True Detective Season 2 Blu-ray Review
Now that the dust has settled on the second season of HBO’s ‘True Detective’, we can look back on the series with honest eyes and try to decipher what went wrong. But any analysis of the second season is going to start off to a rough start because it will inevitably be compared to the first season. Most critics would put the first season of ‘True Detective’ at the top of the all time crime/mystery TV shows, so before the first episode of the second season even aired, it was already facing an uphill battle. The problem, of course, is that the second season failed more than anyone thought was possible.
Trying to decipher what the second season is about is a bit of a challenge and the frustrating thing is that once you get a handle on what’s going on, you realize that it’s overly simple but was told in such a confusing manner that it was difficult to follow along. But the gist is that lifetime criminal Frank (Vaughn) is involved in a land deal that will allow him to go straight. But his main contact in the Department of Transportation gets murdered and takes with him all of Frank’s money and their agreement. On the other side of the murder are Detectives Velcoro (Farrell), Bezzerides (McAdams) and Officer Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch). Each of them get involved with the case through their own circumstances, but as they investigate the murder as a team, they realize the deck is stacked against them.
Before we get into the mess of the story, the casting problems have to be addressed. The glaring problem is with Vince Vaughn and Kelly Reilly, who played his wife in the show. No matter what the situation, Vaughn was going to seem out of place playing this type of character, but the way he talked and delivered his lines was like someone told him to intentionally not be himself. It felt like he was consciously trying to avoid being charming or talking fast. But Reilly was the biggest casting problem and she played her character like she was in a terrible soap opera, making every scene with her and Vaughn very painful to get through. And the fact that her character never went anywhere was even more frustrating as we had to sit and watch her terrible performances and never got to see her character do anything.
The story itself, although pedestrian, is not inherently bad. There was a way to tell this story and still make it interesting, but the showrunners didn’t pull it off. One of their problems was their use of cheap tricks. For example, in the second episode, Detecive Velcoro gets shot with a shotgun and it looks like he’s dead. But in the third episode, it’s revealed that it was a rubber gun and he had a vest on, so he was fine. That was a cheap movie trick that I thought we had moved past and HBO is way above using something like that as a cliffhanger. The season was filled with things like that and each time they were used, it degraded the season just a little more. There were actually times where I thought maybe they were being obvious with their foreshadowing in an effort to throw us off, but no, that’s just the way the story played out.
I haven’t really even scratched the surface of what’s wrong with the second season of ‘True Detective’. I could write a short novella talking about how terrible the use of music was in almost every episode (the fifth episode being the worst) and how the bar singer made me cringe every time she came on. There are also numerous examples of wasted scenes and moments with characters that had no impact on the show or were never fully developed. The list goes on, but maybe the second season’s biggest flaw was that it just wasn’t interesting.
The second season of ‘True Detective’ is such a disappointment as this season felt like a cheap rip-off of itself; like it was trying to duplicate the magic of the first season but had no idea how to do it. When watching it for the first time, I kept hoping after each episode that it was going to get better, but it never did. I don’t know if series creator Nic Pizzolatto will get a chance to do a third season or if he even wants to, but his focus should be on getting back to a simpler mystery story with more interesting characters because I don’t think the success of the first season is going to be enough to keep fans around for the third season.
Video: True Detecive season two looks amazing on Blu-ray
Audio: The audio was fine.
Commentaries on two episodes: Nic Pizzolatto, Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn show up for both commentaries while Kitsch and McAdams show up for the first (on episode 4) and producer Scott Stephens show up for the commentary on episode 8. These are good listens, but it did feel like they were avoiding the elephant in the room (bad critical reception).
Making the Vinci Massacre (29:27): This was the lone exciting moment in season two and it gets its own featurette that discusses how it was set up and shot.
A Look Inside True Detective (10:17): Standard fluff making-of featurette.
True Detective’s California (3:55): This is a music video over shots of California. Very strange, but kind of cool.