TV/Movies

Why True Detective Season Two Just Might Be Better Than the First

"THESE CONTRACTS, THEY HAVE SIGNATURES ALL OVER THEM!"

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

Ummmmm, yes?

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.

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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:


Ron:  Let’s start off with this question, do you think this season was better, if so, why? 
Ebony:  Yes and no. Last year was more engaging. Maybe because it was new but I was instantly attached to the characters last year. This year, my connection to the characters were slow but I will say I was instantly attracted to Woodrugh because he was tragic from the beginning. And the story line was better although convoluted in the beginning but in the end the story was dope. 
Ron:  I’m actually in agreement with you. While I did like Hart and Cohle, the conclusion of last season left more to be desired. There were some holes that needed filling. This season, the characters were actually great but the performances didn’t deliver at times. I guess we can discuss what you would have changed this season.
Ebony Like you said the character performances. Like I really like Vince Vaughn but he didn’t deliver for me. It all seemed like the script was being held in front of him and he was just reading. Even Jordan was flat. The dialogue was really choppy to me. Maybe actually seeing Tasha because she was very integral to the case from the beginning. But I wouldn’t change anything else because it takes away from the season. You?
Ron: That’s my main gripe too, I think I actually mentioned every week. If your “bad guy” is going to be in front of the screen for the majority of every episode, he better deliver. Vince Vaughn didn’t. Not pinning all the shortcomings of this season on him, but he’s the majority of it. Frank Semyon the character was actually great. Cliche background, but great story and had witty lines, but Vaughn just wasn’t that guy. But let’s move on, your favorite moment from this season? The definitive “True Detective” moment?
Ebony:  Hmmm, I think it would have to be from episode 7 between Ray and Ani. I wrote about it last week but it was all so beautiful. Her making amends with her dad, her dad telling her that she’s the most innocent person he knows (I’m tearing up now) and Ani telling Ray that he is good(oh the tears are rolling now). That was good script, and good acting. The scene in the season finale that got me was when Ray went to go see his son one last time and his son has the Velcoro badge with him–that was really touching because before then, we see the son being scared of ray and just hating his visits with him and we finally see that the son does care and loves his dad.
 

Ron: For me, looking back, it’s two scenes. It’s when Ray was shot and it transitions into the next episode with that dream sequence. Ray is sitting with this father and his knuckles are bloody, his father says “you have your father’s hands”. Then he tells him that he sees him running through the trees, but there’s too many of them and he can’t escape. To me, this is Ray’s “heaven” I guess we can say. During the finale we find out he dies in the trees, now he’s immortalized in cop heaven with his dad, in full uniform. Ok, now favorite detective? Or character, even?
 Ebony:  Oh yeah, I forgot about that.  I can’t chose a favorite. they all had their moments. Least favorite was Vince Vaughn being Frank Semyon.
Ron: Lol at least we’re in agreement about that. I spoke on this in the intro, but let’s talk about the setting. How did you like California vs Louisiana
Ebony:  Sleazy Louiswezzy! I’m from the South so I’m a little bias. The setting went with both shows to me though. It’s the South, we’re know for being slow, laid back, family and I think season 1 played into that with the pacing, and the storyline. Cali was what it was-hustling, money, foreign deals, etc.
Ron:  Yea, I’m taking Louisiana too. I love Southern Gothic. I loved the darkness of it. I thought I would be excited about California, but there didn’t seem much to it. I thought we would be getting some kinda LA Confidential/Chinatown/detective noir vibe but we didn’t. Ok,with this said, would you like to see another season of True Detective?
Ebony:  I don’t know. I love detective stories and crime drama so much so its hard to say no but you don’t want to overdo it. If it happens-where to next. the west coast and south has been done, so the other options are midwest and east coast and I dont see east coast version of it happening. so I don’t know.
Ron: I agree with you about overdoing it. I think Nic Pizzolatto said he doesn’t wanna do that either. But let’s say there is indeed another season, let’s pick the cast for our detectives and select a location, just for fun
Ebony:  HAHA! ok ummm I can’t think of any names right now but 2 ppl because as we can see 3 is a crowd and either a black guy or a black woman and another man setting would be Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Chicago or Wisconsin can’t pick one yet. Plot: maybe go with the times of some major police brutality, racial injustice shit so we will see
Ron: A True Detective that’s actually in a realistic, tangible world? Hmmm, interesting. Mine (you can tell I’ve thought about this) would be Tom Hardy as the veteran cop and Joseph Gordon Levitt as his new rookie partner. Set in New York. Boom. Write it up. So to wrap this up and put a bow on it, just share your overall thoughts on this season. Mostly what you loved.
Ebony: Uhhh Tom nah, JGL,yes. Yeah new york is too big but they got some yuppie towns in upstate New York that I can see them in. Final thoughts-so cliche but don’t give up and see it through the end which applies to both the viewer as well as what happened in the show. They coulda stopped at Amarillo taking the fall but they saw it through. They paid for it. We all did, but it was good and ended well.
Ron:Hey, I’m working on my script so don’t kill my dream. Well thanks for sharing your thoughts. This concludes it. Until next time…maybe.

Will there be a season 3? Who knows? Hopefully negative reception didn’t kill the hopes of another season, although HBO has already stated that they would be open to seeing this show return.
As long as there’s darkness swallowing the light of the world, they’ll be more stories to tell.  
(And more cool opening title sequences)
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3 comments

  1. This is long. Hope it’s worth it.

    Characters

    I loved Woodrugh’s quiet reserve. He was my favorite and I wish they’d done a little more with him. Who can’t relate to being in complete denial about some aspect of their life? I saw some of myself in him and I enjoyed watching his marksmanship as he was the least qualified to join the task force from a detective standpoint. He WAS tragic from the beginning, kind of like me. One big tragedy. I like Vince Vaughn. He’s one of those people that’s difficult to take seriously because you find humor in their most honest and sober commentary. Either you’re happy to have him as a medium of awkward comic relief or you hold it against him because you don’t think it balances well for a character whose supposed to be amoral and heartless. Whatever, he’ll always be Jennifer Aniston’s boyfriend in The Breakup and I don’t hold that against him. I do agree that he seemed to be reading from a script and the scenes with his wife weren’t compelling. Colin … he did fine, whatever. The girl uh … the white girl, she’s fine. Her character is another lady cop cliché. She’s the latest in the line of distant, detached, not-quite-a-dyke, sex-for-sex-no-love, my-job-is-my-life, I-don’t-wear-makeup-or-skirts, hear-me-roar, I-have-a-superiority-complex, but I-really-have-issues girl cops. See The Killing & The Bridge. I honestly don’t know what I’d want to see in a lady cop but her character didn’t move me one way or the other. Her dad & sister were more intriguing. She shined most in scenes with them. Vince Vaughn’s wife was cute but I wasn’t convinced with her ride-or-die BS. They could’ve done more with her or less with her. Ok … the obese Pacific Island (Or Mexican, I dunno) gangster Vince killed. I had my eyes closed for that entire scene. I’m a punk. Those cotdamn gold teeth didn’t justify having to listen to that stupid lisp they caused. Last, there were entirely too many characters. I can’t even remember their names.

    Plot

    Good grief, this plot. There was so much going on. And the stuff going on had stuff going on. I binge watched this season in less than 3 days and I still can’t fully recount what happened or why. Unfortunately, this season’s plot was over-ambitious and things fell apart slowly. It completely unraveled in the finale. We waited 90 minutes to watch things happen so that Vince and Colin could die. That’s quite literally the only way I can explain the finale. It was dissatisfying to watch all those hours for a payoff that didn’t’ payoff. Not even a little bit. And I’m ok with there being no payoff but it just wasn’t done well. See Prisoners (Hugh Jackman & your boy Jake G) for an ending with little payoff that was done beautifully.

    Things weren’t tied up well for me and the ends of the political corruption didn’t fully justify the means or tie together neatly. What fully happened in ’92? And how does it seamlessly connect to Caspere’s murder? It doesn’t, to me. Why did the fat lazy cop follow Woodrugh? It was a nice surprise but I didn’t think “Oh yea follow Woodrugh, that’s what I’d do”. It ended up being one of those things that had to happen to get us to the part where Woodrugh dies. They didn’t fully explain the attorney’s motivation to reorganize them after they killed the Messicans? I know I missed something or a lot of things but this season seemed to have been written backwards. Nic knew what he wanted in the end. Maybe he went back to add things to justify the end. That’s just bad writing.

    Stuff

    I was drawn into this show from the beginning. We were introduced to each character with one scene from their personal life then watched as they were tied together as a task force to solve a murder. Simple. Based on each of their scenes, I got a decent idea of how they’d operate going forward. I think they did a better job with that than in season 1, which I absolutely hated. Dialogue was too wordy (yes), unrealistic, & it bored me to death. What a snooze fest. And BOTH of them should’ve died in the end. I mean, who could have ACTUALLY found them in that sort of underground dirt/stick maze? Kiss my butt, season 1.

    Other stuff

    What else, ah I don’t’ know. Plot holes here and there (taking the docs out of the desk in 2015 when we have camera phones and junk). Them being so utterly careless even after learning who was involved and how deep the corruption ran. Why did Vince burn down those clubs? Oh yea, to piss off the other Mexican’s that would later kill him. Some beautifully done scenes: Colin getting shot by birdman (but somehow not dying), Elvis-like man singing scene/convo with dad (personal favorite), Vince dying (overly dramatic but I forgive them), knocking the dude upside the head with the glass, and that doggone mansion/orgy. It was hard for me to watch (I’m prudish) but I loved it. What did those pics from the 70s have to do with the corruption? All it showed was that her dad knew them and he offered very little about them then that made sense now … or it connects and I missed it. I really wish her kidnapper/molester had been revealed as one of the corrupt cops, or would that have been too predictable?

    Car dialogue

    Season 1’s cop car dialogue was usually when I fell asleep or hit fast forward. I specifically wanted to see how this season’s dialogue would compare. Aside from the brief e-cig comments, I liked it and wish they’d been a little more wordy. Those scenes seem to be a big deal to the writer. He toned it down from last season but in all the wrong ways.

    The ending (last 2 episodes, I think)

    They didn’t’ need to die. Things only happened for them to die and for Nic to teach us the lesson that all bad guys don’t get punished and all good guys don’t win. Blah. You can’t convince me otherwise. I wish Woodrugh was alive to shoot ppl with Vince & Colin in the end but whatever. I wasn’t satisfied with Blake’s reason for lying about the rapist. We waited too many episodes for that to be the reason. And both Colin and Vince had already alluded to that being the reason, so we waited to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Ok … Why not give us more with the man that actually raped his wife? Considering that we sat through the scene of Colin talking to him. I didn’t give a modicum of a damn about the red-headed fat kid that is somehow the child of 2 dark-haired people. That’s genetically impossible and it pisses me off because I really love fat red-headed children. I really do.

    More other stuff

    Can’t say much about the director or directing because I lack the knowledge to and don’t care. I agree with you that they’re all “tormented souls” and no one is really bad or good blah blah. Every good show seeks to point that out. Their desire for justice …. love your comments on that. Ah the hopeless fools in all of us thinking we can change the world for the better. It’s what kept me watching. We got action! This season’s story WAS better. Yes yes yes! But there isn’t a single damn left in me to care about Ani and Jordan. I don’t care about them. I’m sorry.

    You are so rude with that Irish + drunkenness comment.

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    1. Ok, let me start from the top. Fat cop Dixon and Burris are crooked cops, obviously. Back in 92, they steal the diamonds and kill the jewelry shop owner. The two kids happen to be Caspere’s secretary/assistant and the photographer from the movie set. The little girl is actually Caspere’s illegitimate daughter. Burris and Dixon uses those diamonds to “buy in” their way to the inner circle. Dixon blows his share and was planning on blackmailing Caspere and Burris. Dixon keeps tabs on Woodrugh because he knows he’s the only high profile cop on the Caspere case, so he wants to dig up dirt on him. I mean, there’s plenty dirt on Velcoro but Vinci PD are convinced that he’s going to botch the case in their favor.

      The reason why Davis brings the detail back, off the table? Because basically they’re all nobodies and if it failed, no one cares. Velcoro is doing security by then, Ani is in the basement, Woodrugh is handling insurance claims.

      Did that tie up your loose ends?

      Also, Frank’s death was kinda beautiful to me. Overly dramatic, sure, but I liked it. Think about the episode where he’s staring at the ceiling at the circles. Then that scene fades into Caspere’s eyes. Then another scene he’s at the bar and his glass leaves a stain on the table. Finally, when he’s stabbed, the blood pattern is in a circle on his shirt. Ties it back to Rust Cohle’s “time is a flat circle” thing. Everything he’s done has now been done to him. And honestly, it’s kinda a peaceful scene. He doesn’t have to run anymore. But your comments were great!

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      1. That ties everything up. I watched it all so fast that it’s a jumbled mess to me. And while I remember key lines from the movie, the justifications still aren’t good enough to me. I think I’m looking for something more explicit and grand. I hated season 1 so any reference to it falls on deaf ears. I remember the ceiling stains, Caspere’s burned eyes, the stains on the table cloth, all that! I decided it was just good cinema and would have never linked it to “time is a flat circle”. I’m satisfied with Frank’s death as well. I was just annoyed by who killed him and why. Ah well, I’m hoping there’s a season 3.

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