In Defense of True Detective Season 2
Perhaps due to the spreading realisation that showrunner Nic Pizzolatto is a bit of a schmuck, but more likely because the new season apparently doesn’t ‘live up to’ its McConaughey/Harrelson predecessor, critics are dismissing True Detective Season 2 as disappointing, pretentious, self-serious… You get the picture.
While those concerned with the former issue probably have a fair point (get a load of this pic of Pizzolatto in an abandoned insane asylum!), viewers bemoaning that True Detective Season 2 is ‘not as good’ as the first can get up and leave right now.
To begin with, recreating the genius of Season 1 was never an option. Would anyone really have wanted to see Colin Farrell doing his best Rust Cohle impression, or Vince Vaughn having a go at Marty Hart? Ok, maybe that would’ve been fun. But what we get in Season 2 is shaping up to be so much better than what the carbon copy of Season 1 that might have been.
Season 2 brings in a whole new cast, with many more characters than we had before. Rather than studying the relationship between two very different detectives forced to work together on a case, this time we have three; Rachel McAdams as Ani Bezzerides, Taylor Kitsch as Paul Woodrugh, and Colin Farrell as Ray Velcoro, who must solve a bizarre, conspiratorial murder.
Admittedly, all three of these cops have pretty unbelievable backstories. Take Bezzerides, for example. Not only is her father the leader of the new age religious commune in which she was raised, but her sister is an online sex worker, and her mother an actress who ended her life by walking into a lake. Perhaps this explains Bezzarides’s drinking and gambling problems, and why she keeps a blade in her belt and a knife in her sock at all times. We don’t have space to get into the many layers of Woodrugh and Velcoro, but they’ve got their own problems with dark pasts, Oedipal complexes, violence, sexuality, drugs, and paternity confusions to be dealing with.
While we could dismiss the rather extreme characterisation in True Detective Season 2 as preposterous, we prefer to see it as potential. Every element of each character strikes us as a clue of something yet to unfold, and we’re sufficiently intrigued by how it’s all going to come together.
Then we have Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon, crime boss of the city of Vinci (how has no one made a Vinci Vaughn joke yet?!), and his beautiful wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly). While these two currently inhabit a rather separate world to the rest of them, with some crossover via the dirty cop Velcoro, the couple is to True Detective what Kingpin and Vanessa were to Daredevil, and the Semyons are fast becoming the most alluring pieces of the Season 2 puzzle.
We still need to address the biggest criticism of True Detective Season 2 so far – its lack of humour. From the first three episodes alone, I dare say it’s the critics who need a better sense of humour, as the script is dotted with plenty of lol moments; even if not all of these were intended as such.
Rachel McAdams’s much chided e-cigarette is unquestionably the star of the show, dutifully serving as a comedic ice-breaker and bringing a little blue light to the otherwise bleak landscape of Vinci whenever it graces the screen. Meanwhile, Farrell’s Velcoro constantly keeps us amused with his antisocial, ‘oh you..’ behaviour. “You want honest? Tell me, how compromised are you?” demands Bezzerides. “Anyways, goodnight…” replies Velcoro, eyes shifting as he backs away into the night. 10/10 jokes!
These subtly comic moments stand in perfect balance to the show’s lasting commitment to the dark and seamy sides of life, and keep us excited for every last episode.
So for those looking for the hallmarks of True Detective 1, you’ll still find them in the new series, albeit in broader brush strokes than before. The interpersonal friction, the smart (occasionally inaudible) dialogue, the fetishistic elements, the intrigue… all remains in a fresh new form that’s still yet to unfold, if only people would give it the time to.
From what we’ve seen so far, True Detective Season 2 is a welcomely different beast from the original series, which is precisely the purpose of an anthology. Don’t give up on it just yet.
True Detective begins on Sky Atlantic on Monday June 22nd.