We are supposedly living in a golden age of Television and the closest any TV show has come to the aesthetics of cinema was the first season of True Detective since Twin Peaks. I was naturally very excited by a second season of my beloved show. However anything that can go wrong will go wrong went wrong with this latest instalment.
Firstly everything which made the first season interesting is basically dismantled. The whole Lovecraft / Robert W. Chambers weird tales vibe is replaced by for the most part for a standard police procedural. The entire Satanist scare of ’90s (which was a real thing) which hovered all over the first season is absent despite initial reports of it being about the “Secret Occult History of the U.S. Transportation System” which would have made a fascinating series. They also decided to get rid of the first’s Southern Gothic trappings and transport it to L.A. which lacks the gloomy look of the first season. One of the other main reasons the first season was so successful was you had Cary Fukunaga as the auteur but here you have a revolving door of directors which leaves a lot to be desired.
The casting is also problematic, the first season had possible career bests from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson who were such a blast to watch feeding off each other. Perfect good actors have been cast here like Colin Farrell who I enjoy watching in general but even here he is so bogged down by the ridiculous searching into the void dialogue from the writer Nic Pizzolatto who also wrote the first season. Vince Vaughn who is of course known mostly for terrible comedies does have some acting chops but him trying to be a gangster falls flat often. Taylor Kitsch is a charisma vacuum as the repressed homosexual detective and his arc reeks of being a stereotypical tormented gay man. Rachel McAdams tries to play the butch detective and is more successful than most of her co-stars. The best performance is actually David Morse as a new age guru who is also McAdam’s father.
The first season was a slow burner but by the 4th episode it became mindblowing and anyone who has seen it will know the exact moment it transcended the medium of television. There is no such moment here and ironically by the 4th episode I started to care less and less about the characters and the insanely hard to follow convoluted plot but from the reaction from fans and critics I certainly wasn’t the only one. I tried watching it when it aired but that was the point I gave up but I have now finished it and all my fears have been confirmed, it’s a completely and utter trainwreck.
If they stuck to the Weird Tales meets Film Noir aesthetic of the first season it could have been great but just making a such oft-kilter detective show they failed to live up to the promise. If they are to make a 3rd season which is seems to be increasingly unlikely by the way; they have to go back to the occult stylings of the first season because that’s what made it interesting in the first place. This season’s only plus is the theme song by Leonard Cohen is much better than the crap alt-country theme in the first season.
Television, Crime, Drama | USA, 2015 | Warner Home Video | 18 | Dir. Various | Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, Kelly Reilly | Buy:True Detective – Season 2 [Blu-ray]