Welcome to True Detective, where everybody has a dark past, is full of white hot rage and feels like punching someone several times. There are no clean cut square characters in creator Nic Pizzolatto’s HBO landscape of broken souls, messy personalities and anger management blues. Everybody is guilty. It just matters how far they have plunged down the rabbit hole of regret.
Pizzolatto staked himself to a career of cool guy nods and free seats at any restaurant in Hollywood when he crawled up inside Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle last year in the debut season of the HBO drama. Ever since he threw that batting practice fastball to the actor who couldn’t miss at the moment, everything is different. Nic changed things. The expectations raised. The main cast members doubled and the plot thickened.
Season 2 takes place in LA, the city of seriously deranged angels. Three different law officers(Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch) come together on a dead body on a piece of land that may cause a stir for a career criminal(Vince Vaughn) trying to go businessman legit. Nothing goes as planned. A premium cable drama doesn’t walk a straight line. Think of a storyteller going over all the daily vitamins for success. Darkness, bad deeds, corruption, extortion and more murder follow the next seven episodes.
Let’s go down the main characters one by one, like a viewer sitting down with each person at an interrogation table with two 60 watt bulbs flashing in their face.
Colin Farrell can make a mustache sing and look very sad at the same time. He’s taking over the McConaughey haunted spot at the table here. The unpredictable actor has tied himself to a fairly juicy role here to what looks like the alpha role of the three officers. He put on some weight for the role, smoked 1,500 cigarettes in pre-production and stares down everyone and thing here. He seems to be the devil badge here, the one who will go to a certain length to secure a fitting end for the bad guys in LA. He beats up a bully’s dad right in front of him and slaps around some writer for Semyon, who helped him out a long time ago.
His fierce dialogue less parlor table staredown with Vince Vaughn in the first episode didn’t pull any punches because it tells a thousand stories at once without revealing anything. Two characters on opposite sides of the law who feel more alike they’d like to admit. They have history together and hate each other at the same time. If looks could kill, Farrell and Vaughn could slay a dragon here.
Taylor Kitsch, the loose cannon of the trio, is the war veteran who finds the body and looks like he is rotting away inside. The high and tight haircut with the explosive temper is just my game when it comes to Kitsch. Peter Berg’s muse gets to stretch out here, and the role suits him well. Another character with enough inner demons to fill a warehouse with. The jewel behind Pizzolato’s tease here is showing us three different characters who we know zero to little about but we can easily relate to in some way due to past shows or movies. It feels old and new at the same time. It’s like he opens up your head and throws a firecracker inside before dropping a piece of us down your throat shortly after.
Rachel McAdams’ face is full of pain throughout the entire hour as she riles against the system in her Ventura sheriff’s office. She catches her strung out sister working for cash in an online porn webcam service set up in a church. Her dad(David Morse in a great small role) is some earthy guru hippie who doesn’t believe his daughter is stable(you think, look at that hair). I can tell you she will the ferociously noble good person this season. The messed up in the head but least bent badge. Good to see McAdams find good work again. It’s been a while. She’s the Michelle Monaghan character this season, only carrying a gun this time with more fire flying through her veins.
However, Season 2 is officially known to me as the The Return of The Great Vince Vaughn. The gifted comedian and underrated dramatic actor has been striking out at the cinema for quite some time, so it was a smart move to hustle his game on the HBO strip for a change. Before he blew us away in Swingers, Vaughn was known around Hollywood as a serious actor, with roles in Clay Pigeons and Return of Paradise. The studio nearly didn’t cast him as the hilariously foolhardy Trent because he had done zero comedy before it. Vaughn’s Frank Semyon has some dirty deeds and ghosts wrapped up in that sharp and proper suit. He’s a snake trying to shed his old skin and slink away into the good life. For Vaughn, True Detective was a battlefield worth escaping to. Like his character, Vaughn wants the good life back. We all know the rest of the cast is legit. The wild card here is Vaughn. Will he stick out in a bad way or blow us away with something new?
Expect A Plot With Misdirection attached to it. If we want a straight forward good chasing bad tale, we can stream Sly Stallone’s classic 1980’s flick Lock Up. Here, give me some broken leaves and messy storylines. There are so many ways to go with the season’s first scent. The three officers chasing Vaughn’s Frank through a web of lies and deceit can’t be the only action in this trailer park. There has to be something else. Corruption in the departments. Pasts sneaking up on our lone wolves. The best magician always has a few cards way up his sleeve and Pizzolatto will spin the dial here on viewers expecting the same thing as Season 1.
I want Pizzolatto and his team of creators to take a full swing here. Sometimes creators slow down when the item gets too hot. I don’t see this happening but it’s something I think about with any show coming back for another round. Keep the juices flowing. I want a full swing from Nic here. He is Rust Cohle and always has been. He is the inner demon stoking the fire in these decrepit characters. Hollywood needs more Nic Pizzolatto’s.
The LA setting is going to paint a Mulholland Drive meets Twin Peaks meets L.A. Confidential with teeth over the series and it fits with the characters. While the first season’s Louisiana location gave the two cops chasing a murderer story an extra punch, The West Coast is more fertile ground for bad deeds and will highlight season 2’s mystery and conspiracy theories. The locale always plays a supporting character in a good crime story. Here, the walls seem to closing in on our anti-heroes and sleazy men. The helicopter shots remind me of a Michael Mann joint, and will instantly bring director Justin Lin’s association with the Furious series to the forefront in a more intimate manner.
It’s not True Detective unless the characters are tortured, weathered, always feel like drinking or punching something. In other words, set to explode. If the first season’s puzzle had 100 pieces, this one will have a 1,000.
While superheroes wear suits to fight the bad guys in theaters, Pizzalatto’s crime fighters wear their guilt and withdrawal like armor on True Detective. I’d hand out anti-depressants, but that would take away all the fun.
Season 2’s debut hour may not have the hot wicked all in clutch that Season 1 planted in its first round, but this storyline is going to carry a lot more juice over the long haul. Get in on it now. Just leave the red bull at home.