Season 1’s finale of True Detective pulled in HBO’s highest viewer count since Six Feet Under. With Hollywood stars top of the bill and a 5-star reviews, True Detective Season 2 had a tough act to follow.
Dirty cops, alcohol dependancies and questionable ethics…. this is the detective drama that I’ve been waiting for. The consensus has been that season 2 has suffered from “second album syndrome” and the lightning hasn’t been bottled twice. With the decision to reset with new characters and a new setting each season (a uniqueness which I am in favour of), this undoubtedly added weight to the challenge.
Season 2 has a murky plot. Even after the credits rolled on the finale, I was still somewhat happily confused. Who’s pocket is Frank’s life savings in? Who murdered Caspar? How did the twins link to it all? I loved the Lone Star guzzling, chain-smoking interview retrospectives in Season 1, but naturally this shouldn’t have been recycled for Season 2. There was a nod to it when Colin Farrell’s fantastically burnt-out Velcoro was interviewed in the opening episode. Overall, Season 2 was more style over substance. Perhaps with the character and location resets, the style can be the only constant throughout each season.
Maybe that was the unknown magnetism to this season, for me. Amongst the bad dialogue, confused plot, certain mis-casting; it is still certainly different to anything else on the air. I feel the dialogue was somewhat intentional; with the jazzy transition music and life-at-the-bottom-of-bottle bars, it played out like a contemporary Chinatown-esque L.A. Noire. 20 bucks here and there for a lead from an informant, unravelling who’s playing who, rich inner-circle parties, unions, bottomless brown liquor and a dame playing to an empty bar (perfect music, but they lingered a little too much on Lera Lynn; slightly detracting). The transitions that crept over the inter-twinning Californian highways showcased a corrupt city with in a sinister way that I’ve never seen before. The pulsating soundtrack and the fantastically selected Leonard Cohen opening title music further added to this vibe. There’s a great article by Bilge Ebiri from Vulture on the David Lynch overtones in this season here.
The central trio’s murky pasts and burdens were conveyed perfectly though their acting. It was cathartic to watch, with Colin Farrell’s compromised and burnt-out Velcoro the stand out for me. The paternity battle and the strained relationship with his son/step son (spoiler-free disclaimer still valid….) heart wrenching to watch. I would have liked more insight in to Bezerrides’ cult-escaping childhood and Woodrough’s Black Mountain past, but sometimes less is more. [Spoiler alert] Remember the country singer limbo opening of episode 3? Velcoro’s dad says, “I see you running through the trees…..Aw, son, they kill you. They shoot you to pieces.” This foreshadowing of Velcoro’s fate in the finale has actually made me casually watch the season again to see what other layers there might be, as I didn’t realise this until reading a recent article on the subject [end of spoiler].
Overall, season 2 didn’t match the quality of the first. The setting, the characters and the tone was perfect…..the dialogue was just so murky and rushed, it made for a confusing plot. However, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch’s performances won me over. I really hope season 3 gets the green light as this show has so much more potential.