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True Detective Season Two: A Solid Two Hour Movie Stretched into an Eight Hour Disaster [Review]

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True Detective season two was created and written by Nic Pizzolatto. The critically acclaimed HBO series kicked off this past June with Fast and Furious director Justin Lin helming the first two episodes. The series stars Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Taylor Kitsch and Rachael McAdams.

In the second season, three police officers and a career criminal must navigate a web of conspiracy in the aftermath of a murder. Colin Farrell plays Ray Velcoro, a compromised detective whose allegiances are torn between his masters in a corrupt police department and the mobster who owns him, while Vince Vaughn is set to play Frank Semyon, a career criminal in danger of losing his empire when his move into legitimate enterprise is upended by the murder of a business partner.
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Forget the fact that True Detective ‘series’ one was a masterpiece. I did going into ‘series’ two. I really did. Accept the fact that this is a separate story and has nothing to do with series one. I did that as well. Remember that we need to judge a completely different tale by it’s own merits or else we’re being unfair to the material. I’m going to do that too – but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be kind….

True Detective series two (or season two, even though that isn’t technically accurate either) was a massive letdown. Considering the cast and talent behind the HBO series, nothing fell into place. A great crew of performers, fantastic directors and someone that I considered a talented writer – Nic Pizzolatto – couldn’t put this bullshit together. The plot was a disjointed mess and I couldn’t tell if they were aiming for a gangster drama, a washed up/crooked police thing or a murder mystery – hell I couldn’t tell what they were going for period. If this was a tale of redemption it didn’t succeed because by the end, no lesson was learned. There simply… was no point.
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After a homicide brings together three (or was it four?) very different personalities to investigate a strange homicide, we’re thrust into a world of strange corporate sex parties and the savage underbelly of LA where politicians are no different than mafia kingpins. True Detective gets one thing right this season – Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro. The has-been police detective is a madman, drinking his ass off, doing blow, threatening to rape a bully’s dad. You know – the usual. Farrell was intriguing and in the end a sympathetic anti-hero who I routed for all season long. Vince Vaughn’s Frank Semyon was also intriguing in the final two episodes. His plight became the most interesting of the climax despite being slightly boring beforehand.

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The pacing was atrocious, some of the lines of dialog were inexcusable and the way the subplots were woven together show such amateurish writing that it’s unforgivable. You can have a complex story, but you have to put the pieces together correctly and still be entertaining at the same time. True Detective did neither of those things for most of the season. For example, the birdman who shotguns a main character early in the season – do we find out why that happened? Yes we do… Do we care? No we sure as shit don’t… Hasty resolutions occur in a frenzy of violence as we wrap up this stand-alone story in our final two episodes. As exciting and intense as they were and I’ll admit that I was finally entertained by episodes seven and eight – it doesn’t make up for the fact that I was bored out of my skull by an incredibly dull and lackluster season beforehand.

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There are so many wasted opportunities: Taylor Kitsch’s character had the potential to be the most interesting but wound up as one dimensional and Rachel McAdams’ motivations as this badass police woman who gives no shits about stereotypes – ends up becoming a stereotype herself by trying to avoid any labels. She’s a sex addict, she’s a victim, she’s a hero, she’s a fighter, she’s….. boring. Farrell was this season’s only true saving grace and even he pissed me off. Why did his voice get more garbled as the season chugged along? He was trying his best to produce that Christian Bale Batman tone for some reason…..

True Detective season two looked great, it sounded great thanks to a brooding score but there was nothing under the hood. Pizzolatto’s writing felt rushed, messy and it didn’t translate to the smallscreen well. There was enough material here for a solid 2 hour movie but they stretched it out into an eight-plus hour disaster.

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