By James Nelson
I can’t say that I didn’t expect this. Season one was possibly the best season of a TV show I’ve ever seen. It wonderfully captured the gritty noir atmosphere that most shoot for and miss terribly and combined it with a supernatural and elemental kind of existential dread that I’ve never seen before outside of Lovecraftian horror (which the first season was absolutely a part of that genre). In addition, Harrelson and McConaughey performances were magnetic. How could a sequel to this even match the expectations placed by viewers. In short, it doesn’t. Mild spoilers to follow.
“I’m ready for judgement”
To start with the positives, the principle cast is fantastic, and though it seemed from the promos that Colin Farrell’s character Velcro would be the breakout of the series, I actually feel like that crown is going to belong to Rachel McAdams’s Ani Bezzerides. She seems to be carrying that same burden that Rust Cohle carried last season of wanting to do good but seeing that whatever she does it amounts to nothing. She can’t even pull her sister out of doing a webcam peep show. Taylor Kitsch had very little to do this episode except look despairingly into the camera every chance he got, but with what he had he did well. I did enjoy how thematically this season is embracing that pulp noir vibe of more conventional detective narratives, specifically Chinatown. Everything feels like it’s going to build along the same narrative arch as that movie. I could be wrong, and I hope that I am. Chinatown is great, but this is True Detective. I watch this for something different.
Overall though, everything felt forced. The magic of last season was seeing the characters present day and then in the past and to see that something had happened that was so horrible as to make a person who was mostly normal into a raging, rambling alcoholic wash up. Without knowing what had happened, Cohle’s musings on the futility of it all felt earned. We haven’t seen the characters’ pasts, but since I haven’t see what they were like before they became dour drunks, it just feels like brooding for the sake of brooding. The exception to this is Det. Velcoro. I can imagine going from a good cop to a bad cop working for the mob makes you do a lot of very dark things which you regret, some of which we get a taste of this episode.
Now for the things that are inexcusable. The music. My god. That was the worst theme song I’ve had to sit through since Star Trek: Enterprise, and at least that one CARRIES A TUNE! This one is just some dude mumbling while a dull electric beat thumps in the background. I was literally so taken aback by it, I had to check and make sure I was watching the right video. And then the song in the bar. If I had been hit over the head with a hammer with “depressing’ written on the side, THAT would have been more subtle. The scene was filmed beautifully and then that music had to ruin it. Seriously, it was awful.
“Our Organization has very Old Rules”
I’m going to save my theorizing for another post later this week, but if this season is anything like last season there is going to be some weird cult action to back up this existential dread. I’m thinking along the lines of Chinatown, where instead of corrupt politicians, police, and criminals that worship money, they’re going to worship Cthulhu or some other weird deity.
Overall, I enjoyed the episode. Its far better than any other cop procedural out there regardless of its few stumbles this episode, and I intend to watch it all. I would just recommend this: don’t expect this to be as good as season one. If it turns out to be, then I’ll be happy, but before you judge this show too harshly remember, the second best procedural right now is Castle, so things could be worse.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10