conceited dialogue (there’s a lot of waffle about ‘M’ – Membrane Theory and the perception of time blah, blah,) that just ends up sounding like the self-indulgent ramblings of a Frank Gallagher-esque philosopher drunk. (Rust is smart– we get it. Move on.) Presumably this high-minded chatter is supposed to feel perfectly placed alongside the numerous visual and verbal references to the obscure, but oh-so meaningful, book ‘The King In Yellow’. This collection of short stories by Robert Chambers first published in 1895, features the motif of ‘The King in Yellow’ – a forbidden play which induces despair or madness in those who read it.

But will True Detective inspire despair, or maybe madness or perhaps even obsessive internet fandom in you, dear reader? There’s only one way to find out!

True Detective airs on Sky Atlantic, Saturday, 22 February, 9:00pm


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