TV just doesn’t get much richer than what HBO are putting out at the moment, and the crème de la crème for me is True Detective. It’s dark, it’s slow but it’s so, so good.
Season 1 will go down as one of the all-time best seasons of TV there’s ever been. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson made the murder mystery genre all over again with their amazing performances as Rust Cohle and Marty Hart. The entire season was steeped in drama, with the story unravelling slowly before your eyes in a way that took its time but never felt like it was dragging its heels. And then every now and again there’d be a scene, like the six-minute one-shot scene at the end of episode 4, that would leave you gripping the edge of your seat and hanging on for dear life. And of course the theme tune was awesome too:
So hopes were high for Season 2, but when you have to live up to the best – sometimes it doesn’t quite come off, at least so far.
True Detective seemed more focussed than other shows in the first season. It was only Rust and Marty that the show followed, and that meant that you got to follow their lives and delve deep into what made them the detectives, and the men, that they were. Season 2 has gone for the more wide-angle lens on life – following four main characters so far: Ani Bezziredes (Rachel McAdams), Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) and Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn). While it’s a sign of looking to do more, it seems so far as if they’ve bitten off more than they can chew; we know what drives these people, but we’re not given enough to find out why. Having to thread all these stories together along with the wrap-around murder makes it confusing at times, and every minute spent scratching your head is one where you’re not enjoying the full experience of the show.
What struck me watching True Detective first was how the dialogue made the simplest of conversations and the most normal of situations more intriguing that you could ever imagine. Rust and Marty’s banter driving to crime scenes was the glue that held the show together, but the gems of conversation that would come from them were the things that stuck in your mind. That’s been lost in season 2, although you can see the strains of writer Nic Pizzolatto in trying to find them again. Semyon’s speech at the start of episode 2 had the echoes of it, but never had the weight and the impact that it was meant to.
And that leads me to the acting. It’s another stellar cast this season, and it would be sacrilege to call the performances in an HBO show bad, it’s just that when you are spoiled by McConaughey and Harrelson it’s hard not to want the impossible. Colin Farrell’s doing a great job of playing the lovable stray, the guy that’s poison to those around him but you still want to see him do well. Rachel McAdams is playing the tough girl with the hidden soft side beneath it to a tee. But the other two aren’t quite hitting the high notes yet. Paul Woodrugh isn’t nearly as interesting a character to me as the rest, and that’s cause he’s a gruff guy that hasn’t shown a hint of emotion yet. Vince Vaughn is still a comedic actor to me, and there’s something about him trying to be this villain, albeit one not quite so evil, doesn’t seem right.
Season 2 hasn’t pushed the envelope of what TV can do in the way its predecessor has yet, but it’s not to say it isn’t good. The muddled confusion could well be a grand scheme that will pay off and then some down the line, with the feeling that what’s happened so far is merely setting up the dominoes before they all fall down. The murder, the corruption and the characters are all still there to be discovered and that’s where True Detective still shines: the audience needs to figure things out just as much as the characters do. The new theme tune is great too:
There’s plenty of time for season 2 of True Detective to find the TV gold that the first did, but for now it’s destined to be the silver season.