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“True Detective” wraps up a compelling yet divisive second season

True Detective Season 2
After the almost masterpiece that was the first season of True Detective, it seemed almost inevitable that this new season would be met with a more mixed response. That being said, I’m sure creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto wasn’t expecting Season Two to be nearly as divisive as it was. Having just wrapped up last night, I certainly enjoyed it quite a bit, but like most also recognize that Season One was a bit of an anomaly with how amazing it was. You were never going to beat Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson at the top of their game, backed by Cary Fukunaga directing all six episodes like one long movie. Still, for many this second time around left a lot to be desired. Not me though…

Much like last season, True Detective centered around a murder mystery but really was more concerned with the personal and professional lives of those investigating the crime. This time around, instead of a pair of detectives, there were three law enforcement agents, along with a criminal. There was the damaged Detective Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), the secretive Officer Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch), and the slightly corrupt Detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), who lost his moral compass when falling into the debt of Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) in the effort to avenge a crime against his former wife. Frank leans on Ray, but also worries about him, making for less of a villain than just another morally complex individual. They all come together while trying to figure out who killed a city official in a small California town. Frank has had money stolen from him by the now dead man, while the other three come across the body. What follows is again a sometimes poetic and sometimes frustrating descent into moral confusion and despair. Last season was nearly perfect, this one is more of a peaks and valleys type of situation. All the same, it was still must see television.

While certain things continued on from the first season of True Detective (like Pizzolatto undeserving his supporting female characters…Michelle Monaghan last time and Kelly Reilly this time), the big difference in quality here was the direction. Pizzolatto’s hard boiled writing just worked better when mixed with Fukunaga’s singular vision. He created a six hour movie with Harrelson and McConaughey. This time around, that doesn’t feel like the case, as a number of directors took turns with the material. Justin Lin shot the first two episodes and it was a bit of a downgrade, though the episodes from John Crowley were nice looking, for sure. By having the cast be Farrell, Kitsch, McAdams, and Vaughn, they certainly stuck with big names, and especially seem to have wanted that, considering the initial pursuit of Christian Bale for Farrell’s role and Jessica Chastain for McAdams, but the chemistry isn’t as good as last time. Perhaps it was just lightning striking, but this time out we just got a solid TV show, as opposed to one of the all time great seasons of an HBO program.

Personally, I’m still very much looking forward to another season, provided HBO decides to renew the show. I’d like to see them once again go with a filmmaker handling all episodes, though it would depend on the filmmaker. Honestly, my ideal would be another season with just two main characters, perhaps set in New York? Pizzolatto unleashed in the Big Apple could be very interesting, especially with two A-listers in the lead roles and a talented director at the helm. It would be different than the first two seasons, for sure, but also somewhat of a return to form for the series as well.

In the end, True Detective managed to be a big conversation piece for the channel, which was the intent, but perhaps not with the buzz that it generated. Season One was discussed as an all time classic, while this one is considered by some to be a misfire. I still found it very effective, if far from perfect, so I don’t agree there. It kept my interest throughout and scratched the itch I had from last year. Now, the wait begins for hopefully another season. If nothing else, I can’t wait to see what the show and the creative minds behind it decide to attempt next…

Stay tuned for more on a potential Season Three of True Detective when we have it!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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