True Detective Season Two: Sloppy with a Chance of Decent

Since True Detective‘s sad sack second season ended I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about it, so I figured why not post my thoughts about this eight-hour staring contest on my blog. I’m not a trained critic so my post will be fairly disorganized, but that’s only fitting considering the subject matter. Needless to say, spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the full season yet, stop reading now!

I initially posted about season two’s potential in a Friday Five the week after the premiere. It didn’t blow me away, but I felt it was solid enough. Seven weeks later, I can officially say that the season was a mess, as sloppy as Mayor Austin Chessani on your average midday bender. The basic elements were there, but the execution was Just. So. Poor. What I see as the main problem with the season is something many critics have already expressed: that those involved in Ben Caspere’s death and the early 1990s diamond heist were fringe characters. Relegating those characters to the sideline (and practically to the background, in some cases), took a lot of the air out of the revelations that they were responsible for the crimes. Seriously, had I not read reviews of each episode after it aired, I might never have picked up the names the characters portrayed by James Frain and Afemo Omilami, who ended up being major players in the diamond heist coverup. And do not even get me started on Stan.

This is a nitpick, but I feel like a lot of the characters’ names just didn’t fit the actors, which made it harder for me to keep track of everyone. Austin Chessani did not look like an Austin, so every time they mentioned Tony Chessani I thought they were talking about the drunk Mayor of Vinci. Blake did not look like a Blake—the name is more 80s prepster villain with three popped collars than seedy henchman with a hooker party side business. And then there were names that were simply not easy to remember, like Osip Agronov and Elvis Ilinca. I even spent the entire first episode thinking Velcoro’s name was Pacora, or something like that. With all the confusing names and the sideline characters, no wonder it was hard to follow along.

There was even a scene in episode seven in which Velcoro, Bezzerides, and Woodrugh (whose name seemed to be pronounced differently every time: Woodruff, Woodroo, Woodrow, etc.) sat in their motel room and info-dumped the whole diamond heist and orphans story on viewers. They might as well have spoken directly to the camera and said, “Now we’re going to tell you what the hell has been going on, because we can hardly keep it straight ourselves.” I paused the TV and said to my husband, “The fact that they had to have this scene where the characters explain everything is very telling.” I get that shows need to have some exposition, but it was like they wrote to a certain point and realized the story was too confusing, but instead of revising what came before they just said, “Fuckit, let’s do a Motel Exposition scene.”

The writing in this season was just not good; there were so many laughable lines. Poor Taylor Kitsch had to utter this stinking turd:

Whatever happened to “show, don’t tell?”

The acting was decent to just plain awful. Colin Farrell was great—he would have fit right in with Marty and Rust in season one—and Rachel McAdams did the best she could with sub-par material. I didn’t feel that Vince Vaughn was as horrible as most people thought, but he certainly did not sell much of his shitty dialogue well. My absolute least favorite was Kelly Reilly as Jordan Semyon (sorry, Ms. Reilly). I’ve never seen her in anything else, but her character here was just…weird. She seemed to be doing some sort of Marilyn Monroe-esque cooing, classic noir femme fatale thing that just didn’t work. At all. By the end of the seventh episode I actually expected her to be involved in Frank’s takedown, but that didn’t pan out. Had it happened, Jordan suddently would have become more interesting. Also, she and Vince Vaughn had zero chemistry, so their love story fell flat and turned the train station scene at the beginning of episode eight yet another laughable moment (of course, the bad writing didn’t help).

Okay, so I’ve ripped the show quite a bit, but it did do some things well. What worked for me:

  • Ray’s love for and interaction with his (actual) son Chad. Ray was so painfully awkward with his kid but it came from a good place, and of course Chad had to be his downfall in the end. When he saw Chad with his father’s badge at school? Heartbreaking.
  • The action sequences. In these scenes the show really came alive, particularly the shootout halfway through the season, Paul taking down five Blackwater Black Mountain operatives including his lover (whose name I never picked up), and Ray and Frank teaming up to smoke out the bad guys in the lodge at the end.
  • The cinematography. Those overhead shots of roads, while a bit overused, were quite lovely. And the desert scene at the end where Frank met the “Mexican standoff with actual Mexicans” guys (oof, seriously, who wrote that?!) was reminiscent of Breaking Bad.
  • Ani Bezzerides’ hair. Yep, from a purely girlie standpoint, I loved her hair: the cut, the color, the texture.
  • The opening credits/Leonard Cohen theme song. I get the song stuck in my head a lot, and I actually don’t mind when it happens. Also, this one image from the credits stuck in my head:

true-detective-season-2-opening-credit-shot-woman-and-camera

While watching the desert scene when Mirage Jordan appears before Frank in her white dress, I realized that the image from the credits was meant to be Jordan in the desert. Foreshadowing! Or something. 🙂

A few closing thoughts:

  • It was touching that Paul got a highway named after him, but as my husband pointed out, wasn’t he a fugitive at the time of his death? Wanted men don’t usually get roads named after them.
  • I guess it’s nice that Ani had Ray’s baby, but now she’ll forever have to be on the run with Nails and Jordan (ugh).
  • How orange was Tony Chessani? So orange. And why was the point of him doing weird accents?
  • The point of the crow head mask was…what, exactly? Maybe the killer guy was just a big fan of Game of Thrones. “Dark wings, dark words.”
  • Using the word “suicided” is going to become a thing.
  • James Frain should really consider taking a nice guy role next to redeem himself, because killed Tim Riggins and THAT IS NOT OKAY.

Did you watch True Detective? What did you think of the season?

I’ll just close out with this:

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