It’s fascinating to witness the vicious public backlash aimed squarely at True Detective’s second season. The show’s debut year was a breakout success on every level – critics adored it, and people raved about it all year long (primarily thanks to Matthew McConaughey’s revelatory performance). But this year? Everyone hopped on the hate bandwagon, and honestly… I can’t say the show didn’t deserve it.
The main issue with this season is that the narrative was needlessly convoluted. Even though the year started fresh with a new cast and premise, it felt like it was wading through years of boring and never-ending backstory. In addition, the conspiracy at the heart of the story became particularly confusing with the multitude of corrupt cops and government officials. After watching the season finale, I still can’t tell you what this season was about and who was responsible for what. Sure there were some highlights (the brutal shootout in episode three, and the sinister orgy in the season’s sixth episode), but the plotting left a lot to be desired. Ultimately, it proved tiresome, and painfully slow across the board.
The good stuff? One can’t deny that Detective exudes a uniquely unsettling atmosphere. Much like its haunting title song, season two managed to maintain an eerie sense of creepiness and menace. I know a lot of people disliked this season’s cast, but I thought Rachel McAdams, Collin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch and Vince Vaughn all delivered first-rate performances with the material they were given. Sure none of them could live up to the standards of Matthew’s Rusty, but the heavy-handed themes and clunky dialogue did them no favors. In addition, each of their endings worked on a thematic level, further conveying the bleak notion that evil always seems to prevail. The season’s final scene was especially intriguing, bringing together two characters that had yet to interact all season long in somewhat satisfying fashion.
While it had some bright spots, True Detective’s sophomore season was a messy and often dull affair. Here’s hoping season three returns the show to its former glory and reclaims what made it so special.