True Detective: 2.04 Down Will Come
The really big question is whether True Detective has finally been found out? But we’ll come back to that. The first season was most famous for the McConaissance, then secondly for splitting its audience between those that thought it was unimaginable genius, and those that thought it was ponderous, preposterous toss. With Season Two, showrunner (and creator) Nic Pizzolatto has the chance to prove any doubters wrong. Or right.
First up, the story. Basically it’s about property deals. Feels a bit like The Phantom Menace being about trade embargoes. Simple, if not exactly exciting, right? Well it’s not. Too many names, places, and characters have been thrown at the first four episodes and the script hasn’t done a good enough job of making them memorable. Taking the trio of police forces as an example, can anyone remember who belongs to which force and what their motivations are? Answers in the comments please.
Anyhow, back to the plot, Vince Vaughan, sorry Frank Seymon (played by Vince Vaughan) was going straight, then got ripped off, is now back in his old life. Which means scene after scene of Vaughan deadpanning to various nefarious characters with the shows worst dialogue to deliver ("Sometimes your worst self is your best self."). Before his “comedy” days Vaughan carved a niche as a reliable choice as fast talking, quick quipping but his performance here is balancing precariously on the line between hammy and convincing. One thing that Vaughan does is shine a light on Matthew McConaughey’s performance in the first season; his dialogue was no better.
Rachel McAdams, as cop Ani Bezzerides, is also saddled with tough-to-make-convincing dialogue: “Those moments, they stare back at you. You don’t remember them, they remember you. Turn around and there they are. Staring.” What? Her character is more interesting than Vaughan’s though with a murky background, and seemingly links between her family and the murder investigation she’s at the centre of.
Most convincing though is Colin Farrell, admittedly playing well within his wheelhouse as sad sack, walking anger management no-no Ray Velcoro, Farrell’s also the tie between the threads, sharing screen time with mobster Vaughan and fellow po-po (The Wire language for the cops) McAdams and Taylor Kitsch. The less said about Kitsch’s sexually confused Paul Woodrugh the better, he feels a bit of a character out of place at the moment, trying to cover too many bases: sexual insecurity and confusion, fatherhood, PTSD, etc. And yet there's no background to these crises.
And yet despite all this it’s hard to really dislike the show. It’s less surprising than Season One, less innovative, and so far lacks the chemistry that McConaughey and Woody Harrelson brought to their roles; though Farrell and McAdams are slowly building some. There’s also the small matter of the brilliantly staged shoot out at the end of Down Will Come where bullets flew, blood splattered, and everyone - bar the central trio - bought the farm in variously gory ways.
At its best True Detective is clever and markedly different to anything else on TV, but halfway through Season Two it's too confusing, overly wrought, and bordering on pretentious, meaning the answer to whether Pizzolatto is genius or fraud is still very much in the balance.