I can’t decide whether I ‘like’ the new season of True Detective. After watching the first few episodes, the jury is still out.
Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of reasons to like it, including a stellar cast. On paper, Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughan, Taylor Kitcsh and Rachel McAdams would be four very good reasons to follow season two, just as obsessively as season one.
And that could be the problem.
There will invariably be disappointment for anyone hoping for more of what we saw from Matthew McConaughey's Rust Cohle and Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart. But it needs to be remembered that this is not the same show, even though it shares the same title and the same writer.
This is not season one re-packaged. This is a very different story, set in a very different locale. Season two takes us away from a lush and humid Louisiana to a very dry and gritty Los Angeles.
It’s set in the fictional suburb of Vinci on the outskirts of LA, where police officers Ray Velcoro (Farrell), Ani Bezzerides (McAdams) and Paul Woodrugh (Kitsch) come together as a taskforce is established to investigate the disappearance of a corrupt city official.
On the other side of the fence is Frank Seymon (Vaughan); a bar-owner and crook, who was working with the missing-presumed-dead city manager to go ‘legit’ in a multi-billion dollar public transport development. He also has connection with Farrell’s character; a bent copper, who won’t be winning any ‘Father of the Year’ awards.
Episode one is a ‘slow-burn’, taking its time in establishing back stories for each of the characters, more so than in season one. It doesn’t have any of Rust Cohle’s philosophical soliloquies, but we do get more character development that puts the story in perspective.
We find out that Frank isn’t a stereotypical ‘bad guy’ – he and his wife are contemplating IVF to have a child, while Velcoro has a problem with booze that goes beyond the stereotypical ‘drunk cop’.
Woodrugh is a returned veteran, who’s struggling with the physical and emotional scars from his years in the service. That he’s gorgeous, does not go un-noticed.
This ‘fleshing out’ also allows creator/writer Nic Pizzalotto to correct the perception from season one that he couldn’t write ‘strong women’, but characters that are more than just window-dressing.
Rachel McAdam’s character’s Ani is not a one-dimensional foil for the strong male leads. She has ‘baggage’ in a problem sister and a New Age guru of a father (David Morse). It makes her immensely relatable.
Understanding the need for all this character development doesn’t detract from the fact that episode one IS hard work and will require a little patience from the viewer. It’s success will depend on whether the viewer is willing and able to not compare it to season one.
I put myself in that category. I need to ‘let go’ of season one and embrace this incarnation and see where it takes us. I’m confident that last year wasn’t just a ‘fluke’. We shall see.
True Detective season 2 premieres on Showcase, Monday June 22 at 3.30pm with an ‘encore’ viewing at 7.30pm.