Things aren’t looking great for “True Detective,” Season 2. To be fair, the early reviews of the second season, which begins June 21 on HBO, are more positive than they are negative, but the negative reviews confirm every fear viewers might have had about the shift from to a conventional TV production model — “Fast & Furious” director Justin Lin did the first two episodes, but the season won’t have a single director like the first’s Cary Fukunaga — and diminishing returns setting in on Nic Pizzolatto’s overcooked dialogue. Only Variety’s Brian Lowry delivers an outright pan, but the Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman seems like he’s bending over backwards to give the show the benefit of the doubt while admitting the three of eight episodes sent out in advance give little reason to hope.
On the other side, you’ve got reviewers like Esquire’s Stephen Marche and GQ’s Devin Gordon, who read like they were in the tank for Pizzolatto before they pressed “play”: If you still think he’s an unqualified genius, then you’ll probably agree — but then, you’re probably not looking at reviews to advise you on whether to watch in the first place. For those of us who thought the great elements of “True Detective’s” first season wore thin long before its finale, there’s little in the first reviews to indicate Season 2 will be any better. You ask me, the light’s losing.
True Detective, Season 2 starts June 21 on HBO.
Reviews of “True Detective,” Season 2
Brian Lowry, Variety
Those expecting anything approaching the magic conjured by the original Matthew McConaughey-Woody Harrelson pairing should immediately temper their enthusiasm for “True Detective’s” second season. Impeccably cast around its marquee stars, the new plot possesses the requisite noir-ish qualities, but feels like a by-the-numbers potboiler, punctuated by swooping aerial shots of L.A. courtesy of new director Justin Lin, whose intense close-ups bring to mind a Sergio Leone western. Although generally watchable, the inspiration that turned the first into an obsession for many seems to have drained out of writer Nic Pizzolatto’s prose, at least three hours into this eight-episode run. Once the ball gets rolling, though, the new “Detective” feels increasingly mundane — in tone and style, a bit like a lesser Michael Mann movie stretched out in episodic form.
Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter
Too much of the first two episodes are spent letting us know just how damaged everyone is. Ray loves his kid, which might not be his kid, but he also isn’t afraid to drunkenly yell at his son and beat up the parents of other kids who are not nice to his own. Ani’s sister looks to be doing porn in lieu of being an actress, which was what their mother was until she killed herself in 1978. Ani’s dad is a kind of self-help guru at a place that looks like it’s a spoof of Don’s whereabouts in the last episode of “Mad Men,” and Ani really hates him anyway, probably because Ani is short for Antigone, and her sister is named Athena. Dad’s a hippie, remember? You probably get the point that “True Detective” is trying so hard here it hurts.
Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture
The result often plays like a cousin of “The Wire” as directed by Michael Mann — the kind of series that presents its broken, brooding heroes as if they were characters in an opera about the many different flavors of corruption, institutional and personal. It takes everything so seriously that you have to laugh at it a little bit, then admire it for being true to whatever it’s trying to be and not really giving a damn what you think of it. You’ll probably miss the humor of the first “True Detective” — the needling banter between Cohle and his partner, Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart, that spawned a thousand memes and probably made the graphic violence and philosophical monologues palatable to a wide audience — but the brooding sourness of this one is fascinating in a different way, though it loses points for showing us a world that feels far more familiar than the one showcased in season one.
Stephen Marche, Esquire
Based on the three episodes HBO sent to critics, the second season of “True Detective” is nearly as addictive as the first. (And like that one, it is created and written entirely by Nic Pizzolatto, though with a new cast, story, and directors.) It poses as a potboiler, but it’s really an exercise in genre fused with existentialism. This time, instead of “The King in Yellow,” a copy of the “Hagakure” sits on a coffee table. It’s the kind of show in which gangsters say things like Never do anything out of hunger. Not even eat. and crooked cops say things like We get the world we deserve.
Devin Gordon, GQ
Much has been made about the departure of the first season’s director, Cary Fukunaga, who reportedly clashed with “True Detective’s” writer, creator, and expert self-mythologizer, Nic Pizzolatto; the expectation appears to be that Fukunaga’s exit will bring the show crashing back to Earth in season two, that Pizzolatto supplied the mumbo-jumbo and that Fukunaga was responsible for everything that was, you know, good. Nonsense. Two things are clear from the season-two premiere: One, Fukunaga will be missed—his replacement, “Fast & Furious” franchise veteran Justin Lin, has done a credible job preserving the show’s signature gloom and noir-ish palette, but he’s got a much heavier hand and much less patience for letting dread build slowly; and two, this is Pizzolatto’s show, to the bone. This is his vision — the macro theme of season two seems to be, once again, all the evil that powerful white men do — and these are his words.
David Hinckley, New York Daily News
Score a second bullseye for “”True Detective.” HBO’s neo-noir crime mystery franchise returns next weekend with a new cast, new city, new era, new case and new look. But the switch to Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn instead of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey has left one detail intact. It’s still the kind of show that makes TV viewers reach for phrases like “golden age of television drama.”