I don’t have H.B.O., so I had to wait 6 months for the Blu-Ray release of Season 2 to get a chance to watch this. In that 6 months I have seen reviews from critics and other looks at the series from novelists and fans. All of these reviews were negative, I did not read one thing about this second season that was positive. Some of these looks where things like how Ray Donovan was the better show on Sunday nights or how Fargo Season 2 got it right and True Detective got it wrong, etc. Needless to say, I had low expectations of this when I started watching it.
Season 1 of True Detective may have been the best first season of a television series in history, it maybe the best season of television ever. I really was amazed by Nic Pizzolatto story and the acting was second to none. Here is my look at Season 1:
Season 2 is a totally new cast, story and location, the only thing that is the same is Pizzolatto is in charge again and we are going to cover another story of crime. From this alone Pizzolatto was set up to fail. How could he ever match his masterpiece of season 1? How could he create a completely new world with no connection to season 1 and make it just as good?
I don’t believe Pizzolatto failed at all! Where Season 2 fails is only when it is compared to something else. Stop comparing this 8 hours to something else and just enjoy it for what it is.
For me Season 2 was a great modern take on California’s noir world, a homage to noir of the past. I think Pizzolatto took cues from past greats and put them in a big stew and threw them into modern Southern California. I seen hints of Chandler, Hammett, Macdonald and a lot of Ellroy in the story. I seen scenes that looked a lot like scenes from High Sierra, Mulholland Drive, L.A. Confidential, and others. The best thing I liked about this series is he took some of classic film noir tropes and characters and threw them into a modern setting and gave them an original spin.
Lets break down each of the four main characters:
Colin Farrell is Detective Ray Velcoro
Ray is our classic hardboiled detective for this story. He takes a bit of the cop looking for revenge, and a pinch of dirty cop, add a man that has lost his way and his family. The twist here is we learn what set this good guy into a downward spiral of evil.
Taylor Kitsch is Officer Paul Woodrugh
Woodrugh is a motorcycle cop who is part of a tabloid news story involving a famous actress. Woodrugh maybe the most classic film noir style character of the group. He is back from the war and that war has effected him. He is trying to fit into a society, he no longer recognizes. He is trying to hide his homosexual tendencies by making a nice family life everybody expects of him.
Rachel McAdams is Detective Ani Bezzerides
Ani is the cop with the dirty mouth. The cop that uses the opposite sex and throws them away. The cop that is as hard as nails and you want by your side in a knife fight. In today’s world this is the cop that needs to go to sexual harassment meeting for their affairs with co-workers. Pizzolatto flips the scrip here and makes this cop a female.
Vince Vaughn is Frank Semyon
Frank is a gangster who has worked his way up to the top and used his life savings to go legit with a land purchase. Frank is our classic gangster getting out, but never really does. He made it to the top by surrounding himself with loyal guys he trusts, and that may be his downfall.
Kelly Reilly and Abigail Spencer play opposites. One will do anything to stay with her husband and the other will do anything to get as far away as possible from her ex-husband.
Pizzolatto uses a lot of classic film noir tropes in this basic 8 plus hour movie. We see the heist film, the gangster film, the hardboiled cop film, and the revenge film all rolled into one. There is a couple McGuffins, one in the form of some rare blue diamonds and another in the form of a hard drive with some compromising films on it. We have double crosses, corrupt politicians and police, a prostitution ring, a freaky psychologist(played by an almost unrecognizable Rick Springfield), a dark and dingy bar, a night club where it is easy to get whatever you want, a semi legit casino and it goes on and on.
Pizzolatto’s plot is not easy to follow and doesn’t take you on simple A to B trip. This series takes some thinking and may even need to be watched more then once to get everything out of it. Some didn’t like how all the questions are not answered, but I think it is more like the answers they got are not the ones they wanted. This may upset the average viewer, but is right up the noir fan’s alley. Not having a clue on how a show is going to end is half the fun of the ride. So what went wrong with Season 2? Personally I don’t think anything went wrong. I really enjoyed this season. I think what went wrong is when it is compared to the first…or a totally different show. No Season 2 is not as good as Season 1, but it is still very good. I look forward to a third season and hope Pizzolatto takes on some different film noir tropes, like a really interesting femme fatale, maybe a location in New York, Atlantic City and Philadelphia. How about taking on the subject of drug dealers and using the Canadian/American border as a focal point? Whatever you do, Mr. Pizzolatto, I look forward to watching it.