The first season of “True Detective” was a pleasant surprise. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson were exceptional in their roles, the story was intriguing, and the dialogue that Rust Cohle (McConaughey) delivered was something special. Fast forward a year (and a bit) and we have the first episode of season two, with a new cast and a set of directors that weren’t involved in the fantastic first season. The story is supposedly going to touch on similar themes, but other than that this is completely different than last year’s season. Sadly, that difference is noticeable for all the wrong reasons.
The cast is interesting, because the male leads aren’t really seen as amazing actors even on the small screen. Vince Vaughn is a decent comedic actor, with a great resume on that front, but he hasn’t had many successful serious roles in his career. Taylor Kitsch is an actor in the wilderness after “John Carter” – I have to say that I don’t care for his acting at all. Finally, Colin Farrell is a bit of a hit-and-miss Hollywood A-Lister, he’s capable and has been a part of some really cool films in different genres, but there are also a lot of features on his filmography that I’m sure he’d rather not be there. I do like him, but I don’t think many believe that he can pull off this role.
With that in mind, you can see their involvement in the series in two contrasting senses. 1) They could ruin it and demonstrate that they can’t carry eight episodes of television; 2) They could begin career resurrections.
There’s a chance that these actors will take to the small screen like ducks to water, and if that happens they could start to get the kind of roles that McConaughey has had in the past year, but after the first episode I’m not confident that their involvement will be positive.
In this opening episode, Vaughn, Kitsch, and Farrell were all woeful. Although the first season was so awesome because it understood the value of silence, it was still compelling, and the only reason that its understated nature worked was that Cohle was such a thoughtful and tired character. It seems like in this episode Vaughn wanted to take over that mantle by whispering his lines and exuding calmness, but because of this his performance lacked any impact and felt artificial. None of his dialogue felt natural, and I felt like he was trying a bit too hard. He should be scary and volatile from what I understand of his character, but I saw none of that here, and he certainly didn’t keep my attention.
Kitsch and Farrell were completely parodic, particularly when the former rode his motorbike down an empty highway, and when Ray (Farrell) was asking about his son’s shoes. I get that Ray is supposed to be broken and unhinged, but Farrell didn’t pull it off and I always felt as though I was watching him rather than the character.
The female lead, on the other hand, is one of my favourite actresses. Rachel McAdams doesn’t have an abundance of serious roles on her filmography, but she’s been endearing and likeable throughout her career, and she’s showed her range in the romantic comedies that she’s been a part of. She did enough to make me believe that she’s capable of bringing depth to the role, and she also seemed angry and resentful enough to fit right into the series, but her scenes were slightly melodramatic.
The actual story of the season hasn’t been properly established yet; we get the sense that it’s going to revolve around Ben Caspar’s murder, but not much else. That might be interesting, but it’s too early to say given that we know next to nothing about him. That’s not a criticism because it is only the first episode, but this lack of understanding to begin with doesn’t help with generating a feeling of intrigue.
I’m still hopeful that this will be a good season, but the opener was very dull and it didn’t pull me in. None of the characters were particularly exciting and we don’t have any real idea where the story is going, so this really wasn’t a well-executed premiere. I didn’t actually feel like I was watching “True Detective”, I just felt like I was watching a boring police procedural. For now, I hope that the season picks up in the next few weeks and that the actors prove me wrong.