ByPeter Flynn, writer at
An advocate for understanding the phenomenological wonder of the moving image. Also Tremors is the best.
Peter Flynn

It's become a little rote to declare that True Detective Season 2 simply isn't living up the prestige and elegance of the season before it. We can cite erratic character behavior, the disjointed narrative about property development, and Taylor Kitsch's really strange arc all we want, but many are simply agreeing that there's some magic spark that just isn't there. I've almost come to view True Detective Season 2 as operating within a completely different league to Season 1.

Let's give True Detective Season 2 some credit, though. The first season got off to a slow start, and it wasn't until Episode 4 "Who Goes There" that the viewing public had their minds blown by the incredible long take where Rust extracts a suspect from a brewiun riot. How did True Detective Season 2 answer this move in its respective Episode 4? With a big shootout. Still, an admirable effort to create a tradition of having an extended action scene in the fourth episode, so lets rather unfairly pitch these two against one another!

The long take in True Detective Season 1

Long takes in movies are nothing new. Just take a look at Anfonso Cuaron's entire career. However, they're less prevalent as a cinematographic thrill in television, especially in the kind of prestige narrative driven show that True Detective is. No one was expecting a six minute action beat with no cuts, and that's part of why this works. We know the scene is going to be tense, but the long take is something we slowly come to realize. Somewhere in that six minutes is the moment everyone realized True Detective was something special.

Just seeing the sheer ambition to pull this off is entertainment enough, with the camera moving through tight doorways and corridors, and the sound design giving a realistic sense of space. Just notice the way things get quiet once Rust makes it into the second house. It's almost like a checkpoint in a video game. Then there's the way the camera will occasionally leave Rust behind, choosing a different route and giving us a further understanding of this realistic area.

Rust navigates the space.
Rust navigates the space.

You can see that the sheer gaul of this scene has paid off in the imitations by other shows such the Netflix special Daredevil. One scene involved Matt Murdoch infiltrating a gang's hideout and getting into a drawn out fight scene without a single cut to break up the action. That moment is clearly going for a similar statement of intent that True Detective Season 1 managed to nail.

The Shootout in True Detective Season 2

So how does this shootout scene work as an effort to live up to season 1? Well, in a way, that's the first big problem. From the very moment that top floor goes up in flames, the show takes a leap in production values, and you realize that this is True Detective Season 2's answer to the long take. The ensuing scene is well shot, with a few marginally shocking deaths that highlight just how grim a gunfight can be, and yet that's all this scene is; a gunfight.

The shootout in Season 2 is interesting as it ultimately showcases the futility of its own violence. This is all in the effort to get at a pimp who just might be connected with the primary investigation, and at the end of nine minutes of bloodshed, he gets blown away anyway. The best and worst thing this scene has going for it is just how grim it makes the battle. There's friendly fire, innocent bystanders and the execution of hostages, and by the end, our main characters are simply in a state of shock at the waste of life they've just been a part of.

And that there is the worst thing about this scene. While the long take from season 1 was able to wow us with the camerawork, the only thing this has going for it is a sense of grim carnage. Oh and way to rock the nameless faceless Mexican gang members, True Detective! I've no problem with them acting as villains, but these guys shoot with about as much discrimination as enemies in Grand Theft Auto! Sure, a show like Breaking Bad has Latino villains abounding, but at least most of them had established characters. True Detective Season 2 proudly turns itself into a freakin' shooting range!

I'm not making any absolute judgements of True Detective Season 2 until it's over. That's the reason I'm still watching after all. However, it's still interesting to see these two seasons parallel each other. What's your take? Write a post about it here on MoviePilot, vote in our poll, or leave a comment below!


Which Season of True Detective has the better Episode 4?


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