Post Mortem: The Unsolved Mystery of True Detective, Season 2

True-Detective-Season-2-Vince-VaughnI’ve really been struggling with this.

I am trying to get my words down as eloquently and succinctly as possible. I’m a writer. It’s what I do.

When I come to this blog, I bestow advice, make commentary on the world, and express opinions in such a manner that is professional (or at least represents my professionalism) and reflects this command over the English language that I have been blessed with. However, I find myself really having a tough time with this.

There’s really no other way to put it…

Sweet crap, that was terrible.

Maybe some details are needed at this point…

rayTrue Detective: Season Two opens in Los Angeles where we meet Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn), a crime boss looking to step away from the mobster lifestyle and go legit. Sadly, the legit road is paved with con-men, and such a con-man—a city planner by the name of Ben Caspere—hoses him out of his life’s savings. Caspere does show up though, his eyes and genitals burned off with acid. Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) is the California Highway patrolman who finds Caspere, but due to the location of the body, the murder falls under the jurisdiction of both Vinci City and Ventura County. Enter Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and Sheriff Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams). Ray is the textbook burnout-on-the-take-with-Semyon-and-crooked-politicians. Ani is the textbook female-cop-with-something-to-prove. Paul? I’m not really sure what Paul is. Textbook macho-man-in-denial-of-his-sexual-preference? Textbook war-veteran-traumatized-by-his-actions-for-his-country? Textbook third-wheel-in-an-already-too-big-of-a-cast? I honestly don’t know…

…but hold on, I got to get to the investigation…which, much like Caspere’s corpse, is a mess.

*deep breath*

So Caspere conned Frank, and Frank thinks the Russian mob has something to do with it as the Russians were supposed to help out with the investment into the high-speed rail and have now backed out. Frank is also leery of the Vinci city planners who are also trying to make some quick cash somewhere in the middle of all this scheming involving the high-speed corridor, high priced hookers, and blue diamonds, but somebody knew too much and somehow these blue diamonds and Caspere’s murder lead to a shootout in Downtown L.A. where somebody that could have been dirty—or at least knew about the dirty—gets whacked. What about Caspere’s murder? Well, this got solved. Kinda. Because of the shootout. See? Great. Cool. Now, Frank’s hot redhead wife wants a baby, and Ray’s convinced his son isn’t his son but the product of his wife’s rape, and Ani is suppressing memories of when she was molested and raped at her dad’s commune, and Paul is traumatized about Operation Black Mountain, or being gay, or being gay for Black Mountain—not really sure—so he’s set on marrying the woman he’s knocked up even after the $40,000 he stashed in his alcoholic, gambling mom’s mobile home disappears because mom found it and spent it on the slots. And wait, Caspere’s murder? Something’s not right. Suddenly. Six months after the murder case was solved, or something. So some other city councilmembers launch an investigation into the investigation, off the books of course because “That won’t end badly…” especially if you are investigating corruption but keeping it quiet and super-top-secret. Then Frank discovers the Russians were doing this whole bait-and-switch con job because REASONS. There are more high-class prostitutes. And a shack in the middle of the woods where these high-class prostitutes get tortured. And there’s a double-cross. And there’s another double-cross. And there’s trains. And blue diamonds. And then the Mexican gangs show up, and…

*another deep breath*

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Fuck it, I’m watching Ballers.

true-detectiveIf you remember from my review of True Detective: Season 1, I lost my mind over how good this show was. Some people did not care for the ending, but it worked for me on a lot of levels; and True Detective was unlike anything I had ever seen. Sure, there was a crime and our detectives were out to solve it, but as I said last year:

From the beginning, True Detective offers up individuals, people that we focus on in more detail than the crime at hand. We find immediately these characters are flawed, broken down to their core; but Rust and Marty must set aside their frailties—lest they face them as Rust continues to do, right to the very end—and focus on the task at hand.

What was the strongest attribute of Season 1 wound up being Season 2’s hugest fault. We were now faced with not two but three cops, all of them damaged in one way or another, and a crime boss also struggling with his own demons. As we have now gone from two character studies to four, the actual crime the three cops were investigating became less of a “task at hand” and more of a “Remember that city councilman we found with his junk acid-burned off? Yeah, we might want to get on that.” afterthought…

td2-posterIt also didn’t help these were perhaps the most incompetent detectives ever thrown on a screen of any size. I never really felt I saw them do the job. Rust and Marty had issues, yeah, but they were good at what they did and we saw them investigate. We saw the “Taxman” put pieces together and we saw Marty step up when, in present day, he saw details he had missed back when on the force. It was a process we were a part of in Season 1. What passed off as deductive reasoning in Season 2 felt more like guesswork and blind luck. I also didn’t believe in the “procedure” as the detectives were too lost in their own problems to really make Caspere’s murder and the somewhat convoluted conspiracy around it a priority. Between Frank and his wife trying to have a kid, Ray trying to be the best dad he could, Ani trying to work through her issues with the hippie dad and free spirit sister, and Paul just being Paul, the three cops and crime boss didn’t get their shit together until Episode 6: Church in Ruins. This particular episode opens with Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn at Vaughn’s breakfast table, more or less having a stare-down. It was reminiscent of the diner scene between Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro in Heat. (And yes, it was on that intensity level.) Some seriously incredible acting there.

Sadly, this came at Episode 6. There were eight episodes in this season.

I was ready to check out after Episode 3, but the only reason I stuck to Season 2 this long was out of love for Season 1. With the pacing and back-and-forth dialog of Episode 6, I thought “Finally, they’re bringing it…” but Episode 8: Omega Station became so tedious I fast-forwarded through the last fifteen minutes just so I could get to the Epilogue. I didn’t care about the impending boss fight. I didn’t care who lived and who died. I didn’t care about resolution or justice. I just wanted this season of True Detective to end.

Think about that in light of my obsession over Season 1.

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But the real mystery of Season 2 remains with series creator and writer, Nic Pizzolatto. He assembled a somewhat eclectic cast and—to their credit—the lead actors and supporting cast were all acting their collective butts off. Vaughn, whom I’m not a huge fan of, was particularly outstanding; but I felt the assembled talent was cheated out of the incredible material the Season 1 cast was given. Everything just sounded, felt, and played out wrong.

What happened?

Was Pizzolatto not given enough time to develop something as solid as Season 1? Did he believe that—as this was the follow-up to the critically-acclaimed success of Season 1—he needed more because more is always better? Did Pizzolatto buy into his own hype? I’m asking myself all this in the wake of Season 2. I didn’t particularly like the feeling of figuring out things before the characters who were supposed to be professional crime solvers, hearing trite lines spoken by characters driving towards their deaths, and just not caring one jot about characters I had spent eight episodes getting to know. I am searching for something good coming from this season of True Detective and my mind is coming up blank.

No, wait, hold on. Something good did come from this experience with True Detective, Season 2…

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I discovered that Dwayne Johnson can seriously wear the fuck out of a suit.

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