WHEN True Detective started, I thought it was the most compelling opening to a series that I’d seen in years.
I still believe that. If anything the show has gotten even more compelling over the last four weeks.
Intelligent. Hypnotic. Claustrophobic.
It is as good as drama gets.
Last weekend’s instalment was the best yet – pushing the story in a whole new direction and culminating in a seven minute action sequence that had is already being spoken of in hushed tones as one of the best ever filmed.
But even as the episode reached its conclusion, I found myself hoping that the series doesn’t make a comeback. That it ends after a single series.
Why? It’s so near perfect that producers should leave it alone, let it be and allow viewers to enjoy it for years.
For the uninitiated (and really what else are you doing that’s so important on a Saturday night?) the show follows two cops Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) who are on the trail of a suspected serial killer.
The narrative is told in two parts – 1995 when the cops are searching for the killer and 2012 when the pair are interviewed about their involvement in the case.
Well, on the surface that what it’s about. But the show is so layered, so nuanced and so intelligently delivered that it’s a much a treatise on the human condition, the nature of ageing and grief as a straightforward cops-chasing-the-bad-guys effort.
When it comes to TV, money talks. When a TV station hits upon a ratings winner, commercial logic decides that the show should be kept running as long as possible. Keep that cash rolling in.
But artistic creativity is usually the first casualty. You can get too much of a good thing.
The history of TV is littered with TV shows which have worn out their welcome. Look at Homeland, Lost and even Mad Men. They started brilliantly and ran out of steam long before the plug was pulled (in Homeland’s case, it is yet to be pulled but let’s hope it ends soon.)
The word is that for the proposed second series of True Detective, producers want Brad Pitt to star as a world weary cop in single self-contained stories. To his credit (and prior to True Detective, I never thought I’d be using those words in close proximity to Matthew McConaughey’s name), the recent Oscar winner has no intention of making a return to the series. He thinks it should be left as it is.
The beauty of True Detective is that the mood has been steadily building for the last four weeks. That we’ve really gotten to know these characters and the story is arcing in a way that a conventional 45 minute TV show could never hope to emulate.
David Simon, the writer of The Wire, knew when to pull the plug.
Let’s hope those behind True Detective do the same.