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The UnPopular Opinion: True Detective (Season 2)

06.02.2016

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

This column has not been used to cover any television series in the past but in recent years, the small screen has transformed from the home of police procedurals and sitcoms to a powerhouse of original programming. The so-called "event series" has become very popular with series favoring a finite run of episodes and anthology formats. This has brought big screen talent to episodic television and audiences have been treated to some great results. The first season of Nic Pizzolatto's HBO series True Detective was a pop culture phenomenon. Full of philosophical ramblings and a chilling serial killer plot, True Detective benefitted from the brilliant casting of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson and the visual prowess of director Cary Fukunaga. One writer and one director for an entire season of television made True Detective feel like an eight hour feature film and one that will stand the test of time as one of the best series ever made. When season two debuted fifteen months after the freshman run ended, fan were expecting another dose of brilliance. Instead, the world collectively shit on the show and may have killed any chances of a third season.

The problem is that everyone that is criticizing the second season as an abyssmal failure are missing the fact that it is still a damn good season of television and better than almost anything else airing at the same time. Season two of True Detective is the polar opposite of the first season down to the fact that Nic Pizzolato did not pen every episode on his own and different filmmakers tackled each hour of the story. But, despite the story being more of a pulpy, modern noir, this season of the show maintains the series theme of modern masculinity. By doing so in a relatively formulaic narrative, many viewers seem to have missed the point of the season and immediatelt chalk it up as inferior to it's predecessor. The mistake here is that the audience that loved Rust and Marty and the whole concept of time as a flat circle assumed that we would be getting a variation on that tone and style. Well, what do we all know about making assumptions?

The UnPopular Opinion, Column, Feature, True Detective, HBO, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams

True Detective is a world full of despicable people. Some of these people are trying to be better and others wallow in their own doubt and shortcomings. There is nothing bright or happy about this world. While we have no confirmation that the two seasons exist in the same fictional universe, their tonal connection suggests a sense of apathy and dread where the only certainties are death and sadness. Season two drives these themes home much more effectively by spreading the doom and gloom across four primary characters, all of whom toil in the concept of modern masculinity: Colin Farrell's Ray Velcoro is a failed cop who let one bad decision ruin his marriage, Rachel McAdams' Ani Bezzerides is a hardened woman working in a predominantly male police force and dealing with her own past sexual trauma, Taylor Kitsch's Paul Woodrugh is a highway patrolman supressing his own homosexual desires, and Vince Vaughn's Frank Seymon is a gangster aiming to go legit but is drawn back into a life of organized crime. All of these characters could be boiled down to cliches and stereotypes and that is intentional. Seeing these character tropes in a formulaic setting as they deal with their demons is what makes this season work. This is a character study rather than a whodunit. The mystery is secondary to this story.

These broken people are the reason to watch the second season of True Detective. To be totally honest, I found the resolution to the first season's murder mystery to be very anticlimactic. The byzantine layers involving the Yellow King and a string of serial slayings going back years deserved a bigger ending than we got. But, in reflecting on the first run of episodes, I realized the development of Rust and Marty was really what I was watching for. With season two, I gave to shits about the mystery surrounding a murdered city official and the real estate at the center of it all. What season two did was give us twice as many primary characters as the last year but ones that were more messed up in every way. To not feel compassion for Colin Farrell means you have no soul. His downward spiral made him the lynchpin for all of the characters and his turn from good to bad and back to good was haunting. The final scenes of Ray Velcoro's life echoed the dream his father, a great turn by Fred Ward, had in an earlier episode which drove the sacrifice home while also having us question the meaning of it all.

The UnPopular Opinion, Column, Feature, True Detective, HBO, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams

As much as I enjoyed the tempered performance by Taylor Kitsch and the excellent dramatic turn by Rachel McAdams, I was enthralled by Vince Vaughn. Known for his comedic roles over the last decade, it was great to see Vaughn back in a serious role that gave him the chance to stretch himself as a thespian. It was clearly hard for many viewers to separate the star of WEDDING CRASHERS and DODGEBALL from the criminal on display here, but Vaughn manages to elevate his cliche role into something more frightening. Frank Seymon is a dangerous man and one whose story arc is the most separated from the other main characters but still manages to be one of the more complete tales during the season. If anything, Frank's death march through the desert serves as one of the most vivid and chilling sequences on this or any other series. I felt pangs of compassion for Frank and saw echoes of Vincent D'Onofrio's portrayal of Wilson FIsk in this role. Vince Vaughn is truly a talented actor who deserves more roles like this.

While the series features the musical oversight of T-Bone Burnett and a surreal title sequence, everything else is very different in season two. Cary Fukunaga was heralded as an auteur after directing the entire freshman run of the show, but here we have a mix of filmmakers of various experience. From FAST AND FURIOUS and STAR TREK BEYOND helmer Justin Lin to BROOKLYN director John Crowley (responsible for that haunting desert march sequence), True Detective's second season was a mix of small screen filmmakers to documentary directors and the aforementioned big screen helmers. The season has a consistent feel and style but manages to maintain a freshness that differed only slightly from week to week. While directors like Fukunaga and Steven Soderbergh (The Knick) can offer a thread of commonality through a run of a show, the mix of directors here does not lessen the impact of the show one bit. That is because writer Nic Pizzolatto has a credit on every script in season two, only two of which were co-written with Scott Lasser. This season is still the effort of an extremely talented writer who just happened to give a story that is nothing like what he created previously. That is what makes this season so much better than people give it credit for.

The UnPopular Opinion, Column, Feature, True Detective, HBO, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams

When watched serially, True Detective's second season may not have flowed with the same edge of your seat grandiosity as the first year did. There weren't many cliffhangers, aside from that "is he dead?" scene that closed out the second episode. The biggest complaint I heard about the season was that it felt like it wasn't going anywhere and failed to maintain the same focus and attention as the first run did. I implore you to revisit it as a binge-watch session and see if you feel the same way. Both seasons of the show operate very differently when watched in a minimal number of sittings. In fact, the second season begins to feel more like Michael Mann's HEAT crossed with Twin Peaks and that is high praise in my book. True Detective was never intended to be one thing or another but serve as an anthology with a wide range of stories to tell. The third season, if one ever happens, will hopefully be absolutely unrecognizable compared to either of the seasons that came before it as this format should be one for experimentation and challenging the ideas of what a mystery is while still analyzing the question of what it means to be a man in world that has no room for weakness. True Detective's second season is a worthy chapter to stand next to the first and is must see viewing for anyone who hasn't given it a chance.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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7:13PM on 06/02/2016
Had it been renamed to something else, rather than True Detective, it would have been a hit. However, since it's True Detective, it's nowhere near as good as the first season.
Had it been renamed to something else, rather than True Detective, it would have been a hit. However, since it's True Detective, it's nowhere near as good as the first season.
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3:05PM on 06/02/2016
This show was laughable, the first season was built on hype, this season tried to do the same thing, but was such an overdone mess and was rejected. Yeah, I'm sure if you were not watching over tv shows like Hannibal at the time True Detective would seem edgy, but it just came off as Criminal Minds with Nudity.
This show was laughable, the first season was built on hype, this season tried to do the same thing, but was such an overdone mess and was rejected. Yeah, I'm sure if you were not watching over tv shows like Hannibal at the time True Detective would seem edgy, but it just came off as Criminal Minds with Nudity.
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2:22PM on 06/02/2016
Watched both seasons and liked them both for their own reasons. Yes the first season was really good, but did I want to watch more of the same thing in the second. I liked the fact that the second one ended on a bit of a downer it kinda reflects true life ( it aint all roses ). Plus I really enjoyed the twisted morality tale and the questions it asks us about so called trusted civil servants as apposed to career criminals it better reflects the society we now live in.
Watched both seasons and liked them both for their own reasons. Yes the first season was really good, but did I want to watch more of the same thing in the second. I liked the fact that the second one ended on a bit of a downer it kinda reflects true life ( it aint all roses ). Plus I really enjoyed the twisted morality tale and the questions it asks us about so called trusted civil servants as apposed to career criminals it better reflects the society we now live in.
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2:18PM on 06/02/2016
I agree. I thought the second season was extremely well acted and well made. The problem was simply that the story itself felt like a generic cop drama, and just wasn't that interesting compared to the first season. I do hope they try again though.
I agree. I thought the second season was extremely well acted and well made. The problem was simply that the story itself felt like a generic cop drama, and just wasn't that interesting compared to the first season. I do hope they try again though.
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1:56PM on 06/02/2016

I couldn't get into it

Just because something is highly stylized, features a good cast, and comes on HBO, doesn't make it a good show. I tried getting into this, looking pass the terrible unresolved sub-plots, it just was a mess that seemed to try too hard.
Just because something is highly stylized, features a good cast, and comes on HBO, doesn't make it a good show. I tried getting into this, looking pass the terrible unresolved sub-plots, it just was a mess that seemed to try too hard.
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1:55PM on 06/02/2016

so we all agree with me....

I still think about what cast i would like to see for a third season and what the story would be. please comment below about a dream cast, setting, and overall story. it has enough appeal that if you get another super cast together it can awesome. I'm thinking Pitt, Craig, and Streep. More horror like the first season, midwest setting......
I still think about what cast i would like to see for a third season and what the story would be. please comment below about a dream cast, setting, and overall story. it has enough appeal that if you get another super cast together it can awesome. I'm thinking Pitt, Craig, and Streep. More horror like the first season, midwest setting......
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12:40PM on 06/02/2016
Wasn't a fan and I really tried. Too many bloated sub-plots, completely uninteresting characters, etc, etc. I couldn't get into it.
Wasn't a fan and I really tried. Too many bloated sub-plots, completely uninteresting characters, etc, etc. I couldn't get into it.
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12:07PM on 06/02/2016
This line sums up the entire article - The problem is that everyone that is criticizing the second season as an abyssmal failure are missing the fact that it is still a damn good season of television and better than almost anything else airing at the same time.
That being said I also agree that Vince Vaughn's performance was the best and that his story arc was the most interesting.
This line sums up the entire article - The problem is that everyone that is criticizing the second season as an abyssmal failure are missing the fact that it is still a damn good season of television and better than almost anything else airing at the same time.
That being said I also agree that Vince Vaughn's performance was the best and that his story arc was the most interesting.
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11:58AM on 06/02/2016
Yup, I always thought the 2nd season suffered mostly because of how good Season 1 was and expectations were through the roof. The 2nd season did have many problems with plot and characters, but I thought Vince Vaughn was the best thing about the show. I was baffled that critics seemed to hate his performance.
Yup, I always thought the 2nd season suffered mostly because of how good Season 1 was and expectations were through the roof. The 2nd season did have many problems with plot and characters, but I thought Vince Vaughn was the best thing about the show. I was baffled that critics seemed to hate his performance.
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11:53AM on 06/02/2016
I consider both seasons to be on the same level:
-Season 1: Excellent performances by Matthew and Woody and a very good performance by Michelle; one of the best episodes of 2014 (THE SECRET FATE OF ALL LIFE); unlikeable protagonists who think that admitting their flaws justifies it; an engaging mystery; a bad ending.
-Season 2: Excellent performances by Colin and Rachel and very good performances by Taylor, Kelly and Vince; no episodes that excelled; characters that aren't the most innocent
I consider both seasons to be on the same level:
-Season 1: Excellent performances by Matthew and Woody and a very good performance by Michelle; one of the best episodes of 2014 (THE SECRET FATE OF ALL LIFE); unlikeable protagonists who think that admitting their flaws justifies it; an engaging mystery; a bad ending.
-Season 2: Excellent performances by Colin and Rachel and very good performances by Taylor, Kelly and Vince; no episodes that excelled; characters that aren't the most innocent but one can still root for them; a boring mystery; a good ending.
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11:53AM on 06/02/2016
Season two works better if you don't compare the two season together in terms of storylines, characters, pacing, etc.

I think season one was better, but personally I enjoyed season two more as a whole; with the standouts being Farrell, and McAdams.
Season two works better if you don't compare the two season together in terms of storylines, characters, pacing, etc.

I think season one was better, but personally I enjoyed season two more as a whole; with the standouts being Farrell, and McAdams.
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11:31AM on 06/02/2016
I completely agree. Don't compare to first season, second is completely different and that's fine by me. Had some very tense scenes and cast was excellent. I'm crossing my fingers a third season will eventually come to fruition.
I completely agree. Don't compare to first season, second is completely different and that's fine by me. Had some very tense scenes and cast was excellent. I'm crossing my fingers a third season will eventually come to fruition.
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