‘I used to want to be an astronaut. But astronauts don’t even go to the moon anymore.’
Well True Detective is back and in a completely different form than the last season. Gone are the bayous and long empty roads of back water Louisiana, instead being replaced with the winding highways and David Lynch-esque visuals of Los Angeles. The show is as bleak and as dark as ever though. We might not have a Matthew McConaughey type spouting crazy, nihilistic phrases but we do have a scene with Colin Farrell telling a kid that he’ll “come back and butt f*ck your father with your mom’s headless corpse on this god damned lawn”, so all’s good.
Your enjoyment of the season 2 opener with be directly linked to the amount you can distance yourself and let go of the previous series and it’s leads. If, like me, you recognise before going into this episode that season 2 is a completely different animal to season 1 you’ll get the most enjoyment out of it. And having said that, ‘The Western Book of The Dead’ is a great episode for a couple of reasons, and is a solid start to a promising season. Firstly, like the season before it, the performances of the main characters are outstanding. This time round we have four to focus on and they’re all already interesting noir-y characters each with their own set of deep, dark, True Detective-y problems. Colin Farrell’s Ray is an angry, alcoholic, bent cop trying to do the best by his son, Rachel McAdams’ Ani is a good cop at heart but with her own set of family issues, and Taylor Kitsch’s Paul is a battle scarred soldier with a death wish and a limp noodle. Filling out the cast is sometime funny man Vince Vaughn as former gangster Frank trying to go legit. Frank and Ray already have a relationship but the rest of the varied cast are all brought together through a creepy murder of a City Manager with ties to Frank and owns a house full of phallic ornaments.
Secondly, the episode’s direction and visuals are just as good as they’ve ever been. This time round the series might not be directed by the brilliant Cary Fukunaga but Fast and Furious alum Justin Lin, whose helming the first few episodes, does an admirable job. The riffs on noir style motifs continue throughout the direction as well as the characters and dialogue. There’s a lot of deliberate framing and moody bars, all overlayed with a cool jazzy soundtrack, giving this a season a different but equally cool feeling to the last. The plot of the episode is a little vague at first, but that’s to be expected as we instead spend time setting up the individual lives of our four main characters. Bouncing around them can be a little disorientating for those expecting a similar set up to the first season but it’s quick and easy to get use to, and you are left with just as many burning questions at the end of the episode as you were at the end of the first season pilot.
So far I have high hopes for the season and I think it will only increase in quality. A few worrying reviews claim the show isn’t worth watching but I strongly disagree. In the golden age of TV it’s getting harder to recommend new TV shows as we’ve usually seen a lot it before. But True Detective season 2 isn’t like that, remaining as fresh and as innovative as the first season and you owe it your attention.