Season Review: 'True Detective'

Gabriel Filippa


There is a fair share of problems with second season of True DetectiveColin Farrell sounded constipated. The plot was convoluted. The clichés were so prevalent the series often looked like a parody of itself. Whole sequences looked like missions stripped from Grand Theft Auto: scale the mansion; take out the guard; rescue the prostitute; knife the horny politician; escape the mansion; drive off under a big old white moon with the radio blaring and shots firing. The bad guys were Russian. Or Mexican. Or some other minority group. But hey, at least they were attractive.

But then again, who isn’t attractive in True Detective? Maybe that guy that looks like the evil version of Mr. Bean? Or the black dude with the half-assed afro? Certainly not the kid that plays Colin Farrell’s son.

Writer Nic Pizzolatto obviously struggled with the pacing of the second season and missed the hand of Cary Fukunaga, director of the first season. The second season looked messy and lacked a visual congruity. Pizzolatto penned a scrawling narrative desperate for more significant hooks and stronger edits. This was only emphasised by a host of directors trying to make sense of the chaotic source material. Season two was a sloppy project, but was nevertheless one propelled by strong elements.

Like the first season, the sound design was integral in establishing the mood. The city of Vinci coughs and splutters like an industrial machine gasping for air. Shots of the twisting highways almost come to resemble aspects of the human anatomy, as roads become clogged like arteries and cars spill out across the roads like red and white blood cells along the vein.

Other strong points include:

Ray knuckledusting some kid's dad. 'You ever bully, or hurt anybody again, I’ll come back and buttfuck your father with your mum's headless corpse on the goddamn lawn.' (Hey, what the fuck did the lawn ever do?) 

Ray taking a bunch of drugs and having a mega-dance-sesh that was kind of ruined because he started crying. (It’s okay Ray, I often make people cry when I dance.) 

Ray likening the smoking of an e-cigarette to sucking a robot’s dick. (Yes please.) 

Ray’s moustache.

That moment where Ray salutes his son outside the school. (Okay, so this scene actually made me cry.)

In all seriousness, there are some major daddy-issues going on in Season Two.  Frank’s dad locks him in the shed so he can kill vermin then he ruins the poor bastard’s hallucination in the desert when he’s trying to die. Ray’s dad interrupts his own dream sequence in a bar while he’s watching fake-Elvis to tell him his hands are shit. Ray is always showing up at his son's school, looking all sweaty and aggressive by the fence just like my dad used to.

The big shootout was OKAY... (one-take that shit like Episode Four Season One. Pussies.) But that's where the accolades end.

Kind of like mature age students at uni, this season of True Detective seemed to try so hard to be complex and interesting but only ended up making a fool out of itself. With so many different sub-plots surrounding the corrupt nature of Vinci, blue diamonds, contaminated land, foreign interests and of course sex parties, I was left completely apathetic in actually finding out who killed Ben Caspere and why. By the time I found out, not only was I underwhelmed but I didn't really care. I can respect the fact Pizzolatto wanted to create a demanding story saturated in complexity and mystery. But it can be incredibly challenging to enjoy a show when all you're doing is trying to keep up with the story the entire time. Plus when articles go viral just because they explained the basic elements of your story, it's pretty obvious that the message isn't getting through.

The four main characters never truly captured hearts and minds. Sure these were some fucked-up individuals who the world have chewed up and spat out, but their tales of struggle and redemption never felt truly real. With respect to working with a complex script that demanded overloaded performance, little of the acting allowed me to be engulfed in the tales of the broken souls. When I watched Rust and Marty in Season One, I completely forgot about the personalities of the actors who played them as I was so enamoured with how the story would play out for them. But for instance in Season Two, I could never buy into the depressing tale of Frank Semyon because I never lost the feeling that I was really just watching Vince Vaughn as a gangster.

Additionally, Pizzolatto seemed obsessed by the point where violence meets sex. It grows tiresome and repetitive. We get it, we’ve seen it a million times before. In fact, we’ve seen the conventions of this genre a million times before. Paul Woodrugh as the secretly gay, loner war hero, the desperate and angsty struggle of Ani Bezzerides to make her mark in a man's world, Colin Farrell as the emotionally scarred cop who is trying to do the right thing. There is nothing about those character arcs that is singularly imaginative.

It wouldn't be such a problem if we grew to give a shit about the characters or the direction they were heading in, yet any emotional resonance was too often obstructed by the convoluted and frustrating narrative.

The jagged imitation of life, the slow, boring hum of activity and the unnecessarily perplexing plot rendered this season utterly unfulfilling. I compared this season to a cold, phallic instrument with an inability to ejaculate real human meaning. So I guess all in all, watching the second season of True Detective was indeed very much like sucking a robot's dick.


Gabriel Filippa is studying his Master of Journalism. He spends most of his time sitting on his arse watching films or playing video games. Sometimes, he gets up to write about something that has annoyed him.