Knowing the second season of True Detective would soon air, I crunched time to be able to watch the first season before the new one dropped. I had heard so much excitement and fervor over it. And I was not disappointed. The first season wove an intricate tale or warring partners, their complicated lives, and a killer boosted by religious idolatry. I became easily obsessed with the phenomenal acting, exquisite cinematography, and fantastic soundtrack. So once I finished it, I began anxiously awaiting the next season. I was pleased with the casting and expecting to be blown out of the water. Oh boy, I was pretty disappointed. In my opinion, the differences in the seasons come down to three key elements: cast, plot, and cinematography.
The first season had an unbelievably strong cast. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are not only incredibly talented actors, the characters were created to have a brilliant give and take. While I also find Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch, and Rachel McAdams talented, the characters lacked the same dynamic. To me, Taylor Kitsch’s character is extremely superfluous. His arc brings in elements that go unexplored. That whole money from the Middle East plot? Homosexual urges but also knocking up his girlfriend? Why? What was the point? The dynamic between Farrell and McAdams would and could have been explored without Kitsch’s middle man, third wheel part. Admittedly, Vaughn and Farrell have their own dynamic too, and it works well. Not as well as McConaughey and Harrelson in my opinion, but still good.
As previously mentioned, I found the plot of Kitsch’s character completely unnecessary. I would even go so far as to say it added nothing to the story. The only moment I really enjoyed his character was during the alley shoot out when the veteran army guy kept his cool while killing people, meanwhile McAdams and Farrell look prepared to vomit from not only shooting at people but killing them. The other point is the overall messiness of the plot. It had so many loose ends. The crow mask. The Middle Eastern money. Maybe it was the clever mythology background of the first season, but the story for the second season fell flat. I appreciated the conspiracy of it, but I don’t particularly like considering that cops are corrupt. It gives me the heebee jeebees.
Lastly, the cinematography paled in comparison. Cary Fukunaga was the brains behind the beauty of season one. That whole long shot sequence…Oh. My. God. That shot is unprecedentedly gorgeous. Rewatch it here.
The backgrounds also differed. First season backwater Louisiana bayous complemented the grime and dirtiness of the story. In comparison, sunny California was an interesting juxtaposition. I think it could have been more of an accent if it had been done differently. The choice of an industrialized to death area was interesting, but to me Fukunaga’s lack of involvement was obvious and devastating. While the season still carried a gritty, cheap whiskey, and burning cigarette feel throughout the season, the intensity doesn’t compare in my mind to that of season one. Though T Bone Burnett keeps it going well with the soundtrack. If Fukunaga had still been helming production, the season would have been what it should have been.
Do you think season two lived up to the hype? Will you watch season three if/when it airs? We’re dying to know what you think after you’ve been able to stew on it a while. Comment below.