Monday, August 10, 2015

True Detective (Season 2) (2015)

Creator: Nic Pizzolatto
Cast:      Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn, Taylor Kitsch, Kelly Reilly

The season's story takes place in California and follows the interweaving stories of officers from three cooperating police departments; when California highway patrol officer and war veteran Paul Woodrugh (Kitsch) discovers the body of corrupt city manager Ben Caspere on the side of a highway, Vinci police department detective Raymond "Ray" Velcoro (Farrell) and Ventura county sheriff's office CID Antingone Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) are called to assist in the following investigation. Ray is in cohorts with career gangster Francis "Frank" Semyon (Vince Vaughn) who was attempting to legitimize his business with his wife (Kelly Reilly) by investing in a rail project overseen by Caspere, but loses his money when Caspere is killed, prompting him to start his own investigation. 

True Detective follows anthology format with each season having a standalone story and characters. So, there was no need for HBO to rush it and air a season within a year from the end of season one. I don't know why they did it and maybe the competitive pressure from Netflix might have forced them. What made season one unique was the fact that there was only a single writer (Pizzolatto) and a single director (Cary Fukunaga) involved primarily in the creative process. This is pretty unusual for a TV series since they are always under pressure to deliver a season of the show every year which translates into a team of people getting involved in the creative process. But having this anthology format should have helped HBO to stick to the formula that worked in Season 1 but they chose not to and so, multiple people were involved for writing (it was not writing room level but still) as well as directing and it actually did harm the overall quality. 

There has been a lot of hate for this season from the critiques but I don't share their level of hate. It is true that there are some terrible lines in it, primarily in the first four episodes. Plenty of people questioned the casting as well but I though Farrell and McAdams were uniformly great in it. Performances of both Vaughn and Kitsch are a bit uneven and some of it had to do with the ridiculousness of some of the lines. But by the end of the season, I did like them all and thought overall they were pretty good.

Another reason for all the hate was the complexity of the plot. IMO, the complexity actually helped me enjoy the show even more since it was a cerebral challenge.  I do think some of it was made deliberately complex since the show is about the detectives in it and not entirely about the plot. Same thing happened with 'Inherent Vice' where the plot was made almost incomprehensible and deliberately so. In TD season two, that level of complexity is not there and I was able to figure out most of it and an outline of what happened is only needed to enjoy the show. Trouble is that people have a habit of putting themselves in detective's shoes and try to solve it for themselves and eventually gets fed up when they cannot remember all the names and make all the connections. It is much more fun when it is not laid out for you with terrible expositions and you only have a vague idea about what happened over the course of the season. The crime at the center of it turns out to be quite random, in terms of where it came from, setting off a chain of events that affects all sorts of people in high places and the way it gets investigated is also pretty random and that is fine with me.

In season one, we know that the people in power had involvement with the crime but it ends without any resolution regarding those people. In season two, we follow them throughout the season and ends with a significant number of people from both sides (bad and good) getting fatally involved. If you think in terms of survival of central good characters, season one did give a happy resolution even though they didn't get all the bad guys, while in season two, we have a bitter-sweet end with more stress on the former. On the whole it is a pretty good watch but its standard is much more closer to a House of Cards season rather than True Detective Season one. Get over your obsession with season one and enjoy it for what it is. I do hope HBO gives a bit more time and have a more perfect season next time round. Get back Fukunaga if they can.

PS: This slate article Link pretty much explains the entire plot in a very good fashion, but, you can read it only after finishing the first seven episodes ahead of the finale. 

Rating: 3.5/5