We at The Kids Wear Crowns pride ourselves on integrity. We don’t troll or make rash statements just to stir the pot. So I can assure you that this isn’t click-bait. We aren’t trying to be a contrarian just for the hell of it.
Before the first episode even aired, the public already unanimously decided that they would hate it. People watched all eight episodes just to tell you how much they hated it (which is hilarious to me). Season two, while not great by any standards, was still a really good story.
Which is why I say season two of true detective just might be better than the first. Before I begin my love fest, let me go into what I DID NOT like about this season.
The first, should be obvious.
“But why would I do another buddy-cop show? I think whatever I had to say about the buddy-cop genre I said. Do you really just want to see two stars riding around in a car talking?”-Nic Pizzolatto
Simply put, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson knocked their performances out the park. There were some horrible lines in the first season, but these two delivered them with masterclass. (“Darkness….yea!”). So when if you want to double this count and have four detectives, you better do a damn good job at casting. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Colin Farrell as Ray Velcoro was hands down the best character this season but this wasn’t necessarily a daring role for him. He’s Irish so being a drunk comes natural. Rachel McAdams as Ani Bezzirides was a departure from her usual roles and for the most part, she did a great job. Taylor Kitsch as Paul Woodrugh…where do we start…hmmm…this is the part where the story has far too many pieces. In the grand scheme of things, Woodrugh really brought nothing to the story. Was he an absolutely terrible character? No. Would the should have been any worse without him? Eh, probably the same. He was just there. Last, but sure as hell not least, is Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon. Now apparently, this role was written specifically with Vince Vaughn in mind. I’m not sure how that happened but I’d like to hear that story. Here’s the thing: Frank Semyon was actually a great character, Vaughn just didn’t deliver. If you’re going to have your “bad” guy hog screen time, then he better be captivating. Vince Vaughn seemed as if he had to struggle to hold his facial expressions. “I’m mean Frank, grrrrrr.”.
Just imagine someone like Josh Brolin as Frank Semyon. It’s a pretty awesome character now, right? Right.
Next, the locale. We all fell in love with True Detective because rural Louisiana is mystifying. The Southern Gothic feel added to the tone of the show. While it didn’t completely break off into the supernatural, that element was always there. Lurking.
So when it was announced that this story would take place in “a part of California that’s not LA”, I was honestly excited. We were promised a dirtier, grittier side of the state that normally gives us glitz and glam. Well, we really didn’t get to see much of that world. Trees. Trees. Trees. Club. Poker room. Dirty bar. More trees. Hey, is that LA? Ok, we’re on a movie set. Trees. Club. Dirty bar. More trees. Ok I’ll stop.
Not until the finale did we see this side of California we were promised.
Which leads to my final point, direction. Literally. This show needs one director. Season 1 turned Cary Joji Fukunaga into a household name. It was Pizolatto’s story, but through his eyes. And it was beautiful. This season started off with Justin Lin behind the lens (terrible pun, my apologies). I saw promise here. Little did I know that when they said this show was an anthology, they meant it literally. Every episode seemed like it was a separate story, and I mean that in the worst way possible. I think Justin Lin would have done great for the entire season, but I’m sure he was too busy prepping the Starship Enterprise. The shortcomings were apparent during episode 4, “Down Will Come”. Now, it was VERY entertaining. I mean, what’s not entertaining about a big shootout. But visually, just left me wanting for more. Maybe I’m spoiled or being nitpicky, I don’t know. But hey, don’t give me a 6 minute single shot action scene, I might get used to it.
Visually, my favorite scene all season was probably Ani in the orgy mansion. The 70s style filter during her hallucination stage actually brought out what was happened. The best work on this season was done by John Crowley, though. I loved the finale.
“It’s all just one story. The oldest. Light vs. Dark”. That’s really what True Detective is about. A dark world, with a few good people trying to find their way. That’s why I think this anthology format works. The first season set us up with two men trying to get to the bottom of satanic murders. I can’t be the only one out there who thought, “honestly, why does this one case even matter in the grand scheme of things?”
And that’s right. Why does it? The dark has far more territory than the light. This season was exactly that. The four leads are all tormented souls and while trying to solve this case, they all come together. We find out that Ray isn’t such a bad guy after all after he dies a noble and honorable death. Frank is bound by his own prideful code, which he stands by until the end. Ani isn’t as harsh and cold as we were led to believe and even makes a new friend in Jordan Semyon. Paul Woodrugh doesn’t quite know who he is (and dies not knowing) but he’s fearless and valiant.
This season went from “Ok, I don’t know what the hell is going on” to a story about tortured kids, bad parenting, and how that cycle continues. The world is filled with so much bad that who is truly good? Well, our four leads all had some good in them. Frank and Ray’s association is an awkward one. Ray starts off as Frank’s muscle then through a series of unfortunate events, becomes Frank’s only friend left. I think that’s what I really like about this season. It shows that they were outnumbered by the forces of darkness in the world but still foolishly pursued justice. When Davis was killed, Ani, Ray, and Paul could have easily skipped town. When Frank’s back was against the wall, he could have fled also. But they all felt it was their duty to seek justice, well at least their own version of it.
This is mostly why I think this season of True Detective was better than the first, the story is simply better. We often romanticize season 1 due to that episode 3-5 stretch but really, there were plenty dull moments. This season, we got action in episode 2, followed by a really good episode 3 (if you were paying attention). Like last season, we kinda expected a lot of action to happen in episode 4, and it did. But what sets this season apart is the last 3 episodes. They made this season worthwhile. Not even Paul Woodrugh saying “THESE CONTRACTS, THEY HAVE SIGNATURES ALL OVER THEM!” could kill that. In addition, the finale last year was satisfying but left more to be desired. This season’s finale made the story complete. I actually want to follow Ani and Jordan now to know where the hell they’re going.
As usual, I linked up with Ebony to discuss True Detective. Here’s what we had to say: