The turn is right around the corner. It’s bound to get better, it has too. The formula is similar, a dark and compelling story is somewhere hidden on those written pages. 8 episodes later that story is never told.
Knee jerk reaction to Season 2 of True Detective from multiple sources: “What Went Wrong”; “Critics Ruined Season 2”; “Finale Can’t Redeem”. Why such a drop in quality? Perhaps it was the “sophomore slump” syndrome that plagued this incarnation. Maybe it had to do with the fact Season 1 had no expectations, at least not from a general audience. Hype and high standards are always difficult to live up to and maintain. Season 1 offered an intriguing mystery from the start: girl bound to a tree with an occult craft hanging from the tree. But even more so intriguing beyond that initial shock is the mystery shrouded around The King in Yellow. Who was he and why was he doing this? Simplicity. What plagued Season 2 was a complete 180 from that simplicity, struggling with the hubris of trying to be the smartest show on TV. Further, Season 1 gave us characters the audience could care about. Although both flawed, the audience could connect. McConaughey turned in one of his best performances as Rust Cohle and Harrelson matched well. Even when the characters fell, we cared about their redemption. Cohle drew us in with his intelligence and intricacies. His obsession for the truth was commendable and captivating. This connection was completely missing from season 2.
Velcoro’s (Colin Farrell) character though flawed was unappealing. A burnt out cop turned to addictions of drugs and alcohol. It was easy to sympathize with the events connected to his downfall, but it seemed impossible for his character to recover from. Bezzerides’ (Rachel McAdams) character seemed forced into a story where she had no place. The development of her character seemed entangled with an abduction story which was never even explored. Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) appears to have been placed into the story for the shootout scene in episode 4 alone but wanted the audience to be drawn into his sexuality conflict which just didn’t seem to matter (though provided a plot point to move the story towards it’s endpoint). Lastly, Vaughn’s character of Semyon had little to no redeeming qualities. Was the character even necessary? His troubled past/upbringing and marital/paternal troubles drew focus away from the ruby heist and orphaned twins, both of which being pivotal plot points that were hardly addressed. How can you have a main character that isn’t connected to the main plot? The completion of his arc, much like the overall story fell flat.
It’s easy to criticize, harder to create. The courage to put words out to the world from your story should never be easily downplayed. There could be a story behind the story resulting in this downfall of quality. The chaos of having four main characters proved a distraction when it’s predecessor was evidence that two would suffice. Season 2 offered a gritty shoot out that showed promise. The use of animal heads to conceal identity mixed with a touch of “Eyes Wide Shut” offered a sense of allure and a pinch of fucked up. But when all pieced together, the result came up short. Direction was helmed by Cary Fukunaga for all 8 episode in season 1 while season 2 was stitched together by 6 different directors. 6 different voices, style and vision. In the end, it felt like a writer with free reign tried to cram an entire season’s worth of story into a final few episodes. By that time, the core audience had already checked out. And much like the voice sounding of 4 cartons of smokes a day welcoming us to each episode, nevermind this season. Here’s hoping for the resurrection of Season 3.
Co-written by: Bobby Carter
Edited by: Bobby Carter & Jason Parker