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Television review: The Farreller is earning his corn


Illustration Jim cogan

Illustration Jim cogan

Illustration Jim cogan

The main thing to establish about the new series of True Detective is that you're not really meant to know exactly what is happening. If you don't quite catch a line, or you can't follow it, there's nothing wrong with you.

You may be there with your remote, pausing the action and rewinding and wondering if you are losing your mind, but that's all right. Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch probably aren't entirely up to speed either about every aspect of their characters' daily lives, but they get on with it.

The important thing, is the vibe.

You might call it the VIP Lounge at Lillies Bordello School of Creative Writing vibe, because this True Detective feels like something that was conceived in such a setting. You could imagine a bunch of "creatives" tying one on in the old VIP lounge, visualising all these strange and terrible scenes, vowing to get The Farreller and Vince Vaughn on board, to tell the sordid truth about this world as only those in the VIP lounge could possibly know it.

Which is such a buzz that they don't really bother much with the actual writing, they have turned their back on such bourgeois affectations. If the folks want something with a beginning, a middle and an end, they should go back to Jackanory. If they don't know what The Farreller is saying, they should just bear in mind that the Farreller is supposed to be drunk most of the time, so he won't be talking like Sir John Gielgud.

There's no more Matthew McConaughy embarking on speeches with loads of words in them, about the meaning of life, like something out of a play. But this latest True Detective is roughly similar to the first series in the sense that it features a number of troubled individuals, some of whom are police officers, some of whom are criminals, or perhaps some toxic combination of the two.

The Farreller and Vince Vaughn are probably a bit troubled in their own right, that it has taken so long for them to actually get a part in something hot for a change - though Farrell has to do some really, really terrible things here, to earn his corn.

They are all completely different people to the ones we saw in the first series, there is no McConaughy or Woody Harrelson, there is no fictional Louisiana, it has moved to a fictional Los Angeles. But they are all deeply damaged, and will doubtless become even more damaged in the coming weeks.

The real connection though, is the vibe. This is at the heart of the True Detective project, this creation of an atmosphere of badness, of darkness on the edge of town, and in every other part of town, and probably in the next town too, and on into this hellish American infinity.

Louisiana was perfect for the opening blast, with all that grand old Southern madness a constant presence, that everyday weirdness which is created by the mere mention of the word "Louisiana" - at least by people in the film industry.

The choice of Los Angeles is no less inspired, because they seem to be trying to do what Raymond Chandler did with his depictions of the underworld of LA. And while Chandler was a much better writer than any of the lads in the mythical VIP lounge, much better indeed than almost anyone else in the game, he too was not exactly a fanatic for the logical storyline, the neatly wrapped conclusion.

Famously, when they were filming The Big Sleep, the producers couldn't figure out if a certain character had been killed or had committed suicide. Chandler told a friend, "they sent me a wire asking me, and dammit I didn't know either."

So you should relax, and just go with it. Relax, as the Farrell character "Ray Velcoro" calls to the house of a boy who bullied his son in school, in order to drunkenly beat the boy's father to a pulp, while the bully boy observes - inevitably perhaps, Velcoro's son was born nine months after the rape of Velcoro's wife, with whom he is now engaged in a sordid custody battle.

At least I think the battle is with her, maybe it's with someone else.

If you really must know, you can send them a wire.

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