With a new season of True Detective right around the corner, critics and fans are already abuzz about what has been hinted at so far. Season one was a complex character drama that used a murder as the backdrop to explore not only the two main leads, but the supporting cast and even the villains. Using every minute of its eight-episode runtime, season one of True Detective enraptured its audience while horrifying them, juxtaposing a grounded story with the fantastical expertly. Even though we came to identify with Cohle and Hart, season two’s new story is looking to be just as compelling. The anthology show is nothing new, though the approach to it in the 21st century has changed from episode-to-episode anthologies of the past like The Twilight Zone. Instead, we’re seeing season-long arcs that focus on a set of characters and how a complex problem forces them to grow, only to be replaced when they’ve completed that arc. The advantage to this format is that it avoids a trap of long-running shows. Many shows that have gone on for too long struggle with having to evolve characters and storylines and still keep their audience entertained. Like the scientists in the original Jurassic Park that seemed blasé about cloning dinosaurs, the extraordinary, given repetition, eventually becomes commonplace. Continuing to subject characters to extreme situations that create drama year after year eventually leads to the characters becoming bored, or the audience failing to believe their inability to predict the nature of the next strange occurrence. Anthology series avoid that. They also have the advantage of being more tightly written. With only eight to twenty-four episodes to tell a story, there is very little room for filler episodes, bottle episodes, or story beats that don’t advance the plot and characters in some fashion. This keeps the stories moving and discourages writers from producing episodes where nothing happens. There are a number of risks that True Detective and the anthology genre run, however. First of all, as mentioned above, people have come to identify with Cohle and Hart as well as the other characters. They were compelling, and the introduction of a new cast runs the risk that these people will not be as well-liked or won’t fit into the audience’s consciousness as well. The same can be said for settings, especially since the often bleak and heavily atmospheric Louisiana backcountry of the first season is being replaced with a made up LA-style California city. Fortunately, True Detective has a blueprint to follow in American Horror Story, an anthology about to start its fifth season in the fall. American Horror Story broke ground on this in many ways by presenting a new tale every season using much of the same cast in different roles. However, what makes American Horror Story and True Detective work is that they are shows primarily about characters and their stories. Themes and style are shared from season to season, but ultimately both shows have staked their future on portraying particular facets of people. In the case of American Horror Story, it’s about how human beings survive and thrive despite the ugliness around them. For True Detective, it’s about how we confront our inner demons when we chase metaphorical monsters. From what we’ve seen about season two, this theme of human nature will still be present. It is this thematic tie along with the compressed storytelling and focus on character that makes the anthology series work as a concept. Despite the change in cast and setting, we can expect just as wild a ride. True Detective season two premieres this Sunday, June 21st, at 9 pm on HBO – catch it on HBO Go or on demand on Comcast or DTV. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.