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True Detective

True_Detective_2014_Intertitle

The holiday gave me a chance to catch up on some films and TV series that I’ve wanted to see for a while. One of these was the recent HBO series True Detective, which has had a good reputation amongst the gamers I know. The basic premise is an 8 hour show, split in one hour episodes, set in Louisiana in the USA. The core of it is told retrospectively in 2012 where two detectives are interviewing two of their predecessors (Cohle and Hart) about an investigation into an occult linked murder in 1995 which turned out to be the actions of a serial killer. The new generation of detectives believe that the case has not necessarily been solved as another killing with the same modus operandi has been found.

I really enjoyed the show, although Jill got bored with it after the first two episodes as they were too slow for her. This was actually intentional, as the action suddenly ramps up from episode 3 as they get a break in the case. The first two hours really get you to know the two flawed protagonists. The show mixes a number of occult horror memes together, with Cajun Voodoo, and hints at Robert Chambers’ King in Yellow and the dream reality of Carcosa. It also contrasts the seedy hypocritical dichotomy of US life between middle class values/religion and sex/drugs/prostitution. It builds nicely to a climax, with the story spread episodically over 17 years of the character’s lives.

It’s shot beautifully, even spectacularly in some ways and the director took a conscious decision to shoot on 35mm film rather than digital, accepting that it may be the last time that he does this. The music works really well, subtly enhancing the atmosphere. The interaction between two leads – Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey – is superb, with a tension where they rub each others characters up the wrong way yet work well together.

As a gamer, with a liking for both the Delta Green Lovecraftian modern day setting, and Pelgrane Press’ The Esoterrorists, I found this as great source material. It must be said that there is none of the quasi-military organised action against the occult found in the two roleplaying settings, but you can imagine that it relates a tale of those who are not initiated into the conspiracies stumbling upon the fact that the world is not how it seems. I found myself starting, in parts, to analyse the clues found in the way that the latter game builds its spine of clues. The ending left a beautiful hook to create a sequel to this for either setting. Good stuff.

I really recommend this if you want to try some intelligent TV. It’s the best thing that I’ve watched recently since Utopia (Series 1)1 on Channel 4. Very different to Person of Interest, which is much more traditional in format for US TV; this is far more British in feel. Watch it!

1. I’m currently watching Series 2 of Utopia which is in transmission as I write this, so can’t give a judgement against that yet!