Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Strawhat's Streaming Shows: True Detective Season Two Premiere

  Last year, HBO tried a fun experiment with the cop drama genre. Taking visual cues and thematic elements from movies like Se7en, Nic Pizzolatto both created and wrote the amazing True Detective. It starred Woody Harrelson and Matthew McCognaughey in roles that both defined the show's dualing themes and timelines, while also having a buddy cop drama aesthetic that ascended higher than many like it due to how different the characters where. The nihilistic Rustin "Rust" Cohle and the down-to-Earth Detective Martin Hart. The first season's initial murder mystery took our protagonists on a macabre ride into the occult and religious fanaticism while showing us the vulnerability of our heroes' own mortality. But that was Season One. As it turns out, True Detective, much like American Horror Story, is an anthology; the events and characters from Louisiana no more. It's a new setting, a new crime, and a whole new set of Detectives.

"Hey, my eyes are up here, soldier!"  

  While Season One started with a ritualistic murder, and went full speed into the dual timelines of Detectives Rust and Hard, Season Two has opted for a slow burn approach. We actually don't even get to see our detectives together in the same frame until the very last scene of the first episode. Nic Pizzolatto is still in charge of the show (single handedly being it's sole writer), but the loss of first season's amazing visionary director Cary Joji Fukunaga immediately hurts the visual impact of the story. Now, don't get me wrong - Justin Lin is a fine director and it's not like True Detective looks lesser than it did before, but there was a cohesive look and feel last summer that is evidently lost this year.

  Pacing (more on that later) and cinematography aside, the cast is phenomenal this year. Colin Farrell's Raymond "Ray" Velcoro is a hound looking for justice, his own brand mind you, and will stop at nothing to gnaw at those he feels have done him or those he loves wrong. There's a scene with his son (Ray's divorced cop of course) that escalates into a full blown verbal brawl that ends with a home visit and a brutal beatdown to a bully's parent. And that's probably the mildest thing Ray does this entire episode. Rachel Adams' Detective Antigone "Ani" Bezzerides is a wolverine of intensity and family turmoil that could very well play out in the long run of the series, but right now it seems like a lot on her plate. Taylor Kitsch is a dubious addition to the roster, some observers may be able to point out his shoddy filmography's record (his acting not a problem per se), but his turn here as California State Patrolman Officer Paul Woodrug is serviceable enough. He does have the weaker story (PTSD and suicidal tendencies along with sexual impotency... sheesh) - but he may have the most work ahead of him as both an actor and as a character.  

"On your left!"

 To call the first episode of this season glacially slow would be not only an understatement, but a slight rib at glaciers worldwide. As I mentioned before, it takes until the very last scene to see our detectives assembled; and the murder mystery that was just dropped on us as viewers on the first season isn't readily apparent this time around until (again) the last few minutes of the premiere. The plot isn't also readily apparent and a common complaint, of fans and critics, for the season so far seems to be the required multiple viewings to collect all the story threads and cues. Vince Vaughn's character (evil gangster turned entrepreneur Frank Semyo) is another problem, and not because Vince can't perform (he can as a matter of fact), but rather because he's given idiotic lines that echo some of McCognaughey's Rust nihilistic sentiments but come off as cartoonish and flat. Maybe as the season progresses this won't be a problem, but right now his character and scenes attached are the weakest of the bunch. 

  True Detective Season Two has a lot of promise, the pieces are moving slowly - but they are moving. HBO had a similar problem with Game of Thrones this season, and the overall product had a good pace (especially towards the middle and end) that sacrificed its initial episodes in favor of just blasting through the story. True Detective had a legendary first season and compelling characters. So far, we have characters that could potentially be equally, if not substantially more, compelling than Rust and Hart - but they could also fall under the weight of their Nic's need to add too many nuisances and gratuitous gravitas. I have hope the show won't become a parody of itself and distance itself from other cop dramas on TV and film; a feat already performed last year, and one I have faith Nic Pizzolatto can achieve again.

"Not impressed by your shit right now."

SHR Rating:

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