Tuesday 17 July 2018

Was the True Detective finale one of the biggest TV letdowns ever?


Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell in True Detective season 2
Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell in True Detective season 2
New season: Colin Farrell and Taylor Kitsch in True Detective
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Well, that was disappointing, wasn’t it? And for those of us who lauded True Detective’s first season as one of the strangest, cleverest and best TV shows of all time (picture me coughing while pointing to myself), the just-ended follow-up was also a little embarrassing.

It was pretty poor, really. The quality of the directing and (most of) the acting, plus residual loyalty to the show based on Season 1, just about maintained viewer interest. But True Detective S2 has to rank as one of the biggest TV let-downs since they cancelled Space Precinct.

Why and how did this happen? Let us count the ways:

1. The script was terrible. Which is surprising, and ironic, because Nic Pizzolatto’s tremendous writing was the foundation, and best thing, about last season. But this time, we had a plot that was simultaneously over-complicated and stupidly simplistic. We had characters mainly pulled from the Big Book of TV Clichés. And we had dialogue that often strained for profundity but missed by a mile.

2. The show was boring. Nothing much happened for long, looooong periods of air-time. And then some more nothing much happened. Which is fine in a Richard Linklater film, but True Detective didn’t have the intelligent dialogue, emotional power and thematic depth to make up for that.

3. It was also incomprehensible. Despite the fact that the story was very simple and could be explained in about two sentences, it was almost impossible at times to actually follow what was going on and even who was who. The last time I watched something that was simultaneously so dumb and so impenetrable, it was 1998 and Matt le Blanc was committing career suicide in the Lost in Space remake.

4. The season wore its influences too heavily. I love David Lynch and James Ellroy both, but this was closer to outright plagiarism than homage. The dream sequence after Ray has been shot – taking place in an eerily empty bar, where a lonesome girl sings an evocative song – could literally be placed into Mulholland Drive and you wouldn’t notice. And the whole storyline is basically LA Confidential, and Ellroy’s other “LA Noir” novels of the 1990s, remixed for the 21st century.

5. A lot of True Detective Season 2 made no sense. I realise there’s a certain suspension of disbelief required, and am more than willing to suspend it. But people’s motivations were illogical. Events didn’t follow from other events the way they should have. Some of it was pure daft, and you got the impression it had been crowbarred in because producers were set on having a particular scene and to hell with the narrative absurdity. Example: Paul had to die – big sad moment, very emotional, tragic loss of a good guy, gives Ray and Ani added motivation, et cetera – so he went into that underground meeting all alone. Which just didn’t make a lick of sense. Why didn’t he bring back-up?

6. A small (and actually quite amusing) final point: Osip the duplicitous Russian mobster is played by a Kerryman, Vincent Murphy. Whose Kerry accent kept slipping through those guttural Slavic sounds. Yerra, ‘tis fierce cold in Moscow, boy.

PS On the upside, I thought Vince Vaughan was pretty damn good, and hang the begrudgers.

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