Why You Are Being Too Hard on Season 2 of True Detective

Let me just start out by agreeing with what everyone already has recognized; True Detective Season 2 is not as good as Season 1.

The thing is though, it’s not because Season 2 is bad, it’s becuase Season 1 was extraordinary. What True Detective accomplished in Season 1 is in a stratosphere that few shows have ever touched. It is the Mike Trout of inauguaral seasons.Season 2, absent the comparison, has actually been a pretty decent show. Certainly one worth watching. It’s just that in the shadow of its more accomplished predecessor it looks like Charlotte McKinney’s sister.

We could sit here and nitpick what aggravated us. What could have been better:

The orgy scene wasn’t depraved enough given the buildup and the show’s tone.
Taylor Kitsch met everyone’s expectations and proved why John Carter was such a failure (although Paul Woodrugh was the combeback role Shia Lebouf should have snagged.)
Colin Farrell shaved his awesome mustache!

Flaws aplenty. But among them, if you closely, are plenty of bright spots that have streamed through the bleakness, particularly in these last 2 episodes.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms tied off a lot of loose ends, though nothing that gives you any real sense of satisfaction:

Finally! Vince Vaughn shows us the murderous black instead of talking about it using his LA-noir diction.
Finally! Bezzerides gets over Steve! (Speaking of, do you think that Velcoro would be into whatever kinky sexytime thing Steve wouldn’t do??)

Kelly Reilly has also grown on me over this season with her performance as the girl-next-door-with-a-meanstreak Jordan. It’s some kind of woman who can look at a tortured corpse and immediately role up her sleeves and ask how she can help (and it says something about me that I find her so attractive.) And yet she’s still only the second best actor in Season 2.

Rachel McAdams has reached a new summit in her career.

The show is worth watching to see her performance alone. She is the only one who is on the level of what Michelle Monaghan brought to the table in Season 1 (who was good, but not as good as Woody Harrelson, who was very good, but not as good as McConaughey). The duel between her and Vera at the Modera Motel was far better than the one between Velcoro and Frank at the kitchen table an episode earlier. Her ability to mix Bezzerides’ personal and professional conflicts with alternating spurts of strength and vulnerability is remarkable.

But all of those things are not the reason why Season 2 deserves more credit than it’s been given.

The most important thing to remember about True Detective is that it is an anthology- one story told from many different vantages. This is only the 2nd act, and it’s not uncommon for even the best shows to lag in their sophomore season. The Wire’s weakest season was Season 2, but it was still worth watching (and it expanded the scope of the entire story, as True Detective has done this year.)

Tension is building. This is a story about a murder, but there is still very little known about who actually is responsible (or what kind of nasty-nasty Ben Caspere was really into). With only 1 episode left, and our heroes pinned in from the outside, all bets are off as we head into the home stretch. There is an unrealistic amount of work to do in order to “bring the whole system down” and if you feel frustrated by this, I encourage you to again remember that there is a deeper story been told.

If Season 1 of True Detective is about how this world is a veil and that the face you wear is not your own, then Season 2 is about the pilgrimage.

It’s about how the way that we respond to the defining events in our life are what define us. Learning the identity of your wife’s rapist. Being sexually assaulted when you were a little girl living in some weird hippie commune (see a concurrent theme emerging here?) All those pivotal moments where the river splits, and we must choose one way or the other. This world may be a fail, but we are still here. Something about that matters, even if we are just a shadow of our best selves.

I for one am looking forward to Sunday. I’m excited to see if the still-murky history of Bezzerides’ abuse is in any way directly connected to the Yellow King, Carcosa, or the hillbilly Tullys from Season 1. I’m excited to see a showdown of all our major characters at David Mose’s yoga spa. I’m excited to see if Velcoro is actually the father! (Don’t you love how one of the subplots here is scraped from a Maury Povich episode?)

So with that, my dear readers, I encourage you to sit down, order some takeout, and pick True Detective back up where you left it. While you watch, think back to this article and the remember the words of the great Rust Cohle:

The body is not one member but many, now are they many but one body.

Season 2 is just 1 member. Try to stay part of the body.

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