August 17, 2015

True Detective Season 2 Recap and Review

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Written by: Sean McAloon
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2014 was a year where HBO’s newest series True Detective took over the landscape of television as we knew it. Spending the money to get A-list actors like Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, and Michelle Monaghan was quite the eye opener. Throw in Cary Fukunaga who has made incredible films including Sin Nombre and Jane Eyre to direct the series as well and you have even more to be excited about. The real story to follow was whether or not Nic Pizzolatto could follow through after the amazing and dark writing he was doing for The Killing. Being given a whole season to digest from that dark of a mind could only be great, and it ultimately was the best show of that year.

The first season had a more pessimistic approach. The two main characters of “Rust” Cohle and Marty Hart were polar opposites of each other. Rust being the deep in thought mystical character that always connected the dots with imagination and deeper thoughts about the signs in front of him. Marty was much more about the grave details, keeping notes of the patterns around the crime scenes and punishment given to the victim. Despite having a distinct sense of disconnection, their relationship grew as they tracked down their suspect to the very end. The comrade mentality was interesting throughout all eight episodes, and even made up for an illogical ending sequence of events.

The second season promised to flip the script. Cary Fukunaga declined returning and the torch was passed to Justin Lin of The Fast and the Furious fame. The new A-list actors would be announced as Taylor Kitsch, Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, and Rachel McAdams. This time around the four characters would be tighter connected and serve integral parts to each other. There would also be many more perspectives including the law enforcement, undercover work, and a gangster looking to get his empire back. On paper this change of direction should have been equally as great as it’s predecessor, but there are a lot of hitches that make this ride a bit too bumpy.


True detective character poster

The major differences yield a limited connection to what made the first season so special. The audience learns quickly that the main team will gel together within a quick timeline to speed up the process. While they are certainly not best friends, they do save each other’s lives on countless occasions and follow one another into every terrible situation. The main problem with that concept is that none of the actors really have any screen chemistry. Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell feel incredibly forced in their mutual aggression and kinship toward each other. Taylor Kitsch feels like the odd man out, not really adding anything to the partnership aside from a specific set of skills and lazy stakes of having a kid on the way late in the season. The eventual relationship between McAdams and Farrell is passable but seems a bit too much like puppy love to warrant the ending being so dramatic.

The overall story is messy as well. There is a murder that delays a railroad in California from being built, costing Francis Semyon (Vaughn) to lose out on five million dollars. He tries to use wit and brute force to get the man who stole his cash but the only time anything entertaining comes out of it is when viewers see just how violent he can become to enemies. Ani Bezzerides (McAdams) is the clean cop who is trying to do the right thing, questioning all others on the investigation for being dirty. You see her character grow to bend the rules a bit more late in the show’s run but nothing truly groundbreaking occurs here. Raymond Velcoro (Farrell) is the most cliche example of the downfalls of the show. His need to be a father to his son but never getting a chance due to boozing and losing his wife with his myriad of issues is a tired story for any medium. Paul Woodrough (Kitsch) is the one man with a compelling story, never being able to come out as his own person. The sexual orientation section of the second half is excellent and handled with perfect pacing. A sense of pride in his character hiding the past is could be considered somewhat admirable, but by and large is the characters’ ultimate flaw.

Taylor kitsch Tre Detective

Despite all the negatives I just pointed out, not all things are bad in Season 2 of True Detective, and there is defiantly some moments worth highlighting. The major set pieces are solid for the most part. The visceral moment in which Velcoro gets gunned down at the end of the second episode definitely left me jaw-dropped. The foot chase that ends the third episode is classic television with high stakes and interesting ramifications for future episodes. But the show is at its prime during a massive shootout with an incredibly high death count and a sex party that will leave most viewers feeling in need of a shower. The midway point ends on the best scene that will happen on TV this year. The group decides to raid a meth lab for clues and use police backup, only to have massive amounts of police and civilians die in a shootout that no cop could every recover from. The sex party set piece ends the sixth episode with a sense of purpose that would carry the final sprint. The team steals documents from the powerful men they need to take down, while McAdams finds a key witness and escapes a trap all drugged out and causing a lot of blood shed in the process.

true detective shootout

A lot of credit needs to go to the main acting crew as well. Vince Vaughn may have struggled to connect on screen with his rambling quips throughout but he does sell them as hard as he can. I’m not sure I expected to see his character do such violent acts convincingly, but watching him pull out gold teeth and kill his biggest ally was solid television. Colin Farrell despite being given the most obvious hand to possibly play, manages to pull a solid performance out of his small straight. You do feel pain when he cries for his son and feel the pit of your stomach ache as he crumbles to the ground in death. Taylor Kitsch being given the manly story he has, manages to sell it well. Watching his struggle to hide his true self in order to avoid public ridicule is as depressing as it needs to be. Rachel McAdams is the real diamond in the rough though. Not only does she come off as a major threat to anyone who messes with her livelihood, she also brings the emotional chops that a film star should to the small screen.

True Detective‘s second season was definitely a sophomore slump but it deserves a decent amount of praise as well. Few shows are wiling to change as drastically as True Detective, even if the results are going to be up in the air. The acting and set pieces are still on a higher level than most TV shows this season. The messy story and slow examination to set important details are the ultimate downfall of this second effort though. Every episode felt far too small for keeping the story moving and no amount beautiful camera work can cover up a flaw that large. Despite all these issues, I still want to buckle up for another season next year and continue to expect great things. Everyone is allowed to experiment and take chances with a product, and Nic Pizzolatto has a lot more left in the tank for his next venture into True Detective.

Season Rating: 5/10

About the Author

Sean McAloon
I am a Philadelphia based journalist, who is obsessed with movies and television. I is also a comic book enthusiast , although i can't keep up with everything. I like to spend my free time trying to working on short films. I currently work as an editor for popculturemadness.com and darkmediaonline.com, focusing on entertainment news, interviews and public relations. I studied business management & marketing at Goldey Beacom College.



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