True Detective: 2.01

An anthology show like True Detective has a distinct advantage and disadvantage: The advantage is that the second season can leave behind the baggage of continued mythology that often bogs down the second season of a show. The disadvantage is that viewers tend to enjoy the baggage of continued mythology and will judge the new season with its new location, cast and theme with an element of suspicion. All that links us is a certain aesthetic and show runner Nic Pizzolatto; even director Cary Fukunaga has been replaced by Justin Lin.

Matthew McConaughey had such an impact on us in season one, we were always going to look at Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn with a certain amount of apprehension. Fifteen months of casting rumours and speculation are now over and we now have some answers. To put some things to rest: Colin Farrell isn't coasting on this one, and I'm glad the True Detective tradition of questionable hair decisions is maintained. Taylor Kitsch and Rachel MacAdams are doing good work, but it's Vince Vaughn that everyone's watching.

Mild spoilers from here on in!

While Farrell is in some way still on probation, Vaughn's solid performance as Frank Semyon could well see him turning around his career in satisfying ways. While 'gangster trying to go legit' is a well-worn trope he, and his wife played excellently by Kelly Reilly, are commanding on screen.
Farrell himself is our main eye on this new Californian hell as Ray Velcoro, a father, detective and broken, drunken, corrupt, violent shell of a man. Despite the focus on him though, his main purpose in the first episode is to link the eventual investigation to Semyon.
Taylor Kitsch plays highway patrolman and war veteran Paul Woodrugh, like a sexually disturbed, suicidal remnant from the cutting floor of CHiPs. And yet his tortured stoicism is a much-needed contrast to Velcoro's impulse-control lacking detective.
And finally, our investigative triptych is rounded out by Rachel MacAdams as Sheriff Ani 'Antigone' Bezzerides, whose love of weapons and authority are neatly expositioned to us by her hippy, cult leader father, played by a Gandalfian David Morse. Her own sexual inadequacies (that's two so far, if you're keeping count) are explained to us by her sister Athena, a cam girl and co-sufferer of Overly Evocative Naming Syndrome. But her performance is excellent, and will hopefully go some way towards assuaging the fears that this season too will be devoid of women in active roles.

There are familiarities in this season: the unannounced, nigh-disjointed flashbacks, the mistrust of religious groups, the flawed protagonists and mythic shots of an America devoid of gloss. But while there's much to love about the premiere of this new True Detective, some of the dialogue in particular feels somewhat clumsy and the entire episode apart from the last 8 minutes are all setup and backstory.
Only then do we meet the victim, the eye-less, murdered, sexually obsessed (and there's the third!) victim, the city planner who was in Semyon's pocket and so vital to his schemes. Only then, in the last minutes do our 'protagonists' meet.

Nobody expected season two to be like the first, that stall was set out from the start. But while showing plenty of promise, Rust Cohle's shadow still looms over this season, no matter how many similarities are drawn to LA Confidential. But perhaps Cohle was right and time is a flat circle, and everything we've ever done or will do, we're gonna do over and over and over again.

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