Monday 26 September 2016

Why Monday nights are the new Sunday nights on the box

'Game of Thrones' left a hole in the schedule, but 'True Detective' can plug the gap

Published 24/06/2015 | 02:30

New kids on the block: Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell take over the reins from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in 'True Detective' season two
New kids on the block: Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell take over the reins from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in 'True Detective' season two

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll have heard that True Detective is back on Sky Atlantic. Starring our very own Colin Farrell, the series opener that aired last night had its work cut out from the word go. Not only was it trying to live up to season one in all its ground-breaking glory, but also attempting to fill the Jon Snow-shaped void in our hearts since the Game of Thrones finale.

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Last week, that's all anybody was talking about. Were the beloved characters who appeared to bite the bullet really dead and gone? Did Cersei deserve her excruciating walk of shame? Where can one buy lip stain that's both fetching and fatal? A spectacular example of TV being an event (and not a live one where you phone in to vote for your favourite singer), its absence will be sorely felt.

But never fear! The powers that be over at Sky Atlantic and HBO have provided a stellar alternative, less than 24 hours after they've aired in a primetime Sunday night slot in the US.

Sunday has always been the traditional night for big shows here too, from Love/Hate on RTE to dramas on the BBC. But now thanks to (and because of) technology, TV has become more immediate - to Monday night's benefit. "We know our customers want to be part of the social conversation and avoid spoilers," Sky's PR tells the Irish Independent.

"With Game of Thrones and now True Detective, Sky Atlantic show them the day after HBO, as well as simulcasting at 2am for die-hard fans."

Those rabid for the new series of True Detective will no doubt have watched it already. Those on the fence may have heard some disparaging reports and decided not to give it a go. I urge them to reconsider.

The first season was a revelation. With echoes of the Southern Gothic, ponderous monologues and a tricky murder mystery to solve, True Detective was original and smart. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson's chemistry combined with Cary Fukunaga's direction was a massive hit, so many were surprised when it was announced that the series would return in an entirely different setting for season two, with a brand new cast.

Oh, and no Fukunaga either.

How could you even call it the same series, we cried. But now it's aired, things are a little more clear.

The fact is, it's not the same - it's quite different, but that's no bad thing. When the first series gathered buzz, there were already a few episodes to watch. This season has massive potential.

McConaughey and Harrelson have been replaced by Farrell in the troubled detective role, but his Ray Velcoro is extreme.

An alcoholic, deadbeat dad and crooked cop, he's violent yet vulnerable. We learn early on that his life was turned upside down after his wife's rape, and his teenage son's paternity may be in question because of it.

He's engaged in shady dealings with criminal entrepreneur Frank Semyon (a slimmed-down and sinister Vince Vaughn) but still trying to be a good dad, in his own twisted way.

The setting has changed too, from eerie, small-town Louisiana to eerie southern California. The proximity to Los Angeles means that Vinci, where we lay our scene, is an urban wasteland with gangsters, corrupt politicians and baddie businessmen instead of oddball rural serial killers. Yes, the characters are driving down busy, well-lit freeways instead of dusty roads, but they're still troubled, insular, and on the edge.

Many have been snide about writer Nic Pizzolatto introducing a female character to the line-up, after season one was heavily criticised for making every woman a nagging wife, mistress or victim - and all sex objects.

Perhaps damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, he hasn't tried to make Rachel McAdams' Ani sympathetic. She has a strange penchant for knives, has sex in ways that frighten her partners into impotence and appears to butt heads with pretty much everyone.

The third protagonist is Paul Woodrugh, a former military man with a death wish. Likely suffering from PTSD, the suspended highway patrolman played by Taylor Kitsch is scarred physically and mentally and looking for a rush in the most dangerous ways possible.

It's after a particularly close call on the dark road that he comes across a mutilated body, that of city manager Ben Caspere (unlikely a friendly ghost). The three cops' storylines converge here, setting us up for a new murder mystery with decidedly creepy, kinky undertones.

Sex, violence, corruption and intrigue - so far, so much more LA film noir than the first season, and I already want to know more.

There may not be dragons, but there's real talent here. Give it a chance - your Monday nights will be better for it, and lunch chat on Tuesday won't mourn Jon Snow much longer.

Irish Independent

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