I Heart Season 2 of “True Detective”

Yes, I do. I actually really like Season 2 of the HBO show “True Detective.” It’s a totally unpopular opinion, as evidenced by this, that (a good overview, but full of spoilers if you aren’t watching), and the other. While it’s not flawless (and what the hell is), I have thoroughly enjoyed it and am generally pissed at all the vitriol it’s been undeservedly getting.

I loved True Detective Season 1, even though, like pretty much everyone, I couldn’t understand half of what McConaughey was saying, as aptly captured in this hilarious spoof from The Spoon:

Season 2 of True Detective is coming to a close; this Sunday is the season finale, which I hear should be 90 min long. The Internet loves to hate Season 2. Even my DH has been grumpy about it until a few weeks ago. However, I have loved it from the get-go. First of all, the title sequence rocks. Second, Collin Farrell is knocking it out of the park with his performance as the deeply tormented dirty ex-cop Ray Velcoro; I really didn’t know he had it in him, but he is very intense and absolutely superb. Rachel McAdams’s performance is great, too; Farrell and McAdams are doing great jobs individually and also have great chemistry as the two leads who are broken people and kindred spirits, getting into progressively more serious trouble as the show unfolds. The two of them would be enough for me to watch. Taylor Kitsch is very good, too, as an ex-military macho young cop who can’t come to grips with his sexuality. Vince Vaughan was perhaps miscast as as a crooked owner of clubs and casinos with plans to get into the big leagues with an investment that fails at the show’s start, although he’s performed better in recent episodes; he is also tasked with delivering some of the most over-the-top ruminations in the show, which I am guessing is really hard to pull off with a straight face (see a great Seth Myers spoof).

I hate that everyone hates Season 2 largely because it’s not Season 1. Everyone is still fawning over Season 1 and can’t stop comparing the two, whereas they are really independent stories. Sure, Season 1 was really well done, and I admit that Season 2 has some cinematic flaws (for instance, the story appears somewhat diffuse, with lines that are not really in the service of the narrative yet don’t do help very much with character development, either), but the last four episodes have been very good and I am looking forward to the finale.

But I think the real reason why everyone is so much more gaga about Season 1 than Season 2 is the type of crime depicted. In Season 1 we had sexual abuse and gruesome murders of young women and children, with a dash of superstition; people looove identifying and catching evil serial killers of young women or children, a.k.a. the paragons of helplessness and/or innocence. The perpetrator is evil incarnate, a veritable monster, and that fascinates us.

In Season 2, we have multiple murders, prostitution, drugs, gangs and cartels, and rampant corruption. Everyone is drunk and coked up to the gills, and everyone is greedy, dirty, and generally disgusting. No one is angelic and no one is insane; there are no maniacal serial killers of young women or other innocents, but there are plenty of cold-blooded criminals. The milieu in Season 2 is probably much more like the real-life crime world. Ruthless greedy men get betrayed, tortured, or even murdered by even more ruthless greedy men, who range from low-life street pimps to high-earning corporate executives. There is a pretty disturbing scene of an orgy with high-end foreign-born escorts and corrupt powerful politicians, but apparently young women being drugged and prostituted to rich geriatrics en masse is boring TV. We only care when we see women raped, dismembered, and left in carefully stages positions that hint at ancient witchcraft, and even then we don’t actually care about the women, but about getting into the head of the deliciously twisted maniac behind the crime.

Season 2 of “True Detective” is grim and gruesome and totally worthy of viewing, even if it starts out wobbly and occasionally takes itself a touch too seriously. Don’t believe the hate.

5 comments

  1. I watched the first epi and thought it was promising but haven’t watched since. I don’t really get why everyone hated it so much other than as you say because it was different than S1. Well no shit. You also bring up an interesting point re: the “innocent” (aka characterless/dehumanized) victim angle. Why shouldn’t the victim be as morally compromised as the criminal sometimes?
    Mostly because that makes us uncomfortable. So, honestly it’s a good thing IMO.

    Ferrell’s character was a serious mess, though. I think I could do without the Drunk abusive asshole as main character thing… But then again I absolutely despised Harrelson’s hypocritical cheating ass in season 1, but I still liked the season as a whole. I’ll try to catch up on S2 given your endorsement, assuming if I can find the time.

  2. I never watched season 1, but DH loved it, so I watched ep 1 of season 2 with him and just didn’t like it at all and didn’t feel like giving it another chance (plenty of other stuff to watch, and I have a limit for crime/gore/abuse that may have been saturated by game of thrones this spring)

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