Season two weaves a decent police drama, with strong characters and solid moments, but nothing close to the excellence of the first.
After a CHP officer finds a body on the side of the road he is united with two detectives from two different divisions to begin a joint task force on the case. Meanwhile a criminal entrepreneur in the middle of a lucrative land development deal discovers his business partner has been killed and his invested money is gone.
The first season of “True Detective” came out under the radar and claimed wide-spread success with an excellently woven eight-episode run. When season two hit HBO, ‘under the radar’ would be impossible as fans clamored to casting news and other tidbits released in the press with anticipation. Woody Harrelson & Matthew McConaughey wowed audiences with their performances and when the announcement of Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn and to some extent Taylor Kitsch hit the media, there was no denying the star-power was lined up once again.
After a few binge-watch sessions I finished the season and have clearly mixed feelings. Was it as good as the first season, absolutely not, but it was a very solid police crime-drama. The performances were all very good. The four leads were all able to effectively convey the broken characters they portrayed. In particular the character of detective Ray Velcoro played by Colin Farrell who felt as perfect for the role as one could. While his character my have been the most deeply written one, his performance was still what made him the true star of the season.
Farrell as Detective Velcoro was intense, emotionally fractured, tormented by past events and a clear shell of the man he once was, and his performance captured it all in compelling fashion. You can truly feel a slight bit of compassion for his character as a man who is reaping the repercussion of past actions, that regardless of right and wrong, he felt he did for the right reasons. It was a ironic twist to the role – a man who lost much of everything in his life from doing something to protect it, something that provokes thought about the decisions a person can make, decisions based on emotion without intellect, and the destruction that can result.
It was unfortunate the rest of the main characters did not receive the same development as his. Both roles played by Taylor McAdams and Taylor Kitsch left some open-ended character arcs in my opinion and without giving any spoilers I will leave it as that. What I can say is the time spent on these main characters smaller stories that were never completed, came at the cost of time that could have been used to create more of a connection with them and the viewer. These arcs were created in earlier episodes and never really returned to. Whether it was the writing or the revolving door of directors is up for debate, but the time could have been better served building the groundwork of these players in the story.
I also felt the great performance of Vince Vaughn overshadowed a rather generic character type. In my opinion there was no question he pulled the most out of the material. Vaughn was able to shed his comical reputation early on and felt every bit the part of shady casino owner. He has littered some dramatic performances here and there throughout his career but this was (for me) one of his better performances in some time.
It was interesting to watch his dominating presence in his business life and the softer, more fragile side with his wife, something in itself he would conflict with internally resulting in some erratic mood swing with her. It all translated to a man that could see his was nearing the end of his rope business-wise and it made for another solid element to the story. It would have been nice however to have learned more about this man given I found myself having a lot of unanswered questions that could have fleshed out some of his motives.
On its own this was a decent crime-drama but being a follow-up to an amazing first season it did not match up, and it was a constant reminder for me throughout. The story-line began as very intriguing yet somewhat common, and as the episodes progress the layers, upon layers… upon layers of added twists and turns ended up making it feel relatively convoluted and hard to follow along during moments. It almost felt as if Nic Pizzolatto knew he had large expectations to fill thus kept adding and adding to an already solid script. The problem was as good as season one was for me, it was not the story-line that made it so great, it was the two lead characters played by Harrelson and McConaughey.
This season seemed clearly focus on the story to a still good but not great result. The odd and eerie additional characters that littered season one were non existent for the most part in this one, and in the end it was one corrupt person and drug dealer after another. All of which were virtually characters we have seen in other films doing the same things they were in this season. Pizzolatto’s first story came across as a tense psychological-thriller with a crime-drama blend, and this one was simply a good cop-drama, with too many unneeded twists and turns.
To Pizzolatto’s credit, the odds of following up a massive hit with another are rare. While he did not quite live up to the expectations of many, he still crafted an enjoyably interesting story-line. It just would have been nice to see the focus of the writing and creation remain on the characters. There were conversations between Harrelson and McConaughey that were purely riveting, and this season managed to deliver only flashes of that brilliance.
In the end “True Detective” was not all bad. It boasted some solid writing and very good performances it all just never added up to the complete package of the first season. If you are a fan of pure crime-drama’s then you will enjoy this season. If you are expecting the compelling writing and story-lines from last year then this will a bit of a disappointment.
– Starring –
Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, Vince Vaughn, Kelly Reilly, Chris Kerson, Ritchie Coster, Timothy V. Murphy, David Morse, Lolita Davidovich, Adria Arjona
– Created By –
Episode Count: 8
Rating: TV-MA (For sexuality and graphic nudity, language, constant drinking and smoking, strong disturbing bloody violence, drug use, and frightening/intense images)