9. True Detective - Who Goes There (S01E04)
For an episode that aired approximately halfway through the first season, Who Goes There was so masterful in its approach to the storytelling that it almost derailed the entire project by the second season. Writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga handcrafted perhaps one of the greatest episodes of television ever made so where to go from there?
Detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart have hit a dead end with the investigation into a series of occult style murders in Louisiana. Unable to advance the case by conventional means, Cohle takes 'compassionate leave' and uses his time to infiltrate a drug dealing biker gang who will hopefully lead them to Reggie LeDoux, their main suspect.
In an action sequence that owes a debt to the Scorsese-one-take shot, Cohle extracts his unwilling informant from the middle of a war zone. With the police descending on a housing estate run by dealers, bullets whizzing past his ears and with his cover blown, Cohle, dragging Ginger in a neck-lock, flees the scene as Marty rescues him at the last minute.
True Detective combined the best elements of a complex, twisting plot with deep, rich characterisation, all framed with lashings of cynical philosophising. This immensely satisfying episode mixed action with intellect and while the entire season stands as one of the greatest shows ever to grace the TV, it set the bar so high that all subsequent seasons would look desperate in comparison.