Is this season of HBO’s True Detective ever going to be able to step out of the shadow of the first? It appears that after four weeks, people still can’t get over that this season isn’t “up to par” with the freshman performance. Since I never watched the first season, none of that concerns me. The show isn’t suffering from an extreme case of a sophomore slump as much as it just isn’t very compelling.
It’s not that there isn’t anything good here in the second go around, but I find myself having to really try to focus on what’s going on. The acting from the four leads—Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, and Vince Vaughn—is particularly strong, but the story seems bogged down by an overly complicated and boring plot. McAdams is, so far, the MVP of the season while the men around her are perpetually trapped in a gravelly voiced measuring contest.
After a dark and dramatic pilot episode (Clarence, Megan and I were confused and had mixed feelings), it appeared that Detective was going into seedy and perverse territory. This small town is saturated with corruption and late night hooker parties. The second episode ended with a particularly WTF moment when Farrell’s Velcoro is shot twice with a shotgun by a masked assailant wearing a large bird mask. The only other thrilling moment occurred in the last 15 minutes of the fourth episode where a deadly shootout left many civilians dead.
Why do I keep tuning in then if I am not completely bowled over? While the acting isn’t getting the buzziest reaction, it is the best reason to tune into this season. Farrell has always flown under the radar after his bad boy image died down. Velcoro is gross and violent, but he tries hard to better himself for his son. His ex-wife, Felicia, tearfully tells him that he’s a bad man when she reveals that she is going to sue for full custody of their son. Thank God they let him shave that awful beard by the fifth episode. He’s still wearing the bolo ties, so we have three more episodes to rectify this.
McAdams’s steely Ani is the best reason to tune in. In the third and fourth episodes, it seems as if Ani is the only one who knows how to do her job. Velcoro is off beating people and Vaughn is talking softly to his wife in some dark bedroom. Ani almost never smiles, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. She immerses herself in her work, and I would bet good money that she is going to get this job done.
My two requests for the final three episodes? I hope the show explores more of Kitsch’s closeted cop and the emotional repercussions it will have on his growing family. Yes, ladies and germs, his girlfriend is expecting. That’s going to be an interesting family portrait. Can they allow Kelly Reilly to do something? I’m starting to believe she’s a figment of Vince Vaughn’s imagination since she never talks to anyone else. She’s teetering on Lady Macbeth territory, but that’s a tired trope. Let her be great! Go big or go home.
Even if Detective pulled off something totally left field and dramatic, people won’t give it the credit it should get. It’s too different from the first season for people to care. Maybe the final 3 episodes will make people care? Or impress them? Or wake them up?