By now, any and all #TrueDetective fans — or at least those who seek good quality detective dramas — would have heard that Season 3 is currently in development. And if you have heard that then you have surely heard that #HBO has employed one of their most talented writers, David Milch, to help develop it.
This is more than great news to anyone who was absolutely captivated to their very core when the first season of True Detective premiered its eight-episode run in January 2014. Has it really been that long? Yes, and that is far too long to wait, too. So, when True Detective scribe Nic Pizzolatto announced he was working on Season 2 we were ecstatic. The brand new cast only added fuel to the never-ending anticipation that could not be contained any longer. Colin Farrell. Yes! Rachel McAdams. Yes! Taylor Kitsch. Sure. Vince Vaughn. Alright, I guess. The second season of True Detective ended up being a disaster of epic proportions with an earthquake magnitude dialed up to 10.
There were a lot of things wrong with the second season and critics have attempted to dissect its existence ever since. The truth of the matter — while we would all like to think of Pizzolatto as the clear genius that he is and can churn out Season 1 quality material at a moment’s notice — he is still a writer. A writer prone to creative blocks and decisions made based on narcissistic alternatives at the expense of the story itself. Pizzolatto has said that he had been working on Season 1 for years before the final product premiered. The challenge of writing Season 2 in much less time certainly showed.
True Detective’s first season will always have a soft spot for us devoted fans who miss those awkward, ontological car ride conversations between two great actors. As Marty Hart, Woody Harrelson had the difficulty of being the heart and soul of the partnership not just for his own character, but for the two of them. However, it will have to be Matthew McConaughey’s towering performance as the abrasively real Rust Cohle that we remember the most from Season 1.
Let’s take a look back at what we were obsessed with about Season 1 and wished we could have had with Season 2 of True Detective.
As if March Madness had come early, everyone we knew were forming brackets and filling in boxes to find out who killed Dora Lange and the other women. It was a tough eight episodes to get through too. One with second guesses and a whole bunch of “what ifs,” only to be disappointed by the season finale. That’s right. Most people hated the final moments of the season, feeling it was a bit of a let down after a strong and enthralling set up. It was something that I was unduly frustrated about until I realized that that was not what the show was about. Sure, the murder of Dora Lange was the driving force behind the season and it brought each of the characters together, but the show was just that. It was about the characters, not about the murders. Once you get past that speed bump, the season is pretty much a masterpiece.
There’s a benefit to being the showrunner and only writer: You get your entire vision to the forefront in your language and style, untouched by other writers. This was more than evident in the first season as Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga helmed each and every of the eight episodes to make, not an anthology mini-series, but an eight-hour Magnum opus filled with complex characters and a distraught aroma of dreadfulness.
Arguably, the only other character essential to True Detective Season 1 other than Rust and Marty was southern Louisiana. The swampy, damp air provided an atmosphere of death that always seemed to remain despite the change in season. A deathly atmosphere infused with secrets, regrets, and tragedy. Too bad there was a need to change the setting for the second season since the show gave birth to a new genre of Louisianan noir.
Way Too Convoluted
Here we go. There is a child custody battle, alcoholism, drug and gambling addictions, an illegal casino, unexpected pregnancies, a plan for pregnancy, blackmail, sexual identity issues, PTSD, gangsters, stolen jewelry, corrupt officials, a highway deal — I think that’s about everything. Oh, wait! On top of all of that is a murder investigation that people stopped caring about by episode three. Let me know if I missed something else.
Torture For The Sake Of Torture
Ani Bezzerides is a female detective in a predominantly male occupation, with family issues and a hatred for her own life. Paul Woodrugh is a highway cop with PTSD who is coming to terms with his homosexuality and a hatred for his own life. Frank Semyon is a gangster who wants out of the business to start a family, but he keeps getting sucked back into his old roots while hating his life. Ray Velcoro is a detective who has somehow gotten away with consuming way too many drugs and alcohol for years and still kept his job while in the midst of a custody battle with a kid that may or may not be his. What else is there? Oh, he also hates his life. After a while it starts to feel less like these characters came out of a brilliant writer’s mind and more of a pamphlet of psychological disorders and what they would look like.
Season 1 had Marty Hart, a complete *sshole to his family, and Rust, the kind of person you don't go to for some cheering up. However, they did have their redeeming qualities, as Marty was still a pretty entertaining person to be around and had enough personality for both him and Rust. Rust, albeit mildly pessimistic, was a realist and had no intention of telling you anything that wasn’t what he truly thought.
One of the reasons why Season 1 was such a success was the exact reason why Season 2 wasn't. The writing was all over the place and the dialogue was scattered with such favorite hits like “It’s like blue balls in your heart.” I couldn’t tell you exactly where, but at some point Pizzolato stopped caring about the murder aspect of the story (bet you can’t tell me what the victim’s name was without looking it up). After a few episodes it seemed like he realized that he was running out of episodes and utterly rushed the murder reveal into the last episode. The writing was all over the place and when there was no more material to work with at the moment — a shootout or an orgy was thrown into the mix.
Enter David Milch
There are very few writers out there who have created their own distinct language of film dialogue. Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino come to mind, but David Milch is a name not often as explored as he really should be. #Deadwood has been regarded after its three season run as one of the greatest TV shows of all time. No one writes dialogue like Milch, which combines the poetic alliterations and proses of regular words with swearing.
Look it up, Deadwood has more cursing in it than #TheSopranos, which is somewhat of a defining achievement when you think about it. His employment is a much needed addition, as Pizzolato is still quite the talented writer and dark genius when he is given enough time to develop a concept. With the help of Milch, only great things can come of this unconventionally skilled collaboration. Hopefully they can bounce enough ideas off one another to produce a season of equal stature to the first.
What To Improve On
Make the characters more interesting. Al Swearengen could have been written off as this dull grumpy man with antagonistic tendencies, but under the guard of Milch, Swearengen became this inspiring antihero who was part sinister entrepreneur and part complicated grumpy man. Even Mr. Wu and the prostitutes had their moments to shine in the series. With less characters and less subplots, Milch and Pizzolato can form some of the most grounded and inventively well-written characters, with enough dreariness to keep True Detective fans happy and enough redeeming factors for everyone to still like them.
Critics Always Don’t Know What They’re Talking About
Some critics didn’t like the slow pacing of Season 1. Some didn’t like its female characters. Some just didn’t feel its murder investigation story was interesting enough. You can’t satisfy everyone, and the sooner that any writer realizes this the better off they will be. The problem is that Pizzolato clearly reads his reviews and did everything in his power to appease his critics. He added some shootouts to keep the pace interesting even though critics thought that they were completely unnecessary. He wrote the character of Ani Bezzerides and made some references to feminist theory and critics still didn’t think it was enough. Season 2 was unfairly targeted for this. Ani is actually the only consistently written character in the entire season while everyone else was kind of all over the place in their motivations and questionable in their decisions.
Hopefully, Pizzolatto won’t take the words of his critics to heart on this one and write the show he wants as opposed to the show that he wants everyone to want. When you make the critics the showrunners you’re going to end up with the most erratically bipolar show. With Milch, a seasoned and experienced talent in the writer’s room, there are likely to be some good ideas being thrown back and forth to create the nitty gritty core we absolutely loved about Season 1.
What other things do you hope to see improved upon for Season 3 of True Detective?