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David Poland

By David Poland

Review-ish: True Detective, Season 2, Episodes 1-3 (spoiler-lite)


“True Detective” Season 2 is nothing like “True Detective” Season 1.

Just take a minute and clear your palate.

I’ll ease you in… the song… the theme song… not as good. Not as memorable. Not eerily memorable. Like the next song from what you don’t yet know will turn out to be a one-hit wonder.

Okay… now to the show.

I don’t know whether it will be great or just good.

It is not, as some have written, trying too hard. It’s not showing its ass to draw your attention.

It is just what it is. Not a two-man show with two seeming opposites trying to find a horrifying psychotic who leaves dead bodies artfully splayed and displayed.

“TD2” is moody. There are fireworks, but they are seductive the way that they were in the first season. Season 2 is about four seriously broken people, three of whom are cops and one of whom is, it seems early on, a bad, bad guy.

Episode One is all set-up. Who are these four? What is their situation at the time this story begins? Most of the answers you will want are not made available to you. None of the three cops are archetypical, though each displays as a cop cliché, we have that idea ripped away along the way.

Episode Two is the meet-not-cute. And this will also be the hardest episode for a lot of people to get past, because the show makes it clear that we are being given all of the symptoms of the disease/crime, but what the trio of cops are actually getting into is being withheld maliciously. In Season One, the writer used time-shifting to keep the audience guessing. This season, it is much more straight forward… three cops hungry to find out the answer while they (and we with them) are being kept from knowing by the powers above them (in our case, Nic Pizzolatto).

The first great event that really pushes the audience to think about what they are getting into – not just the story of the show – is in Episode Two.

Episode Three is when the show, it seems, gets ready to settle in an announce itself. Really, it’s the first chapter. The first two episodes are black + white prologue. Episode 3 is when we find out who we will follow down the yellow brick road. Within that, the main characters start to figure each other out. Is there a Dorothy? Who has a brain, a heart, the nerve? Well.. they all have the nerve. That’s one of the things that makes this series so compelling.

I don’t know what to compare “TD2” to in order to make it easier for you to have some comfort with what is coming. It’s not Crash, but it is four completely separate characters coming together to make sense of a bigger story. It’s not Lumet. He would have done this in three hours and it would have been fantastic, but it would have been something else altogether. It’s not David Ayer, who would never smear his canvas with so many elements but would have a similar tone focusing with laser sharpness on one or two of these characters. It’s not Mann, whose loners never shut up and are really close to their emotions even if they are tortured in being unable to quite reach them.

And most of all… it’s unknown. Three episodes in, it is completely clear that the surface is just being scratched. Even the main characters are significantly unsettled three hours in.

None of us had really seen anything like “True Detective” when Rust and Marty limped into our lives. This second season is like Nic Pizzolatto pushed himself not to repeat what worked so well and to go much closer to what has been the conventional police drama we all know so well… and then, really fuck with it and us.

It is a harder seduction, make no mistake. The moment in Season One where people almost checked out was around Episode 3 or 4, when they started getting really frustrated by the show not giving them what they wanted for week after week. But they were soon satisfied. Here, it will be most of the first two episodes. Glimpses. Pizzolatto gives you glimpses.

And he doesn’t give you much more, in that regard, in Episode 3. But he does give you the feeling that the characters are ready to put their completely dysfunctional real lives to the side and get focused on the police work in front of them. Obviously, the dysfunction will continue to be a part of the show. But so will more of a procedural… and evolving relationships between the main characters… and more sense of what is really lurking.

I am a fan of all four lead performances. The show seems early on like Colin Farrell’s character will eat the thing. Then not. Rachel McAdams seems a little out of her zone with her character… but then her back story (and ongoing story) develops and it all makes more sense. Taylor Kitsch seems out of place too… and after three episodes, he is still the most mysterious of the trio. And Vince Vaughn is playing a kind of classic Vince Vaughn bad-guy prick… but then his vulnerabilities start to show… at least to the audience… and it gets more and more interesting.

I don’t know what is about to happen to any of these characters at any moment. But after three hours, I am invested in all of them.

Truth is, it could go sideways. It could be a waste when all is said and done. But there is also the very real chance that it could be as profound, if not more profound a journey than Season 1 by the end.

I don’t know what happened at HBO, but one mark of their series as of late has been patience. Amazing patience. Series are taking 4, 5, 6 episodes to find their truest voice. Patience is not always rewarded. But then again, most of you probably watched “The Wire” in reruns or binging on DVD or HBO Go. (Me too… and I LOVED the team behind that show before it even aired. Huge “Homicide” fan.)

If you are scared or the first episode scares you, DVR it. Watch the first three back-to-back-to-back. And then, I think you will be ready for more. I know I am.

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2 Responses to “Review-ish: True Detective, Season 2, Episodes 1-3 (spoiler-lite)”

  1. Pete B says:

    Here’s hoping there’s not as many dangling plot threads as the first one had. It was enjoyable until you actually thought about it, and then it kinda fell apart.

  2. Nick says:

    other than Rachel McAdams character not being believable in any sense for a second, I loved the first episode. IT IS LOS ANGELES NOIR. Everyone drinks and drugs and thinks heavy. What else do people want? Now let’s just watch crazy bad shit go down.

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