TV Review: 'True Detective' Season 2 Premiere Starts New Investigation


HBO’s anthology series kicked off its second season and got off to a relatively good start. Having widened its scope from the more intimate pairing of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson’s detective duo in the first season, "True Detective" has lost a bit of its synergy.

Trading in more characters for a thinner plot could prove a challenging move. Series often fall victim to the sophomore slump because they believe bigger is better when it comes to following up on the original installment. Despite it being a formula that usually does not work out well, it seems to be being implemented by “True Detective” here.

In the opener, viewers are introduced to Colin Farrell’s haunted, heavy-drinking detective. Rachel McAdams’ angsty officer who’s still sifting through the damage of being a cult leader’s daughter. Vince Vaughn’s criminal figure attempting to broker a high stakes deal and Taylor Kitsch’s suspended and suicidal highway patrolman. All in all, it is a very serious quad of characters. 

Initial comparisons to the first season of “True Detective” are impossible not to make. Especially until the identity of season two can step further away from the long shadow cast by its predecessor. This season is decidedly heavier, comparatively lacking a comedic balance. 

It has retained a crucial sense of systematic foreboding. There is an electric stimulation that the change to the city provides. The trade-off is losing the first season’s level of intimacy. The element missing the most is the repartee and philosophical musings that supercharged charged the first season, a key ingredient to its success.

Already turning in a mesmeric performance on the heels of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson is Colin Farrell. For his turn in “True Detective,” Farrel is plundering the depths of a depressed alcoholic with loads of troubled heart. 

Rachel McAdams’ Ani is so surly and aggressive that it is hard to really engage with her yet. McAdams does deserve credit for showing off her range. Her trademark smile is nowhere in sight, and it is missed. Vaughn’s Frank is believable, and his knack for smooth-talking monologues will undoubtedly come in handy down the road.

Meanwhile, Taylor Kitsch solemnly conveys the mysteriously pained Paul, who is already showing signs of Rust Cohle’s death wish persona. Unlike McAdams, Kitsch is sticking closer to his wheelhouse. 

It is a welcomed move that keeps his presence from distracting as much as McAdam's irregularly frigid turn is doing. All things considered, the new season of “True Detective” has given this viewer enough of a hook to keep watching and anticipate where it is all going.

Side Notes / Burning Questions: Setting up each character separately has its moments in the premiere and it has kept one guessing as to how they will all intersect. For a minute, the second season started to feel like “Game of Thrones” with its level of character partitions. The mega-serious Ani might need to take a chill pill. Her constantly frothing anger is setting things off on the wrong foot, though.

Where the first season seemed focused on two guys seeking justice whilst reconciling their personal issues, the latter tumult seems to be taking center stage this time around. It's a move in the story that will be interesting to watch play out.

Photo Credit: HBO