"Not Truly Defective" : In Defence of True Detective Season 2
This is my least favourite knife;
the one adamant season 1 fans of TD have lodged firmly in Pizzolatto’s back.
I’m going to admit something controversial. I liked the latest season of True Detective.
“Oh, but it didn’t have any of the occult themes or nihilistic witticisms of season 1” I can hear you scoff derisively at your screen. “There’s no equal to the McConaissance!” You jeer with a raised fist. Please, withhold ditching your snide remarks and moldy fruit at me quite yet and let me explain myself.
One of the major criticisms of this season is the sheer volume of content show Creator Nic Pizzolatto jammed into 8 episodes. Jumping from 2 to 4 main characters (whose backstories apparently took away from the storyline in order to be fleshed out) was certainly a bold move. But who can blame Pizdawg for being ambitious? I always found the charm of his storytelling to be the unyielding refusal to dumb things down for his viewership. We are assumed to have a high level of intelligence. We’re expected to really work for it and to enjoy the brief moments of respite in dingy dive bar settings and dialogue poking fun at robot-phallus-reminiscent e-cigarettes.
I will admit that I initially longed for the way Harrelson and McConaughey played off one another; with despite the similarly antiheroic main characters, that dynamic simply wasn’t there. However, I quickly released my expectations of a carbon copy of season 1 to readily embrace the cast. Admittedly, this wasn’t particularly challenging, as I love almost all of Colin Farrell’s acting choices (most recently being Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges). It seems he is drawn to roles that are as darkly comedic as his eyebrows.
Rachel McAdams battled through the season as Antigone Bezzerides (and no, she did not sharing the same incestuous lineage as her tragic Greek namesake). Ani was a badass and seriously made me consider changing up my hairstyle and going for a lob. I think truly hard-ass women can be hard to relate to or even root for and she did hold up Pizzolatto’s promise of a season of ‘strong women’ (I’m not sure whether a pair truly constitutes the use of a plural there Pissylatte, but we’ll let this one slide). Her performance was
girthy gritty, but not in such a way that it was too hard to swallow (WINK WINK).
As for the VV, frankly, I don’t want to Vince my words, but what of the Vaughnaissance?? As the season progressed I became less and less aware that I was watching a schlocky washed up comedian and his fivehead and more convinced of Frank Semyon; a gangster with a heart o’ solid gold navigating LA’s underbelly with a steadfast moral compass.
Back to the heavily criticised convolution of the story; I think that this season was less about the case and more about these characters striving for some kind of redemption. And at the end of the day, I felt for these characters and wanted them to find some kind of peace so someone was doing something right. The world that Pizzolatto crafted is so dense that I could spend an entire article dissecting the Grecian nods alone: from the Oedipal gouging of Caspere’s eyes, the Elektra-esque revelation of Caspere’s illegitimate daughter having slept with him to the seer-like prediction of Ray Velcoro’s fate: shit felt straight up lifted from a Euripides tragedy!
I did like the writing on the whole, but I will admit that the dialogue wasn’t as consistently on-point as season 1 (I’m not sure if the actors were coached to mumble their lines to enhance the austerity or if the audio mixing was so off, but I always NEEDED subtitles). Regardless, I feel that people are looking past some fantastic little one-liner gems. Case in point, the following list:
Ray: Well, just so you know, I support feminism. Mostly by having body-image issues.
Ray: Pain is inexhaustible. It’s only people that get exhausted.
Frank: I used to want to be an astronaut. But astronauts don’t even go to the moon anymore.
Frank: In the midst of being gangbanged by forces unseen, I figure I'd drill a new orifice, go on and fuck myself for a change.
I really feel that this is where the comparisons have to stop. Is Louisiana comparable to LA? Sure, both are desolate landscapes but we move beyond swamplands and poverty to empty highways and full pockets. That being said, the intersecting shots of the highways of LA seemed to hark back to the atmospheric sprawling miasma of bleak lifelessness that was Season 1. The utterly smashing soundtrack also helped set the tone. I have to fess up to moodily crooning Lera Lynn’s dive bar laments for the past month or so because they’re just so darn tootin’ great.
Despite my gloriously positive view thus far, I do have some gripes with this season. Taylor Kitsch wasn’t bad as the emotionally stiff, closeted veteran but wasn’t particularly good either. I believe that he played Paul Woodrough well but I didn’t find the character to be particularly fresh; ‘Oh I know, we’ll create a cold, calculated war survivor but we’ll make him gay!!!!1’ That move felt a bit forcefully contrarian to me, so much so that it became trope-ish.
On the subject of tropes, although Velcoro encapsulated some of McConaughey’s existential car musings, it fell short for me in the absence of Rust Cohle’s signature nihilism. Perhaps outside my diehard dedication to the character of Cohle, I may well have fallen in love with Velcoro’s audio love notes to his perplexedly ginger son (who is in competition with Velcoro’s ‘stache as my favourite character).
No series is perfect. Heck, season 1 had some serious issues itself, but the case remains: TD S2 was an exhilarating ride. It had a heart-wrenchingly satisfying ending and some seriously fantastic climaxes: (e.g. the clusterfuck firefight in which Woodrough emerged a “god warrior”, the sinister, orchestral mind-spin that was the sex party, and the tragic last stands of our brooding antiheros). I await news of S3 with bated breath and challenge anyone who wants to slander the past season to a Bezzerides style knife fight.