In just over a week, the second season of “True Detective” will arrive, and everyone is waiting to see if it can match the stellar first season which has already marked itself as one of the finest in television history. According to the first batch of reviews (based on the season’s first three episodes), opinion is wildly divided about the results of this latest entry starring Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn, and Taylor Kitsch.
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The trade magazines are being the harshest on the show, saying it lacks the chemistry and obsessive qualities that made the first season so compelling. Here’s what Variety had to say:
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. Part of that might have to do with the necessity of serving the multiple leads, at the expense of the focus on two that the first enjoyed.
Having seen this much, there’s certainly a sense of curiosity regarding where the story ends up, and a relatively short commitment to reach the finish line. And expecting Pizzolatto to catch lightning in a bottle again, starting from scratch with a new directing team and cast, was perhaps simply too much to ask.
For HBO, the anticipation the first go-round engendered qualifies as a high-class problem. Although the gap between seasons one and two isn’t severe enough to merit the sort of angst in which these characters are mired, “True” fans might still come away feeling let down, if not downright blue.
The Hollywood Reporter is equally as grim in their assessment of what’s coming in season two:
…the first season of True Detective was a magical melding of writing, acting and directing (and music, and yes, even plot for the most part) that gave viewers something memorable, if not perfect.
At least in the first three episodes of True Detective season two, that magic is missing. Maybe when the various strands of the complicated story come together, the payoff will be there (whereas in True Detective season one, the payoff was immediate with McConaughey and Harrelson, while the plot was mostly a letdown).
Or none of that could happen. And what we’ll get is a sophomore slump. The pressure is now on for the remaining five episodes.
Oddly enough, it’s the men’s magazines that are more positive on “True Detective.” Esquire was particularly effusive:
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.’
Meanwhile, GQ is also taken with the second season:
Which brings us to season two, and its batshit premiere episode—dead bodies, Internet porn, drugs, drinking, corruption, beatings, brass knuckles, and charming bon mots like, “I’ll butt-fuck your father on this lawn with your mother’s headless corpse,” all in the first hour—and which should chase away any lingering doubt about what ‘True Detective’ ever was, and clearly still is. It’s still trash shined up like gold. The trash is a bit trashier this time, and the gold a bit less shiny, but the same theory still abides.
Did I mention that the show also still a ton of fun? Pizzolatto is far too shrewd, and far too base, to let his grander meditations get in the way of a rollicking story. Unlike with season one, which was set in Louisiana and unfolded at a bayou-worthy pace, season two begins with its four main characters careening off the rails, and they’re only gathering more speed.
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magazine is also quite happy with the new season, with Matt Zoller Seitz weighing in:
Season two of True Detective is a nasty treat for the eyes and ears. Every few minutes, there’s an image that’s as meaningful as it is lovely to look at: a wide shot of a seedy bar near a railroad track lit like an Edward Hopper painting; a low-angle pan across a stretch of elevated highway that makes it seem as though you’re an ant watching a python slither past; a helicopter shot of intersecting overpasses that visually establishes Southern California, and America, as a co-dependency of interests. Throughout, the synthesized score keeps rumbling and droning. We’re in the belly of some rough beast.
Certainly, there will be a lot to discuss after the first episode arrives on Sunday, June 21st. Click the links above for full reviews and let us know what your expectations are.