3 reasons why True Detective season 2 will be great (and 3 reasons why it won't)
Last year’s True Detective was a surprise hit, both with critics and public (Twitter went bananas by the end of its run). I loved it too.
The phrase “instant classic” is thrown out way too often these days, but True Detective was fabulous – in some ways the closest thing to a great novel I’ve ever seen on TV.
Oblique, artful, impressionistic and suggestive of some deeper truth, with a properly malevolent villain and a properly nail-biting ending.
It reminded me, at different times, of Red Riding, Twin Peaks, Se7en, James Ellroy’s books and much more…a unique TV show, no exaggeration.
Season 2 premieres on HBO on June 21. Another one-off story spanning eight episodes, it’s already generating Game of Thrones-level buzz.
But will it match the brilliance of the original? Based on what we know so far, here are the arguments for and against:
It WILL be as great because…
(1) Nic Pizzollato has again written the script.
His literate, intelligent, ambitious writing was the bedrock of True Detective S1. The fact that one person had created the whole thing gave the show a rare coherence and power.
(2) While Carey Fukunaga – who did a superb job directing S1 – has moved up to executive producer, they’ve got some big-name replacements to direct.
One is Justin Lin (Fast & Furious franchise and 2018’s Star Trek 3). Another is William Friedkin, the legend behind The Exorcist and The French Connection.
(3) They’re keeping it creepy.
The horror elements – demonology, the occult, possible supernatural forces – marked S1 out from the run-of-the-mill serial-killer thriller. And S2 revolves around the murder of a man called Ben Caspar, dumped on the highway with Satanic symbols scratched on his chest.
It WON'T’t be as great because…
(1) The cast isn’t as good.
Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson were incredible last season (both won Emmys); Michelle Monaghan and several others were just as great.
Colin Farrell, on the other hand, isn’t a brilliant actor. Cool guy, charismatic and a real star, yes – but not a brilliant actor. Neither is Taylor Kitsch nor Vince Vaughn.
(2) The cast looks too good.
The main characters in True Detective S1 were shabby and scraggy and generally unattractive (McConaughey was barely recognisable). In other words, they looked like real people.
Farrell, Kitsch and Rachel McAdams look like the beautiful Hollywood gods they are, which is bound to break the spell of realism and believability.
(3) The setting – a sort of psycho-geographic nowhere between LA and San Francisco – sounds very intriguing.
But the murky swamps and broiling heat of Louisiana surely can’t be beaten for this kind of fever-dream, Gothic-horror atmosphere. The place was almost a character in its own right last year.