That first season of True Detective in January 2014 might just be one of the greatest TV shows in recent years; good enough to rival the likes of The Wire and The Sopranos, both of which I’ve recently only gotten around to watching. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the second season of True Detective, which hit screens last year in 2015.
The outstanding first season, starring Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and Michelle Monaghan, had everything. The story was engrossing, the music was great, the script and characterisation was better than most Hollywood films and the acting was superlative. In fact, the acing was so good, it almost seemed that Academy voters had this in mind when they awarded the Best Actor Oscar to McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club.
Every episode would kick off with the opening credits, soundtracked by The Handsome Family’s Far From Any Road. The opening bars of this sound so much like Del Shannon’s Runaway, that I would take this as my cue to sing As I walk away, I wonder, A-what went wrong with our love. I would do this at the beginning of every episode, for eight long weeks. I must be great to live with; Jive Bunny has a lot to answer for.
It wasn’t just the acting was a stand-out though. Episode four includes a scene where McConaughey’s undercover character robs a rival biker gang. The robbery takes a turn for the worse, and we see the events unfold in a six minute tracking shot without any cuts that is absolutely stunning. This made Orson Welles’ and Scorsese’s tracking shots in A Touch Of Evil and Goodfellas look like the work of a sixth form film class.
The second season didn’t work quite as well. The show is designed to be an anthology series, so the second season featured new characters, bearing no relation whatsoever to the first season. Thankfully, this also means that a third season will have nothing to do with the disappointing second season.
On paper, season two sounded great. My fellow True Detective fans at work joined me in rejoicing at the casting of Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn as the season’s two male leads. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The season was a slog to get through every week; and while Farrell’s anti-hero character was gorgeously likable for being so unlikable, Vince Vaughn just proved to the world that he was not meant for dramatic roles.
Rachel McAdams though? Her portrayal of an embittered cop, forced to partner up (in a tenuous bit of serendipitous storytelling) with Colin Farrell and Taylor Kitsch, was the standout performance of the season. The only other redeeming quality of season two was Leonard Cohen’s song Nevermind, which played over the opening credits. Featuring a different set of lyrics each week, taken from different verses in the song, Cohen’s dirty grumble combined with a wicked bassline was sometimes the best thing about the show.
Season two did have two great scenes though, to rival anything from the first season – a gun battle on the streets of L.A. in episode four, and Rachel McAdams’ drug-induced infiltration of a sex party in episode six – but other than this, we seemed to get a lot of scenes with Vince Vaughn talking about property development. Yawn. Those pornographic images of roads and highways featured on the opening credits and between scenes were way more interesting than Vaughn’s dialogue.
Hit: Far From Any Road – The Handsome Family
Hidden Gem: The Only Thing Worth Fighting For – Lera Lynn