True Detective: Season 2 created by Nic Pizzolatto (Home Box Office, Anonymous Content)

Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, and Vince Vaughn.

Do You Really Need to Clean Your Room?

I’m watching a lot of children’s television these days. It’s awful and paradoxically not that bad. Children’s programming follows a clear set of rules. We need to teach the kids important lessons, lest television rots the brains of our most impressionable.

In one episode, the protagonist preferred not to clean up after playtime. Picking up toys is a chore. We all want to play as much as we can. Am I right?

Thus comes a social experiment. What if we didn’t tidy up? Unfortunately, our young hero lost everything he held dear in the mess.

Moral of the story: be organized and have fun!

How does this story relate to True Detective? Let me offer 2 distinct ways.

  1. From the youngest ages, narrative trains us to follow cues. Most stories provide the rules by which to watch. It keeps us engaged and helps us to understand what’s to come.
  2. It’s really important to be neat and organized.

So let’s unpack.

California Dreaming

True Detective represents showrunner Nic Pizzolatto’s second installment in his highly acclaimed anthologized series.

This season finds itself in the noir-ish underworld of California.

In a highly complicated plot—seriously, there’s a 4,000-word think piece that outlines the season if you’re completely lost—conspiracies and corruptions running all the way up the California political ladder begin to find the light of day with the murder of city manager, Ben Caspere.

A team of disparate desperate individuals gathers to solve the crime. Highway Patrol officer Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch), a decorated Iraq veteran, faces suspension for supposedly requesting sexual favors from an actress on the highway. This murder gives his department a place to stash him.

Joining Paul is Detective Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), a tortured soul charged with uncovering corruption in the city of Vinci, California by her superior, State Attorney Katherine Davis (Michael Hyatt). Ani grew up in a Hippie commune and she carries knives with her to even the playing field with bigger stronger men.

And finally, the task force includes detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Ferrell), a dirty cop facing the inner turmoil around the parentage of his son, who was born around 9 months after the brutal rape of his wife (Abigail Spencer).

And finally, mobster-gone-straight-man Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) plummets into the mystery when his $5 million gets lost in the ether with the death of his business partner, Caspere.

Full Tilt

As the story unravels, the playing field continues to tilt against our characters and the muck and mire of the California underworld threatens to swallow everyone in its path.

True Detective has interesting themes beneath all of this complexity. But it really is a mess.

To a certain extent, I believe Pizzolotto wants this season to feel like a mess. Given the way the cards are stacked, it makes complete sense for everything about this season to feel untidy. The viewer never feels settled and the viewing rules we discussed earlier are intentionally left ambiguous.

But in this ambiguity, it’s hard to find things. That’s why we all like a clean room.

I think True Detective: Season 2 might earn more acclaim with some distance. And in fact, this season feels best suited for binge watching as the slow-and-steady pace of the story might lend itself better to shorter distances between episode viewings.

So in short, True Detective: Season 2 fails to live up to the lofty heights of Season 1. But it’s still worth watching.

Verdict: 3 out of 5

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