Chris Philpott 's Opinion

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

Chris Philpott: If you're not watching True Detective yet, you should be

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Chris Philpott says True Detective might be the best thing on television right now. So why aren't you watching it?
True Detective starring Woody Harrelson and Mathew McConaughey.
True Detective starring Woody Harrelson and Mathew McConaughey.

The following review contains spoilers. Do not read if you are not up to date with SoHo's True Detective.

The most recent episode of True Detective proves why the drama, produced by HBO and starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as a pair of homicide detectives, is one of the best shows on television right now.

The episode (SoHo, Tuesdays at 8.30pm) opens with Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Harrelson) relating a two-decade old arrest to a pair of detectives, telling how serial killer Reggie Ledoux fired on them with a high-powered automatic rifle before Hart returned fire and took him down.

The pair solved the tricky murder investigation that has formed the central storyline of True Detective through five episodes.

Except that isn't what happened. Cohle and Hart describe the shoot-out in painstaking detail - yet, the re-enactment of that day, nearly two decades prior to their interviews, tells us that they approached Ledoux's residence without a warrant, with Cohle holding him at gunpoint while Hart illegally searched his premises.

After discovering a pair of kids in a make-shift dungeon out back, Hart charges like a wounded bull and shoots Ledoux in the face.

The story the pair tell later is a cover-up, cleverly portrayed to audiences by intersecting their false story with footage portraying what actually happened.

For regular viewers, it's a rather brilliant way to show why Hart is so loyal to Cohle, even in the face of revelations that the detectives, conducting a copycat investigation in 2012, are looking at his former partner as a major suspect.

It's the latest in a series of brilliant scenes for True Detective, a show which might just be the best thing on television right now, but which only a small number of people are watching.

If you haven't been watching, don't worry: we're only three episodes away from the end of the season - eight episodes total - so you'll be able to catch up soon.

The Ledoux Fakeout comes just a week after a stunning six-minute long scene, shot in a single take with no cuts, in which an undercover Cohle busted his way into a drug house as part of a robbery, then grabbed one of his co-criminals Ginger and escaped through a back alley while all hell broke loose behind him.

The show is only getting stronger too. The constant presence of writer Nic Pizzolatto - the show's creator and sole writer - means there is a consistency of story and of writing that is often lacking in serial dramas. Every episode is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, meaning that the visual aesthetic remains unchanged each week.

As the show goes on, the creative heads of True Detective are taking bigger risks - as evidenced by the story turn this week, the lengthy one-shot scene last week - and reaping bigger rewards. This is a slow show, but it is improving every week and turning into an engrossing, and rewarding, viewing experience.

And after a game-changing episode like this one, you have to think we're headed towards a fast-paced, exciting finale.

I haven't even mentioned lead stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson yet. At the outset, McConaughey and Harrelson seemed like the story here; after the first episode or two, it seemed like their performances would outshine the show itself. The show has caught up to the pair in the time since, however their work on True Detective is incredible, especially McConaughey, who is in a class of his own. Pencil him in for all the awards next season.

Actually, just pencil in True Detective for everything. If it keeps going at this pace, it'll be one of the best shows of the year by the time the credits roll on its final episode.

It's just a shame the audience for True Detective is so small, at least compared to some of the more popular serial dramas around. But that seems to be the case for so many of the best shows on television.

Hannibal (TV3, Saturdays at 9.30pm) is doing battle with True Detective for the title of Best Show On TV; the serial drama follows FBI special agent Will Graham (played by Hugh Dancy) as he falls apart on the job under the watchful eye of psychologist Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and boss Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne).

Like True Detective, this new series based on Thomas Harris' Lecter-centric novels is beautifully shot and has a consistent vision thanks to creator Bryan Fuller. It also seems more preoccupied by its central characters: the interplay between Graham and Lecter is easily the most intriguing aspect of the show.

Likewise, Southland (One, Tuesdays at 10.30pm-ish) is another brilliant show which seems more interested in its characters than in its story. The Good Wife (TV3, Tuesdays at 11.15pm-ish) is the best legal drama on television. And comedy series Girls (SoHo, Thursdays at 8.30pm) is enjoying its strongest, broadest season to date.

* Are you watching True Detective? What do you think of the show so far? And what are your favourite shows on TV?

- NZ Herald

Chris Philpott

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

In a strange way, Chris Philpott has grown up with television: his first big addiction was The X Files, which he watched as a teenager, enthralled by what was possible with the form. Chris’ love of TV grew over the years, parallel to the popularity and quality of serial dramas like The Sopranos, Lost, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. He began writing about TV professionally in 2010, before joining the NZ Herald in late 2013, and considers writing about TV more than a passing interest or hobby: he genuinely loves sharing new series and discussing the big shows with readers. Chris is based in Whangarei, and lives with his wife and daughter. When he isn’t watching television … just kidding, he’s always watching television.

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