Death Matters in True Detective

Last year Nic Pizzolatto brought us a fascinating meditation on masculinity within the crime mystery genre. It was a showcase for the acting talents of both Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, while making use of the less restrictive format of a television mini-series. While HBO shows like The Sopranos and The Wire paved the way with slower-paced plots that had more time to spend on deeper characterisation and world-building than cinema, True Detective brought Hollywood actors into the fold. In season one episode four ‘Who Goes There’, Cary Fukanuga ended on an astounding six-minute tracking shot of a failed robbery and the subsequent escape. This year, also at the mid-point of the season, ‘Down Will Come’ culminated with a disastrous police raid.

While it hasn’t been made clear yet whether it was a trap, a set-up by a corrupt mayor, or simply a serious case of bad luck, our three main characters found themselves in a situation they had not anticipated. Before they could enter the building, they found themselves under fire, and a shootout commenced. Once the gunmen fled their hide-out, they crashed into a public bus, and nearby protestors were caught in the ensuing gunfire. The tense, skilfully-directed confrontation saw the capable detectives eventually put down the enemy, but finding themselves surrounded by the bodies of dozens of innocent bystanders. There was no off-the-cuff remark, no vengeful taunt to the felons, and no sense of achievement. As audiences we crave the catharsis of an action sequence, the adrenaline of a car chase or gunfight, but we are rarely confronted with the horror of a situation like this.

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