Unpacking True Detective Season 2

Sahil Sirsat Sahil Sirsat
July 3rd, 2015

Unpacking True Detective Season 2

HBO’s True Detective returned with the second season on 21th June. There has been a lot of talk about the show, both positive and negative. True Detective’s first season was really an exceptional piece of television, and that is the reason why fans expectations are very high (dare I say unrealistically high).

Finally, after a long wait I got to see the first episode of season two.

I absolutely loved the first season and was really disappointed to hear that not only is the on-screen cast changing, but everyone backstage was replaced as well. The new director Justin Lin has directed movies like Fast and Furious 3 to 6 and TV series Community. Although these projects were very well done (Community being a personal favourite), they are nothing like True Detective tone-wise. But after watching the first episode, I can say that the direction was pretty spot-on and clever.

The four main characters in season two are Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) and Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn). All the actors were pretty good but the one who stood out is Colin Farrell as Velcoro.

I would like to take this moment to declare that I am officially scared of Velcoro. He is one of the most demented and scary characters I have ever seen on TV.  He's also the most defined character in the first episode. Most of the focus is on Velcoro. Other characters are not as polished as Velcoro, but I’m sure that their development will be dealt with as the show progresses.

Colin Farrell as Velcoro

Colin Farrell as Velcoro

One of the best things about the first season was the cinematography. Now with a new cinematographer (Nigel Bluck) this season, I was anxious to know how this was going to “pan out” (bad pun?). The cinematography is definitely not same as the first season. Season 1 was atmospheric. I felt lack of atmosphere in this episode to say the least. There was an overabundance of aerial shots. The show just didn’t feel like a second season to True Detective as I know it.

The “Woods” was an integral part of the first season. In second season it is replaced by aerial imagery of industrial plants and concrete jungles. I am not implying that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it's different than the image of True Detective I have in my brain. It has the potential to create a new atmosphere for the show but I don’t see it yet. Nigel Bluck is an experienced cinematographer and is mainly known for his work in The Lord of The Rings Trilogy. He is very experienced and I think he can get the job done.

The story is told linearly with occasional flashbacks. This is different than first season where the story was bouncing back and forth between past and present. There is, of course, more efforts required in telling a linear story than in showing flashbacks directly to the audience. Writing is simple and effective. Here time is not a flat circle, and no one tells us the secret fate of all life. So, writing is simple.

There is a debate going on among the fans about the opening credits of second season. Many fans do not like the current song Nevermind by Leonard Cohen and prefer The Only Thing worth Fighting For by Lera Lynn. The latter was actually used by HBO in the teaser released to promote the show.  Although the latter is overall a better song, Nevermind lyrically is a better suit to the theme and tone of the show.

I can't say that I didn't miss McConaughey. His absence from True Detective was strongly felt. But we have to move on.

In the end, this episode of True Detective was entertaining. It introduced us to all the characters and at the same time told us an intriguing story. I am definitely invested in the story and curious to know what happens next. This is a pretty solid start to the second season of one of the best television shows ever created.

Click here for my thoughts on first season of True Detective


Sahil Sirsat is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @sahilcomicsguy

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