Well it’s here! The second season of the anthology series True Detective premiered tonight. I’m sure we were all anticipating the premiere and wondering if it would live up to the first season. I was excited to be introduced to the new bleak world of these characters, but my excitement turned a little sour. The first episode got off to a bit of a rough start with some sloppy exposition and some eh level acting. It’s certainly not bad, but it isn’t living up to its predecessor just yet. However, let’s open our investigation into the first episode of True Detective Season 2 Episode 1, “The Western Book of the Dead.”
I don’t think anyone doubts Colin Farrell’s ability to act, but over the years he’s taken some questionable roles, in some questionable movies. He has always been a great actor, but I think some were worried that this would be another role he would phone in and not show off what he is made of. Well, it’s safe to officially say, he is all in. He is the shining light in this episode, granted that light burns nothing but pure darkness. He gives us the depth of a man who has been broken and torn apart from the inside out. Farrell gives us a multifaceted character with a full range of manic emotions. We see him go from loving father, to vengeful husband, to murdering psychopath, to crooked cop, to self-loathing drunk, to just another cop. In the first episode, Farrell has given a performance that is extremely pointed, precise, and descriptive. I feel like I know his character as well as I knew McConaughey's from the first season. I think Farrell’s character has the potential to be as interesting as McConaughey’s while still being different enough to stand alone.
In this episode, we see the two extremes of his story so far. We see a flashback to when he is looking for the man who raped his wife while also seeing him working for Vaughn later on in present day. His relationship with his son is thoroughly terrible. The episode starts with a nice little speech only to return to him calling his son a “fat pussy” when questioning him about who was bullying him. It’s easy to see why he’s not granted very many visitation hours. I’m looking forward to his relationship with Vaughn being explored a bit more. I’m curious as to how he started by just acquiring information from him, to full on killing someone for him now. There is certainly a lot of history to be explored between both characters.
What makes True Detective so great, is a combination of two things: characters and plot. Rachel McAdams is helping check off the character’s box for sure. She is very engaging and we get a good chunk of her story in this episode. She has a sister with questionable judgement/employment, a dead mother who committed suicide, and a spiritual leader as a father who revels in remaining uninvolved in his family’s life. Having such a rich background to pull from, McAdams really brings the audience into her conflicts in such a way that makes us feel as if we’ve been following them all along. She is also a very strong character who hides her vulnerability in plain sight. It’s nice to see such a strong female character amongst a cast of mostly males who are just as screwed up as she is. She definitely holds her own, and outshines most of them. I am really looking forward to seeing more of her.
In this episode, we get to be introduced to the family she does have, as well as how she feels about them. We also get to see how she operates. She’s a tough sheriff who is struggling with doing what’s right while also only being able to do so much. You can tell she cares about the cases she gets, but perhaps feels like enough isn’t always done. I think this is something that will help connect her with Taylor Kitsch’s character. Speaking of him…
Many people doubt Taylor Kitsch due to his checkered background of work in film, however he has talent. He can act and do it well. I’m glad to see he’s bringing it in True Detective and is being given a sizable role. I think this can be something he really shines in. Although he’s playing a bit of a straight laced boyscout, there seems to be some layers that might get peeled off during the season to reveal a bit more about his character and his past. I’m interested for sure.
In this episode, we see him as a hardass CHP officer who, like McAdams, cares about doing the right thing, but get’s in trouble when doing so. He gets put on leave for trying to ticket a celebrity and doing his job. We see him then go to his girlfriend's house where he is greeted with a sexual invitation. Instead of accepting, he goes to the bathroom where he takes a pill and broods for a bit. It’s here where we see his vast collection of scars. Afterword, he comes out, and does the dirty. It’s revealed that some of his horrendous scars were from before his time in the army. After, he goes a bit crazy, speeding down the highway with his light off on his bike, and almost crashing. This is where he discovers the missing body of City Management official, and dirty criminal, Casper. This is ultimately what connects our three “heroes” together.
In this episode, there are quite a few establishing shots to help get the audience familiarized with their new surroundings. Each one is a great view of California. Also, the close-ups are phenomenal. They help really capture the emotion of each character. Each close-up is like a glimpse into the complicated psyche of each admittedly screwed up character. Also, I am enjoying the reddish color scheme juxtaposed with the dark shadows in almost every shot. Even if the show doesn’t deliver this season, it will at least look great.
What Didn’t Work?
Unfortunately, one of the two key ingredients to making True Detective work, failed to get me interested. The plot is more crucial in this series than it is in other shows. The first season raised our expectations so much, that I expected nothing short of thrilling. The plot I was introduced to was much more convoluted and uninteresting. It gave me a lot of horror in terms of events, but not enough clarity or involvement to make me care. There isn’t as much mystery either. Where the first season was layered and full of head scratchers, this season is much more direct and dark. Hopefully, this will change in later episodes, but for an introduction into the season, this episode’s plot did not deliver.
We are told that a corrupt city official is missing. We are told Farrell’s wife was raped and beaten by an assailant years ago. He had to go to Vaughn to get information. He now works for Vaughn years later. McAdams has family issues and doesn’t succeed too well at her job. Kitsch has some repressed feelings about something, and is also a good apple being tainted by a dirty system. Vaughn, with the absence of Casper, is unable to close a deal on a corrupt licensing agreement with an assumedly Russian mobster posing as a clean business man. All of these things seem to just be mushed together in no real fluid way. They just fit together like pieces to different puzzles. The only redeeming part was the last 2 minutes when our heroes are joined together, however the entire episode just feels sloppy, uneven, and messy. You can see the writers trying to do what the first season did without the same precision or expertise, which is very unfortunate. Hopefully it improves over the coming weeks.
Man. I was hoping so much that he’d be an interesting fit for this character. Unfortunately, he’s the same old Vince Vaughn without the funny. He overacts and doesn’t hit his lines with the right set of emotion that I feel like they were trying to convey. He looks like he is constantly trying to remember to stay in character. He doesn’t sit well as a villain or a gangster. It’s as if he doesn’t actually belong there and in fact stumbled into this entire organization. He is not believable as this manipulative and cunning criminal. He doesn’t seem like someone who could demand Farrell’s character to do anything regardless of the information he had on him. Vaughn doesn’t bring the intensity and gravitas to the table that we expect from each actor in True Detective.
Heroes and Villains
True Detective has shown us that the lines can be blurred between both hero and villain, but at the end of the day each person is either one or the other. Right now, it seems a bit too convoluted in regards to Farrell’s character. His character seems to be a bit too erratic and seems to be shifting to from hero to hard villain back to hero. Hopefully they decide which he will be soon. I need to know if he’s a villain with a good side, or a hero with a bad side because it seems a bit too much on each.
While I’m interested in parts of the plot, most of it didn’t capture me. I think this was due in part to the fact that a lot of it was spelled out for us in exposition that seemed to come out of nowhere. For instance, when we find out that Farrell’s wife was raped and beaten and that they’re divorced, it’s basically the first sentence in a new scene. Then, the conversation between McAdams and her father is basically a plot device to learn more of her backstory so that we may more quickly progress with her currently storyline. Next, the scene where Vaughn, his girlfriend, and his henchman discuss the casino and journalistic investigation into his business just seems to be there simply to add credibility to the fact that he is indeed the bad guy. The whole episode just seemed to come right out and say, “HEY! THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS CHARACTER. YOU’RE WELCOME!” I don’t want to see a show where everything is handed to me, especially when that show is True Detective. The greatest part of the first season was the unravelling of each character’s backgrounds, motivations, grievances, and mysteries.
The Opening Sequence
This is a minor grievance, but that opening song is terrible.
This season of True Detective is off to a rocky start. As always, we should give it a chance since this is only the first episode. Unfortunately, they really need to get a handle on the plot and writing. Most of the cast seems ready to bring it and act their hearts out, but if the writing is clunky the acting will be clunky. Also, if the plot is boring, the characters will unfortunately become boring. So, there were some shining moments tonight, but overall it was a disappointment to me and the franchise. Let’s try to remain a bit optimistic though. Here’s to hoping next week will be better.
As always, let me know what you all thought. Did you like the season premiere of True Detective season 2? Was it all you hoped for? Any predictions? Who's your favorite character so far? Please be sure to follow me on Twitter @HaneyCasey, check me out on MoviePilot.com/HaneyCasey, and check out my website SlackerNerds.com. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for next week.