Review: True Detective (Season 2, Episode 2)

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Not quite at its best

Slow, arduous, yet still has potential. Waiting out this series seems necessary but disappointing - though this week's episode shows a lot of promise in its dying breath.

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*SPOILER ALERT FOR TRUE DETECTIVE: SEASON 2, EPISODE 2*

Returning for its second series, the acclaimed True Detective seems to have lost its initial grip, grit and gore. Slow paced, bleak and with a lingering sense of gloom – it holds all the ingredients that made the first series so enigmatic and interesting; yet something just isn’t quite right. Reams of dialogue seem to fog the plot advancement and every character is sad and jaded – yet this leads to building the slow-burning, intense atmosphere that permeated the original eight part season. Even with an implacable change in tone that feels slightly disappointing – there’s still hope that these somewhat odd ingredients can combine to create something great once more. Whilst the second episode may not have revealed this straight away – the ending holds promise that we will eventually plunge head first into the intoxicating underground world of crime and drama that excited us so much the first time around; without playing out as a cheap imitation of its initial success.

The second episode in the series reveals some more background info for each of the protagonists, giving us a little bit on Detective Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), some more insight on Detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), and a lot on Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) – especially in the dramatic and poignant opening monologue. Vaughn was always a worrying casting decision, but he is pulling his role off well so far, and has continued to do so with this week’s airing. The main conversations and revelations for this week are based majorly on Semyon’s dilapidated monetary position. Every penny of his funds was aligned to create a rail link throughout California, in alliance with the now deceased Casper, and without him – he is set to lose everything. With Semyon just as interested in Casper’s death as the police (and whoever else is claiming a stake in the investigation) this is set to be a confusing competition between a lot of mixed interests. Just about every man and his dog is on the path to uncovering ‘what really happened’ and what they can get out of it.

As for the other events in episode two, the arduous build up was rewarded with a shock twist of an ending, with Velcro, the main protagonist of the series, being shot in the chest. Left for dead with a shotgun wound, it doesn’t look good for our tempestuous detective. It’s highly unlikely that Nic Pizzolatto will have killed off a main star in the show this early on – yet the audacity he has to maim him in this way is shocking; and holds hope for more like-minded excitement and violence in the episodes to come. It just feels like it took a lot of time to get here, and that the premiere that should have blown us all away was released a week too late. Maybe this permeating sense of disappointment will be washed away as the show continues – as there are glimpses of a truly interesting storyline developing (Velcoro’s relationship with his son, Bezzeride’s loose cannon sister – the actual murder story itself perhaps?) – it just needs a little less conversation and a little more action.

Overall, I’d argue that the new series of True Detective just isn’t the same. It’s boring, tiring, and doesn’t contain the exciting parts that made the first season such a haunting and gripping experience. However – it is different. It’s a city, there’s new characters, there’s a whole new fictional world to explore; meaning that there is still hope. This week’s episode has proven that in its very last moments. With potential for greatness and a clever, acclaimed writer at the helm, True Detective series two might just live up to what we all hope it can become. It just needs time to spread its wings and detach from the lasting memory of its predecessor before it can be appreciated fully. Though in fariness, nothing can save it from the awful opening credits bar a mute button and a swift fast forward – here’s hoping there won’t be any other reason to be using either of these.

True Detective airs on Sky Atlantic on Monday at 9pm.

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Deputy Editor of the Edge and FilmSoc President 2016-17. BA Film and English graduate, but not ready to accept it yet. Has an affinity for spooky stories, cats, and anything deep fried.

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