After a long year-plus of nervously waiting for the second season of HBO’s True Detective, it finally premiered a little over two weeks ago. I say “nervously” because I think pretty much every fan was on edge about some of the casting choices. I mean, Colin Farrell? Taylor Kitsch? Rachel McAdams? Vince freaking Vaughn?! How the heck was this cast supposed to even begin to measure up to the awesomeness that Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson delivered in the first season? Well, some things seem to be working. Others…meh. But enough chit chat—let’s get right down to the particulars.
What I liked:
- The strong cast. I wasn’t sure how some of these folks would be, but they all deliver in the first episode. Farrell does a solid job as Ray Velcoro, a corrupt, alcoholic cop who is somehow still sympathetic despite his more vicious moments. McAdams plays the gruffest, toughest character I’ve ever seen from her, but I like her. As Det. Ani Bezzerides, she’s clearly part of a boy’s club and has to act tough to a certain degree, but she also seems to have a dark, interesting past that I’m hoping we get to explore a bit more. Kitsch is pretty intense as Paul Woodrugh, a brooding highway patrol officer who clearly has some deep-seated issues. And as for Vaughn…you know what? He totally works. I had my doubts that the funnyman could play a character like Frank Semyon, an intimidating career criminal trying to go straight, but he might actually be my favorite character on the show.
- The undeniable style. California may be a far cry from the Louisiana setting of season one, but so much about this episode made me think, “Yep. I’m definitely watching True Detective.” I don’t know if I can quite put it into words, but it’s the way things are shot sometimes—especially some of the shots of the night sky, which always make me think of McConaughey’s Rust Cohle. However, another factor that ties in pretty closely with this is…
- The moody tone. There’s just something delightfully dark and gritty about the True Detective, showing a heavier side of police work that a lot of shows don’t necessarily explore. Season one kind of ended on a brighter note than most of us expected. I’m curious to see if this follows suit.
- The shady political stuff. Season one explored this a little bit, but season two is absolutely steeped in it, and I think it’s fascinating, albeit in a pretty awful way. It seems like there’s extreme corruption on every level. But all that also makes for…
- The promise of a complex, interesting story. This first episode puts a lot of important things into play—and at a pretty rapid pace, too. Season one had a fairly leisurely start, so it’s kind of refreshing to see this season jumping right into things. Seems like we have lots of dark twists and turns to look forward to…
What I didn’t like:
- Though the performances are great, it’s hard to find someone to root for. Everybody is kind of a jerk. I realize Cohle and Hart (Harrelson) weren’t exactly rays of sunshine either, but they were fascinating characters and you always knew that deep down they were good people. So far, I’m not so sure about these folks.
- I worry that this season has too many main characters. Again, in season one we only had Cohle and Hart to focus on. This season has our attention divided four different ways, and I’m not sure eight episodes will be enough time to give them each a fair amount of screen time. But I guess we’ll see.
- That cheesy, “detectives assemble” bit toward the end. If you’ve seen it, I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about. Like, is it just me or were they trying a bit too hard with that?
- So far, it feels like a pretty standard police drama. Granted, it still seems better than average, but it’s missing that unique spark that its predecessor has—which brings me to my next point…
- It’s just not as captivating as season one. I’ve read a few reviews that say, “Just stop thinking about season one. You’ll be able to enjoy it more that way.” But I think this advice is terrible because it’s impossible not to think about season one. Last year set the bar very high and was pretty perfect in a lot of ways. Comparing the two seasons is inevitable, and no matter how you look at it, this season isn’t off to as strong a start. And, yes, that hurts it.
The Potential: It may not be as glaringly obvious as it was last year, but I still think there’s a fair amount of potential for this season of True Detective. Like the previous season, the performances are going to be what carries this show, and I think these actors are more than capable of bearing the weight. If the story keeps us on edge with as many dark twists and turns as we experienced with Cohle and Hart, then I think this could be another good one.
My Grade: B+