After the sensational first season, True Detective Season Two had massive expectations to live up and somehow topple the first season and while it’s too early to judge whether this season will be as good or better than the predecessor there are more than few positive signs for last night’s premiere, The Western Book of the Dead.
The latest season takes us to the sunny state of California, the plot supposedly revolves around corruption and murder in the railway system. The first episode of the season feels like a prologue and mainly introduces us to the new characters while getting the ball rolling as well. The latest season is almost completely different from the first one, it’s considerably less dark, the location is pretty conventional as compared to the obscure Louisiana setting and the plot does not have the same feel as it did with the first season, but is that really a bad thing?
First off, I don’t expect the latest season to topple the first one, I’m just expecting good television and it seems True Detective Season 2 might just deliver. The first episode meanders considerably and is mainly an introduction, but it feels like a solid pilot episode. I think it will always be difficult for anthology shows especially, True Detective and Fargo to start a new season because they are essentially starting over. The latest season does very well in establishing the three leads, who all seem to be compelling characters. Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro is one, I was perhaps most impressed with. Not only is he a very intriguing character but he also has some of the best moments from the episode. He’s a broken man but nothing like Rust or Marty and Colin’s acting is very good. Rachel McAdams also does a solid job with her Ani Bezzerides – I don’t know how to pronounce that – and Taylor Kitsch, someone for whom I have great disdain isn’t particularly bad either. He doesn’t have much to say but his facial expressions sold me on the performance. As for, Vince Vaughn no, he doesn’t completely ruin it but it would be best to reserve my judgement on his performance as the season progresses because I feel his character has not been properly unveiled yet.
The story, while not quite as grabbing as the first season, is engrossing. The story seems to begin at the end of the episode but it seems something that has great potential, but again I can’t say much about this. Another thing I liked was that the dark and brooding atmosphere was still there, again, not as dark as the first season but still pretty somber.
One of the few things that didn’t feel right was perhaps the dialogue. I felt the writing was trying too hard to feel philosophical and most of it feel quite dumb, to be honest. For example, in one scene, Vince Vaughn’s character tells one of cronies to: ”Never do anything out of hunger. Not even eating”. Ummm…What? And then there’s one scene in which Colin Farrell, while talking on a digital recorder says: ”I used to wanna be an astronaut. But astronauts don’t even go to the moon anymore.” It felt overly contrived and unnecessary but I have full faith in Pizzolatto and hopefully this is something that will improve as the season moves forward. Leonard Cohen’s Nevermind which serves as this season’s theme song is sadly not that good or amazing as The Handsome Family’s Far From Any Home which was last season’s theme.
One person I will sorely miss is Cary Joji Fukanaga. I think a massive amount of credit for the first season’s success goes to him, he directed all eight episodes of the first season and did a spectacular job of doing so. His six-minute tracking shot in episode four of last season is one of the best directed scenes I’ve ever seen in film or television. It’s a shame Pizzolatto and him couldn’t work out their differences but Fast & Furious director Justin Lin does a solid job of anchoring the premiere, so I hope is absence is not felt that significantly.
All in all, the True Detective premiere was a strong start to the second season. The acting is outstanding and the story seems interesting however, it’s far too early to judge exactly how this season will turn out at this point. My advice is sit back, have patience and let the show take it’s natural course.