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true detective 2

“True Detective” season two has, in my opinion, been harshly judged as a result of the exceptional season which preceded it. However, that’s not to say that it’s been a good eight episodes of television. There’s nothing special about it, nothing exceptional or worthy of significant praise, which means that its many frustrating negatives are accentuated as they are persistently repeated.

The first issue worth noting is that there are too many characters fighting for screen time. Whilst Colin Farrell (Ray Velcoro) and Rachel McAdams (Ani Bezzerides) play off one another well, as Harrelson and McConaughey did in season one, they aren’t afforded the attention that they deserve, particularly McAdams as Bezzerides. Their backstories are often mentioned and their personalities are clearly shaped by past events, but the information we are given is the same every single time, as true character development is sacrificed in an effort to provide more screen time to Vince Vaughn (Frank Semyon) and Taylor Kitsch (Paul Woodrugh). Vaughn’s place in the story is important and his role is necessary, although he was perhaps poorly cast, whereas Kitsch’s character feels haphazardly thrown into the story for a reason that I cannot comprehend.

Excess is a problem that “True Detective” season two suffers from on a number of levels, as a plethora of ideas are carelessly thrown around, many of which never reach a satisfying conclusion. The season is rife with a sense of confusion that could have been extremely rewarding if all was revealed in an intelligent and well-signposted way, but perhaps the biggest crime of the season is that the reveal that ties the whole messy saga together is completely unearned. Velcoro wasn’t a genius, nor was he a particularly good detective, so the fact that he had a House-like eureka moment to propel the finale forward was incredibly annoying, and led to the finer details of the convoluted narrative remaining a mystery to me even after the credits rolled.

What carries the season forward and makes it worth the slog is that there is an almost consuming sense of evil bubbling in the background. It feels as though the detectives are fighting against something bigger than themselves, battling against the odds, which makes the season more compelling than it ever really earns the right to be. However, while this all-powerful villainy was ominous and frightening before all was revealed, the human face it took was underwhelming in the end (just as it was in season one).

Having previously stated that I feel that season two has been harshly rated because of the quality of season one, I should say that I still think that it fails most noticeably when it tries to capture positive elements of that first season. Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell were given dialogue which was clearly designed to be delivered as McConaughey delivered his existential critiques in season one, but Vaughn’s monotone whispers and Farrell’s frustrated complaints didn’t quite hit the mark. Neither actor was good enough to pull off the dialogue in a believable way, so in the end it felt as though I was watching Farrell and Vaughn reading lines rather than watching characters exist in their own right.

Despite its flaws, I stuck with this season because I felt that it promised to be something more than it actually was. “True Detective” season two wasn’t terrible, at least from my perspective – the actors did a decent job (except for Taylor Kitsch who continues to disappoint) and I feel that there were the bones of a good story within the opaque tale that was told. It was a laborious season of television, and at times it felt as though I was lost in a maze of puzzling plot threads, but it had some genuinely memorable moments and if a third season arises I will be more than happy to tune in.

6/10

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