True Detective was one of the most hotly awaited second seasons of recent years, everyone couldn’t contain their praise for the first season and with big names like Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell signed up expectation was reaching fever pitch.
Sadly as is so often the way, True Detective season 2 couldn’t live up to the hype which had surrounded it. So often it is the case that when something gets hyped to the moon it will inevitably fail and disappoint, and this is exactly what happened here. There will be spoilers so don’t read on if you wish to…you know…not spoil the show for yourself.
There are a lot of criticisms which you can throw at the second season of True Detective, however you have to wonder what people thought they were going to get. An entire cast change was always going to give a different effect than the first season and they couldn’t just tell a similar story to the first season or it would look like they had one story and they were going to tell it a number of times in different locations. You almost have to wonder if it would have been worth them renaming the series so that expectations weren’t going to be so high. The hype machine amped up and the armchair critics came out in their droves, desperate to criticise the show because it had become the cool thing to do.
I don’t think that season 2 is by any means faultless and it wasn’t as good as season 1 (for reasons which I will go in to in a second), however it was a good eight episodes of television which went out its way to be different from the first season. I think that too many people were looking for season 1 2.0 and instead the shows developers went in a different direction.
The acting was good, something you would expect when you gather together a number of top end actors (and Masuka from Dexter) and put them together to watch the chemistry flow. Colin Farrell was obviously the standout, playing a cubby loser with a glorious moustache. Farrell’s an attractive man who managed to make himself come across as less than desirable as Ray Velcoro, and his general mannerisms and story arc stole this season. Vince Vaughn was pretty solid in a more serious role than I have seen him in before and although you wouldn’t generally think of Vaughn as a badass (he’s generally the lovable goofball push over type) he fit the role fine. Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch were both good but they took a back seat to the performances of Farrell and Vaughn.
LA is an overused setting for most TV shows; however the use of the boonies was a nice change up and made it feel different despite it being more of an over saturated location. Season 2 should also be applauded for not using the same storytelling techniques as the first season. It would have been easy to do another story set over a number of years, instead the story was told over a number of months and it gave the story a different feel.
One area which they changed and it didn’t work so well was the cast numbers. One of the best things about the first season was the relationship between the two main characters and the fact that the story was so concentrated, in contrast season 2 has four main cast members and it gave a much less precise story. They gave each of Ray, Ani, Woodrugh and Frank their own little backstory, which is fine but it felt at times too forced, especially when each one had a dark past. The bigger problem of all of this is that it seemed to all be filler rather than important to the characters story arc, with the exception of Ray.
Ultimately inconsistent is probably the best word to describe season 2 of True Detective. Engaging dialogue would then be followed by filler. An exciting shootout would then be followed by a meaningless chatter; it was a bit all over the place, something which shouldn’t happen when a show has a linear story to tell.
The finale was generally a good piece of television and wrapped up the story nicely and in a fairly realistic manner. By realistic I mean that the big evil was still there in the end, rolling on like nothing had happened despite the amount of deaths they had suffered (you can never stop the monster). Only Ani actually managed to escape to Venezuela where she was saddled with a baby and a story to tell (and Jordan but I doubt anyone really cared, she wasn’t a good character and was poorly acted), first Woodrugh went in the penultimate episode (how did the lieutenant know what door to hide behind?), Ray suicide jumped out in to a barrage of bullets (got to wonder what he was thinking and how a bum cop managed to outsmart and kill two special operatives) and Frank got knifed in the desert.
Speaking of Frank, his final arc was probably the most engaging and interesting of all the main characters. He had been knifed in the back so many times in the season, only for him to plan out a perfect escape plan which he successfully fulfilled all the way up to the final stage of driving away, only for some Mexicans to ruin his day. The weird thing about his scenes with the Mexicans is that after the guy asks him for his suit and he refuses and instead gives the guy a ham sandwich in return, you could argue that the reason for this was pride, but in all reality Frank had already lost his $1 million and the diamonds were in his jacket pocket, without the suit he would have lost everything again despite working so hard to get it all back. Now I’m not saying punching the guy was the best option but then again he probably didn’t foresee being stabbed in the kidneys and left to wander through the desert on his own, then again they were gangsters who are hardly known for being reasonable human beings. The desert walk was also excellent, as Frank leaves a trail of blood and birds behind him as he goes on a journey which he himself knows he won’t make the end of.
One of the biggest weaknesses of this season is how quickly they were able to get you to care for the characters; it took a good five or six episodes for you to actually feel a bond with them. It’s probably down to there being too many characters and a lack of concentrated storytelling, despite it being slow and sluggish it got there in the end which is ultimately what matters.
If you’ve read through this you will already have picked up the reasons why this season wasn’t as good as its predecessor, words like inconsistent and filler aren’t really what you want to be hearing about your TV show, yet they have been uttered more than once in this review. Another word you don’t want to hear is confusing, sadly for True Detective it was at times exactly that. It may just be a case of the writers trying to do too much and ultimately coming up with less, in the end it hurt the season.
I often wonder how much reasonable suspension of belief is, because the amount of gun fights and deaths seemed quite gargantuan. Now I’m not from California and maybe this is a daily occurrence for them, so is little more than a footnote on the latest Justin Bieber story, however I would have thought that there would have been more of an outcry at the sheer number of deaths happening on the streets, instead of them being treated as if they were a little more than a nuisance.
Ultimately True Detective season 2 was a good season of television, yes it wasn’t as good as the first season, yes it was inconsistent, took too long to get going, could be confusing, belief was suspended too much and wasn’t concentrated enough, however it was enjoyable, with good acting and in the end the story gained some momentum. Of course season 2 will be criticised, because people love to hate on things, but it was still better than most of the shit which is being churned out now anyway.
Hopefully the negative feedback that they have received over this season hasn’t put them off doing another season because they should get a second chance to show that they weren’t just one hit wonders, and let’s be honest the concept is excellent.
So what did you think of True Detective season 2? Why not leave a comment and tell everyone why Colin Farrell grows a better moustache than Matthew McConaughey. If you have the time then why not move over to the Facebook and Twitter pages or alternatively my blog and join up where you will be able to get all the latest content with as much ease as you could imagine.