Forget the original, True Detective 2 is a murky masterpiece
THE reaction to the second season of True Detective seems to be split more or less evenly between those who think it has failed to live up to the standard of the first one and those who think this radically different LA noir incarnation is working as a gripping story in its own right.
Personally, I’m in the latter camp. I’m already immersed in this dense, murky world. True Detective is an anthology series; if each new season was nothing more than a retread of the one that preceded it, the very critics who were already writing off this season after just one of its eight episodes would be the first people to whine about series creator Nic Pizzolatto being a one-trick pony.
Then again, at the risk of being labelled the kettle that called the pot black, a lot of American TV critics (the ones doing most of the sniping) are self-important windbags, especially those employed by the so-called “respectable” newspapers. You know, papers like The New York Times.
And right now a lot of them are spouting an awful lot of retrospective, rose-tinted nonsense about the first season. Anyone who tells you the original True Detective was an instant hit from the word go is lying.
It took at least two, maybe three episodes before viewers became fully attuned to its offbeat rhythms. Season two looks like it could be heading along a similar path.
Last week’s first episode spent a lot of time sketching the background and showing us where each of the characters fits in. It was relatively conventional television drama.
Monday’s second instalment, however, featured a final-scene twist that came from so far out of left field, it knocked the stuffing out of anyone watching.
I won’t give away spoilers; all I will say is it uncorked the possibility that True Detective may be about to veer off in a narrative direction nobody could have expected. This is all speculation, of course, because I haven’t seen any more than any other viewer and I could be misreading the whole situation. But it certainly provided enough of a reason to stick around for episode three.
One thing everyone, even the Stateside windbags, seems to agree on is that the outstanding star so far in a series boasting an entire lead cast of stars is Colin Farrell as compromised, conflicted detective Ray Velcoro.
Rocking a bolo tie and the kind of luxuriant ‘tache that hasn’t been sighted on primetime TV since Tom Selleck was haring around Hawaii in a pair of tiny shorts, Farrell is simply magnetic. His car scene this week with the excellent Rachel McAdams (Pizzolatto seems to love writing car scenes) was tense, revealing, playful and the closest thing so far to the famously philosophy-laden on-the-road exchanges between Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in season one.
There’s talk of Farrell “doing a McConaughey” and using the role to reboot his movie career. But hang on, because here comes another windbag alert: the whole “doing a McConaughey” thing is pure guff.
McConaughey’s movie career was already on the up again prior to True Detective. He starred in Dallas Buyers Club, the film that would bag him an Oscar, a year before anyone had even heard of the series.
As for Farrell, his career isn’t exactly in need of a reboot anyway. While it’s true that he’s never toplined a box-office blockbuster, he’s a prolific and versatile actor.
Like John Cusack, Farrell always seems more interested in script quality than moneymaking potential. Now that I think of it, Cusack would be perfect for True Detective 3.