A number of things set True Detective apart. For starters, this new HBO drama series stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, a pair of actors known more for movies. And they tackle, in effect, not one but two roles apiece as former Louisiana State Police detectives interrogated in 2012 about a homicide case which we see them working, in flashback, in 1995.
The series was written in its entirety by its creator, Nic Pizzolatto, a novelist whose only prior TV credit was a brief turn on the US remake of The Killing.
One other thing distinguishes True Detective. The entire eight-episode season was stewarded by just one director.
Such a solo act is virtually unprecedented for a TV drama series. But it made sense for True Detective, says Cary Joji Fukunaga, who landed the job.
"When you have one person guiding the vision all the way through, and gaining the trust of the actors, the chain isn't broken from one episode to another," he says.
"It all just flows."
"It's an incredible amount of work for just one team," says Fukunaga, who toiled in concert with his cinematographer, first assistant director and other key associates. "Those guys were right there with me the whole way through, so, as impossible as it felt sometimes, at least I wasn't alone."
Fukunaga, 36, made the 2011 film Jane Eyre, and wrote as well as directed Sin Nombre, which won the 2009 directing prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Not bad for someone whose dream was to be a pro snowboarder.
"But filming tests a lot of the same skills," he reasons. "There's a fear factor. You have to scare yourself every day. Then, once you're flying off a cliff, it's over: You've just got to land."
He faced the cliff's edge of True Detective back in August 2012 as he began gearing up for what would be 101 breakneck days of shooting. He hasn't landed yet. "We've been in postproduction since the beginning of July, and I still have four more weeks before I'm done," he reports. "I've been running on fumes for over a year."
The tale stems from a ritualistic murder of a woman found nude, mutilated and crowned with deer antlers in the middle of nowhere in 1995. This ghoulish crime, the handiwork of a serial killer, is eventually solved by Detectives Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Harrelson).
Or was it? Pressed by investigators in 2012, the two former partners are forced to relive the case, as well as their stormy relationship, amid growing doubt that the right man was charged. "To me, what really mattered was these two guys and their journey," says Fukunaga.
"The murder case is a foil, a genre-based hook, to get to know them."
The real drama, he says, issues from the conflict both these men have "reconciling who they should be with who they really are. Some men explore it, while some men prefer to repress it."
The latter condition applies to Hart, a gregarious chap who jabbers how family will keep a guy grounded while we see, in flashback, this husband and father in a rage beating up someone he finds his mistress "cheating" with.
"Hart represents those men who don't want to ask themselves certain questions, fearing what those questions will reveal," says Fukunaga, "while Cohle can find existence bearable only by defining it."
And defining it in the darkest terms. Cohle dismisses human life as "a jury-rig of presumption and dumb will" to Hart, who only wishes Cohle would spare him the bleak talk.
By 2012, Hart is working in private security. He has lost some hair and added some kilos, along with new layers of denial. Cohle, who in 1995 still fought to keep his demons in check, is now a scraggly boozehound who boasts of staying plastered between shifts tending bar.
In their respective dual roles, McConaughey and Harrelson are galvanising.
"This is a multilayered police procedural whose truest investigation is into the nature of its two protagonists," says Pizzolatto. "Its best moments come from those men just speaking straight into the camera, or riding in a car together, or when one of them comes to eat dinner at the other's house."
Such illuminating interludes distinguish True Detective, which, if it wins a second season, will focus on new characters in a different setting. Fukunaga says he would stay on as a producer of the series, but doesn't plan to re-up as its full-time director.
"I'll try anything once," he declares, days from bringing Season 1 in for a landing. "But now I've tried it."
Who: Cary Joji Fukunaga, director
What: True Detective
When and where: SoHo tonight, 8.30pm