June 22, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “True Detective”



The first season of TRUE DETECTIVE was so masterfully assembled that it took some time for people to question what taste it was leaving in their mouths.  When Matthew McConaughey’s arias of philosophizing, and the brilliantly extended tracking shots, and the dense mythology were done, how new were the clothes the Emperor was wearing?  In a way, the reaction to Season 2, written once again by Nic Pizzolatto, but featuring an entirely new plot, cast and set of directors, will also be a referendum about Season 1.

Any such judgments will have to be put off until a later episode, since tonight’s season premiere, written by Pizzolatto and directed by Justin Lin, didn’t even bring together its three profoundly damaged heroes until the closing moments.  That was the point at which the mutilated body of the City Manager of the fictional California town of Vinci was discovered by the Pacific Coast Highway, and it appeared that Vinci detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), Ventura County detective Antigone Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), and California Highway Patrol cop Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) would be working the case together.  We had spent much of the preceding hour observing what wrecks all three of them are:  Ray is an alcoholic with rage issues and a corrupt working relationship with Vinci gangster-turned-businessman Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn); Ani despises her New Age evangelist father (David Morse), has a sister working in online porn, and can’t sustain a relationship; and Paul has scars both on and beyond his body.

Episode 1 of Season 2 was very different than the start of Season 1–there was only one brief time-shift (a flashback to Ray’s first involvement with Semyon, when the gangster told Ray the identity of the man who’d raped Ray’s wife, presumably for his revenge), and that delay in bringing the partners together–and very much the same.  The dark, fatalistic view of crime and the world that spawns it, the weary nihilism of the lead characters, the hints of quasi-religious undertones to the violence–they’re all back.  Also returning is the superb craft of the production, with a marvelous percussion-heavy score by T. Boone Burnett (and great use of source music, including the Leonard Cohen song under the credits) and moody photography.

Season 2 also carries with it a more pronounced meta level:  all its protagonists are seeking redemption in one way or another, and that’s true of its lead actors as well:  Farrell, Vaughn, McAdams and Kitsch have either failed to reach the levels of stardom that were once expected of them, or got there and then fell steeply, and all are toiling on prestige TV with something to prove.  They’re accomplishing their goal, each delivering impeccable work, with McAdams perhaps narrowly the most effective in the early going.

True Detective has 7 more hours to run this season, and clearly it will be a ride worth taking.  Pizzolatto, too, has something to prove:  that he can create not just an impressive launching pad for great acting and production, but a narrative that remains satisfying all the way to its ending.  He’s already delivering on the first part of that goal.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."