The first season of True Detective did things that we hadn’t really seen in a police procedural, mixing in unreliable narrators, two parallel timelines, what seemed initially to be possible occult influences, and presented us with a narrative focused intensely on the experiences of two characters played by actors who, at the time, weren’t really being taken all that seriously. While the hints of Lovecraftian horror eventually faded into a more pedestrian serial killer story (although it wasn’t until the final episode that this became crystal clear), all along the way, the detective story captured the attention of America and the writing and directing were like a breath of fresh, nihilistic air. Creator Nic Pizzolatto had a lot to live up to with the second season, and he didn’t make it easy for himself, opting to keep True Detective as an anthology series, with Season Two featuring an entirely new cast, a new setting, and no connection to the first season, except perhaps thematically. Because after the first season ended with the realization that the darkness is being fought back, but so slightly as to make the light appear overwhelmed, then you know Season Two isn’t going to really allow for a lot of joy. And not only did Pizzolatto hamper himself by starting completely fresh, he also made creative decisions for this opening episode that seem intentionally made to distance itself from the first season. And while this first episode isn’t really a bellwether for where the second season will end up, it’s a massive stumble right out of the gate. I want to go through the episode and break down what didn’t work, but Todd VanDerWerff at Vox Culture did a thorough and much more entertaining job than I could do. Needless to say, I agree with every single point. It pains me to simply link to someone else’s work instead of writing something more detailed up, but goddammit, he nails this episode. So here’s my attempt to add something less snarky and more critical to the proceedings. The most deadly issue with the episode is the way it takes itself so seriously. I hate to draw such obvious comparisons to the first season, but this entire episode needed somebody to take the piss out of these characters. The balance that Woody Harrelson‘s Marty Hart brought to the self-destructive nihilism of Matthew McConaughey‘s Rust Cohl is what made that combo work. Harrelson’s sense of humor allowed McConaughey to wallow in the darkness. The intellectual aspect, borrowed heavily from the writings of Thomas Ligotti, was allowed to be expressed with a poetic lyricism that is missing entirely in Colin Farrell‘s vulgarities. Seriously, “I’ll buttfuck your father with your mother’s headless corpse on this goddamn lawn” is no “this place is like somebody’s memory of a town, and the memory is fading.” Granted, this is also part of Pizzolatto’s attempt to create something entirely different with the same sort of dark heart, but it comes off as absurdly self-parodic. I mean, when your main character hears that his son’s shoes have been stolen from his locker at middle school and his first reaction is “Did they shit in them?” it’s simply more comical than anything. But not intentionally comical. Similarly, when another new character, Rachel McAdams‘s Ani Bezzerides, confronts her hippy cult-leader dad (played by David Morse in a horribly wig) it veers quickly into unintentional humor – especially when we learn that Ani is short for Antigone (to go along with her internet sex trade sister’s Athena). It’s just too much, too soon. These characters haven’t earned any respect or devotion from us yet, and throwing that sort of nonsense into the mix before we even have a major crime to investigate is just silly. And pretentious, to say the least. And sure, Season One was pretentious, but it earned that pretension and justified it all the way to the end. Some may say the finale fell short, but those viewers tended to be people who balked at not getting what they wanted, instead getting what Pizzolatto wanted. By jumping into the lives of a bunch of disparate characters, none of whom are inherently all that interesting (Vince Vaughn‘s Frank Semyon is remarkably flat and uninteresting, while Taylor Kitsch continues a long line of performances almost entirely devoid of charisma), we end up wallowing in melodramatic outbursts, front-loading a vast amount of backstory that would be better served portioned out over the course of the season. It’s not until the final five minutes or so of the episode, when Kitsch discovers the eyeless corpse of Vinci California’s city manager Ben Caspere (who has been seen here and there through the course of the episode being driven around Weekend at Bernie’s style with what appears to be the Maltese Falcon next to him), which pulls he, Farrell, and McAdams together to pursue what I assume will be the central mystery of the season. And for a feeble looking geezer, Caspere had a massive amount of occult pornography filling every nook and cranny of his ransacked home. It’s almost enough to make the hour seem worthwhile. Almost. I can only hope that the next few episodes quickly right this ship. The real strength of Season One was allowing the characters to play against one another as more and more darkness was revealed behind the scenes of everyday life in Louisiana. Surely there’s enough darkness in California to give True Detective Season Two something appropriately meaty to gnaw on. True Detective 2.01 "The Western Book of the Dead"Paul's Rating2.5Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.