We are three episodes into Nic Pizollato’s followup to the incredible first season story that made the brothers from ‘Edtv’, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, our favorite detective tag team of all-time. Some viewers have jumped off the ledge, some are looking for a reason to hang on, and others aren’t that phased by True Detective Season 2…You can count me in the latter because I’ve suffered through much worse television.
Here’s the part where I warn you that the rest of this is riddled with SPOILERS. Continue at your own risk, if you aren’t caught up on the season.
As I’ve already mentioned, I don’t hate this new season of True Detective. There’s an actual mystery that I find compelling and some performances that I can appreciate. However, there are things worth hating and I understand the frustration and annoyance by fans. Pizzollato told us this would be a completely different story, but I don’t think viewers expected it to be THIS much different. If the first season wasn’t on such a high pedestal, would we care as much?
Trying to separate Season 2 from it’s predecessor, while also analyzing what the first season got right, there are reasons to indeed hate this season and reasons not to.
Why Season 2 Sucks
1. Taylor Kitsch!
When the cast was finally confirmed, after what seemed like an eternity of speculation, I was actually excited about it. Colin Farrell was the most talented of the bunch. Vince Vaughn could finally get back to being the dark and twisted character actor that he started out as. Rachel McAdams is swell. The only wild card, to me, was Taylor Kitsch…TAYLOR KITSCH HAS BEEN EXCRUTIATING AND PAINFUL.
In 3 episodes, his only meaningful contribution to the story is finding the murder victim that kicked this whole thing off, Ben Caspere. Outside of that, Kitsch’s character has been an awful stereotype of a self-loathing war veteran with some messed up mommy issues and sexuality denial. Every curse word he tries using sounds as forced as when preteens discover swearing.
I don’t know if we’re supposed to feel bad for Officer Paul Woodrugh because of what he’s dealing with, but I have zero investment in him. If Paul doesn’t get interesting soon, I’m going to go back to referring to him as John Carter (not a compliment).
2. Too Many Moving Pieces
This isn’t Game of Thrones. With twice as many main characters as the first season, we’re getting 4 times as many storylines. Part of Season 1’s charm was its simplicity. The main focus was finding the “Yellow King”, and how the development of the dysfunctional, yet charming, partnership between Rust Cohle and Marty Hart made that happen.
Instead, we’re not only worried about who’s killing off associations to Frank Seymon, but also an investigation into Ray Velcoro and the Vinci police department, Ray’s custody battle for his son, Paul’s stupid drama (which we eluded to earlier), and Ani’s family “cult” connections/porn addiction. Because of the multiple separate storylines, there’s very little chemistry between the characters (besides Ray and Ani) and the plot just drags…
It was episode 4 of Season 1, “Who Goes There”, where the series set itself apart from everything else.
Will they pull something like the “6 straight minutes of one continuous shot” off again to make all the storylines worthwhile?
3. Cut the Bullshit, Frank.
I thought Vaughn with an organized crime background would be much more interesting than it has been so far. I understand Frank is trying to “go legit” and it’s not the signs of fading or weakness that bother me…It’s the soliloquies in bed and “attempts to speak with a blank stare” that do.
I’m convinced, though, that Frank has turned a corner following his reawakening as a violent man. I loved him tearing the nasty gold teeth out of Danny Santos’s mouth and saying “Why would you greet the world like that?”
Frank’s wife, Jordan (played by Kelly Reilly), is a different dynamic and I don’t know what to make of her. Her consistent glares from a distance make you wonder if she has something else at play, besides what’s in Frank’s best interest, or if there really isn’t anything going on up there. I know everyone can’t be Claire Underwood, but that’s the kind of character I wish Jordan was. Frank has appeared needy of a backbone at times. I hope Jordan can be someone who can reinforce it….or completely break it.
4. Hitting 1/3 on Cliffhangers Isn’t a Good Batting Average.
Season 1 was masterful when it came to making you want more after the duration ran out each week…Rust telling investigators to “Ask the right fucking questions” after the first episode. “The Monster at the end of your dream”, Reggie Ledoux, entering the picture before everything goes black…
We’ve only had one of those instances in Season 2, and it was nearly a killer (literally).
I found that ending to be brilliant. People were already swearing off the show because they thought Ray was dead. The speculation was as heated as the ending to Game of Thrones this past season. The follow up episode had kept the vigor going, an excellent chase scene, but they couldn’t end it with momentum. A weird awkward scene between Frank and Jordan to close the episode was as effective as Russell Wilson not handing the ball off to Marshawn Lynch at the goal line in the Super Bowl.
5. NO MORE MUSICAL NUMBERS!!!
The “Conway Twitty Impersonator in Limbo” bit was weird, right?
I allowed it because it matched with Ray’s bolo tie and I was excited to see Fred Ward as his father. Maybe it’s a theme with the bar, that Ray is in limbo whenever he’s seated in his booth, but I don’t need this show to turn out like American Horror Story has. My biggest complaint (among many) is that AHS turned into Glee for their “Freak Show” season, and that’s not why I tune in. For 3 episodes in a row, a performer has gotten too much screen time on the same stage in the same bar and I hope that changes in Episode 4.
Why Season 2 Doesn’t Suck
1. Ray Velcoro
Ray’s bolo tie puts Philip Rivers to shame, He’s also the most compelling character on the entire show.
Ray has a little bit of both Rust and Marty in him. The baggage is evident and clear, as is the cynicism. He also prides himself on being a good detective, despite being morally and legally compromised. It’s hard to not get excited when he turned down a drink in Episode 3, saying “…it takes the edge off. I want to stay angry.”
2. Ray and Ani’s Chemistry
Ani is closest to Ray’s level as a cop, she’s not in anybody’s pocket, and there’s definitely a mutual respect between the two. On a show that LOVES asking unanswered questions, they are forthright with each other and don’t let bullshit get in the way. You would think two cops from different departments with different agendas would have unnecessary drama…That doesn’t seem to be the case yet.
I think most fans are glad Ray is alive so that they don’t have to deal with more Paul than they have to. Looking forward to some Marty & Rust-like banter going forward.
…and hopefully Ray heals up in time to actually catch someone.
3. Nic Pizzolatto’s Writing
None of the characters are made for Rust Cohle’s philosophy lessons (even as much as Frank tries telling dumb rat stories). They don’t have to be. As slow as the show has progressed so far, the dialogue has still been fantastic. Whether it was malicious or not, Pizzolatto’s shots at his former award winning director, Cary Fukunaga, in the scene on-set of a post apocalyptic film were hilarious…and completely passive aggressive.
I also know that everything on the show is deliberate, and everything has a purpose. Like creepy Rick Springfield…
If we go by some of the Season 1 playbook, there’s a lot riding on episode 4 this week. It’s the midway point, and you have to think Pizzolatto has something up his sleeve.
4. Who Doesn’t Love a Good Mystery?
Caspere’s murder has taken the detectives down one hell of a rabbit hole…Sex trade, corruption, weirdos in animal masks…And with one of Frank’s soldiers having a similar fate, one wonders if we’ve already met the killer (sorry, Stan)….It’s tough to jump ship if you were already invested in the mystery itself. Whether you like or dislike each of the characters, everyone is a suspect in this case.
5. The Sprinkling of Classic HBO TV Alums
One of my favorite aspects to Season 1 was seeing some of my favorite actors from my favorite shows make appearances. The Wire’s Clark Peters aka Lester Freeman and Shea Whigham from Boardwalk Empire are a few notable ones, and this season of True Detective hasn’t been any different. Another Wire alum, Michael Hyatt (Brianna Barksdale) has made waves as Ani’s commanding officer. Deadwood fans should recognize Ray’s teammate, W. Earl Brown, who played Dan Dority on the classic western series…now stalking Paul, for some kind of leverage.
But probably THE BIGGEST REASON True Detective Season 2 doesn’t suck…
Masuka from Dexter aka C.S. Lee has made his presence known! And that goes a long way in my book…no matter how brief it’s been so far.