"True Detective" Season 2 Review - We Get The World We Deserve

August 13, 2015

Last year, the first season of HBO's 'True Detective' absolutely floored me. While it was on, I never had the chance to watch it and get into it, so I waited until it came out on DVD, and I literally watched the entire season in one night, on a work night mind you.

 

In a time where "binge watching" is a thing, we all know too well that feeling of "one more episode and then I'll turn it off!". 10 hours after I started watching it, it was time to go to work, only that day, I was going to work with a mind that had been blown the night before. We've all experienced those pieces of art or entertainment where you feel like it was a life-changing experience. Like, after a show is over, you feel like it's opened up something in your mind and you see life in an all new way. Metaphorically anyway. It will go down as my probably single best single season of a television show ever.

So imagine my excitement when it was announced that a second season had

been greenlit. The cast lined up was very intriguing, including Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch. Creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto would be back at the helm, though the excellent Cary Fukunaga, who directed all 8 episodes of the first season, wouldn't be back, presumably due to the plethora of projects that opened up to him thanks to his masterful job before. It was announced that the series would be more like an anthology, similar to 'American Horror Story', where every season would be a different story arch with different actors, but would have recurring threads and still be the same series thematically, in ways.

    After the season finale a couple of nights ago, I'm still trying to process it. On one hand, the second season held an immense grip on me. Week after week, I just had no idea what was around the corner. Whereas the first season was pretty straightforward, it had a very tight knit vision, and you seen the murder (after the thought) in the first episode, then the rest of the season was the two detective's journey to solve the case. It had a very clear beginning, middle, and conclusion. While I maintain that it went off the rails a bit at the end, it was still a very fulfilling conclusion, tied up with a very disturbing, pretty bow. So by the end of the first episode of S2, we kinda get the feeling that it is going to follow a similar path. We were introduced to our 4 main characters: Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), a crooked cop who maybe isn't just so crooked as he's just on a bender 23 hours of the day. He's an alcoholic, a drug addict, a womanizer, and just all around dirty. Part of Velcoro's dirtiness is doing Frank Semyon's (Vince Vaughn) work. Semyon is a local mobster/gangster type guy, who owns several clubs, runs drugs through them, etc. He's certainly not a good guy, but you do have sympathy for him, and ironically, is one of the shows more likable characters. We're also introduced to Detective Ani Bezzerides, played by Rachel McAdams, who is a seemingly by-the-books, normal-ish cop, except we're always on the verge of finding out she has a closet full of skeletons and a very dark and dirty past. The last of our main characters is Officer Paul Woodrugh, a highway patrolman who wants to be a good guy, but is plagued by a secret life and a questionable past in Iraq.

    The crux of the mystery begins with a murder, a local politician named Ben Caspere, whose body is mysteriously dumped after an unfortunate end. This is the means that connects all of our main characters. Velcoro, Bezzie, and Woodrugh are brought in to form an investigative unit to solve the murder. Seems pretty straightforward. After this, we are brought into 7 episodes of some of the most complicated and convoluted melodrama to grace our screens. But not in a totally bad way. Just a confusing way. I won't go into most of the details, because 1) it would just be overtly spoiling every single thing and 2) I'm not sure I understood enough of it to be able to describe it. Every plot point, no matter how small, becomes a part of the bigger picture, and it had too much going on, to a fault. I'll skim over some of the bigger plot points pertaining to each character, however. With Velcoro, aside from his rampant careless behavior, he's going through a custody battle with his ex over his son, that he loves dearly, but his ex was raped years ago, so is he the biological father of his son? We do find out the truth. Frank Semyon has invested into a get rich scheme and got on the ground floor of a new railroad corridor being built, with ties to an insanely crooked local government, the Russian mob, Mexican gangsters, etc. Him and his wife are trying to get pregnant, and more than anything, they want a normal family life, but it's going to be difficult for him to cut his ties.

    Bezzie is a tough-as-nails cop, who has a penchant for sleeping with her fellow cops and it's insinuated that is into some pretty rough stuff. She apparently has a very dark and sordid past, as we're introduced to her sister, who is a prostitute, and their father, who is this spiritual guru at the head of a religious community, that may have been home to some shady people in the past. Lastly we're at Woodrugh, probably the least morally ambiguous of our people, but still has his fair share of problems. As a highway patrolman, he is accused of sexual assault of an actress he's pulled over, and this seemingly puts his life in a tailspin. We're given hints that he might have participated in some bad behavior while in Iraq while working for a security firm, and he is living with a side of his life and sexuality that he's hiding, and struggling with.

    Throughout the season, we're introduced to story elements that include political intrigue, kidnappings, murders, a secret group of rich and powerful men that drug women and throw sex parties,  a Mexican cartel, a handful of stolen diamonds from a robbery in 1992, a missing hispanic woman, a Russian mob, a religious cult, a maniacal plastic surgeon played by Rick Springfield, and a killer that wears a crow's mask. What? Yes. But do yourself a favor and watch it. I know it sounds like I may have been iffy on it, but you have to watch it to even hope to begin to understand it. Again, it's hard to talk much about it without major spoilers, and that's all the fun in it. Just watching the twists and turns that this show made will make your head spin for days and days, trying to process just what in the hell happened. I know many, if not most, were highly disappointed with the writing, acting, characters, you name it. And yes, it doesn't really hold a candle to the first season, but it's not meant to. Not everything has to be compared. Every piece of art and creativity should be viewed upon it's own merit and what it presents to us on it's own. If we compare everything to everything else, nothing will ever be good enough. Watch it with an open mind, suspend your disbelief, and don't compare it to the first season, and I'm sure it will sink it's claws into you, if you'll let it.

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