A few weeks now after the finale of True Detective, I am still digesting that particular show (and trying to forget the notion of “making flowers” entirely!) and got to thinking about how it stacks up against two other recent murder mystery / serial killer shows: The Bridge also dealt with a serial killer like TD and Top of the Lake dealt with disappearing kids and sexual deviancy as TD did as well. Of the three, The Bridge was probably the weakest since the reveal of the killer happened as early as E08 and the series dragged on 5 more episodes before it ended. Honestly, I am not sure how they will create a credible story for S02 this fall, but whatever. The Bridge had some good moments (and excellent acting from Diane Kruger), but several weaknesses: the useless side story of the rich bitch grifter and her dumbass boyfriend could easily have been cut, the bad guy seemed pathetic at the very end, the denouement was boring and too drawn out. Overall, pound for pound, True Detective towers over The Bridge.
Perhaps a more challenging comparison is Top of the Lake. The pairing of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey was as powerful as that of Elizabeth Moss and Holly Hunter (although admittedly not in the same roles). The camerawork was spectacular in both cases – gorgeous shots and panoramas of rural Louisiana and the bayou versus New Zealand’s mountains and lakes, both were breathtaking. I think also that the seasons lengths were just right at 8 and 7 episodes respectively – just enough time to set the atmosphere and horror of the crimes and resolve the mystery without drag or useless side stories. Diving into Robin’s background rape which of course drives her character and into Rust’s past to see how he got to be where he is both were done masterfully and dispassionately and add to the realism and fascination that was so addictive about these characters.
I have to say though, that the standout moments of these shows were still the ones with the most action – and of all of them, the 6 minute un-edited chase through the ghetto in episode 5 of True Detective with Rust dragging the biker dude around was unbelievably amazing. Second runner up would the final episode of Top of the Lake which was a bigger surprise honestly than that of True Detective.
So what do you think is the greatest 6-12 hour murder mystery TV? I guess I’d have to throw up Season 4 of Dexter where John Lithgow’s Trinity was extraordinary too – and the shocker on the final episode was colossal.