Warning: This review of True Detective Season 2 contains spoilers.
I know I’m in the minority when I say didn’t care much for the first series of True Detective. A show about horrible crimes, committed by horrible people and the horrible people that solve them turned out to be quite horrible. The dismal portrayal and objectification of women didn’t help either and the overall serial killer plot was no more intriguing than a Criminal Minds storyline. Matthew McConaughey’s character was the one redeeming feature, but he became boring towards the end and I was quite happy to learn that I was wrong in thinking he couldn’t act.
So when Novastream asked me to investigate the second season of True Detective, I’m sure you would understand that I was only too happy to oblige. No really, I was thrilled to be the only critic online that was prepared to give the show a damning review. Although, a few hours later after binging on the first few episodes I was even more excited to be proven wrong.
Episode 1 – The Western Book Of The Dead
As an anthology series, True Detective has every right to start a fresh with new characters, a new world and even a new style. Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams are the new detectives, Ray Velcoro and Ani Bezzerides respectively. Taylor Kitsch and Vince Vaughn are there too as Officer Paul Woodrugh and criminal entrepreneur, Frank Semyon. This time it’s set in California, in the fictitious town of Vinci (Vaughn). As for the style, that stays exactly the same. Jumping in between past and present, which again is represented by a long haired, moustachioed future and a clean shaven past. Everyone is a horrible person, the women are essentially props and if there was an interesting murder in there somewhere I couldn’t spot it. Sure, they threw in a strong female character in there to throw us feminists off the scent but I’m not falling for that so easily, I’ve seen the trailer for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (female lead my arse).
As for the positives, I enjoyed the opening titles. They were quite beautiful and the song was pretty cool, although I am slightly annoyed now that I’ve realised that you can hear Leonard Cohen’s saliva every time he finishes a line. Similar to the first series, the directing is quite impressive, this time by Justin Lin. One more positive for balance, one more positive, hmmmm… Oh yeah! In the 20 seconds or so we get to see the murder plot, the murderer had a pretty cool raven mask.
Episode 2 – Night Finds You
After the expectedly dismal first episode, I was not looking forward to the next two hours of my life but luckily this is where things began to change. Semyon, who was quite invested in the murder victim (Ben Caspere) has got a few secrets dangling over Velcoro’s head and he get’s his money’s worth, while also starting his own investigation on the side. Every single one of the team has got their own agenda in solving the case, both personally and professionally. A visit to the morgue, reveals more details of the murder and Velcoro’s custody issues get another kick in the teeth when his “son’s” mother, Alicia (Abigail Spencer) finds out about Velcoro’s bullying issues.
This second episode made me reconsider the first, Nic Pizzolatto purposely made the first episode about the characters so that he could jump straight into the meat of the story in the second. Not only that but, the similarities to the first series drop away in this episode. In the first episode, fans can be reassured it’s the same show while they are also being introduced to a new narrative. One remaining feature from the style of the first series is the car chat. While I’m still not quite sold on the “sexist to be feminist” theories people have online, this episodes car chat seemed to calm my nerves on the matter.
After all that, the real seller in this episode was the cliff-hanger. As Velcoro is tipped off by Semyon, he goes to investigate Caspere’s second house and is shot twice in the chest by raven face with a shotgun. I couldn’t believe it, where they actually going to pull a Shield and get the audience invested in a character, only to kill them in cold blood at the end of the second episode?
Episode 3 – Maybe Tomorrow
Turns out, no the shotgun was loaded with non-lethal buckshots so they could get their cop out. What a cop out! This left me pissed off for at least half of the episode, until Woodrugh is revealed to the audience as a closeted homosexual. A fact that I really should have noticed, had I been paying more attention and considering his name. It’s no new territory, having a closeted character but the harshness of the world and Woodrugh’s desperation to keep it quiet carry the story forward. While more women get degraded, a car is set on fire by a masked assailant and an exciting foot chase ensues. Of course Bezzerides and Velcoro don’t catch auto-flamer and the mystery continues. The true stand out scene of the episode is Semyon’s punch up with the chubby, grilled gangster, Santos. I think I was expecting Semyon to win as much as Santos was and the fight was beautifully portrayed in true gangster style.
Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised this season. The murder plotline is much more interesting to me as well as the characters. While most of them are still horrible people, I am finding it easier to like them this time round and I’m very much excited to see what happens next.
Have anything to add, or just downright disagree with me feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.
Article by Daniel Priman.