Review: True Detective (Season 2, Episode 1)

I’ve gone on record as saying that season 1 of True Detective, HBO’s nascent anthology series, is an antidote for fledgling careers. It was built around the McConaissance and Woody Harrelson’s fame was waning. With the two-hander season though, it boasted their marquee value and delivered a steamy, chilling murder mystery in the heartland of the Bible Belt’s bayous. Likewise, Season 2 should be the panacea for Vince Vaughn after a string of comedic duds. Colin Farrell was the spry newcomer in the early 2000’s but that sensation has cooled considerably. Taylor Kitsch is not the gangbusters idol he was prophesied to be. Meanwhile, Rachel McAdams hasn’t rebounded from a morass of trifling romantic comedies.

First off, the credit sequence is throbbing, rotoscoped animation worthy of David Fincher. Season 2 is much more linear than its predecessor which is a mortal wound since Justin Lin is more of a technical director than someone who can sculpt thespian moments. Farrell’s evaluations for child custody are pale imitations of the scrutiny that Cohle and Hart navigated during the serial killings.

Ray Velcoro (Farrell) is a killjoy rerun of Cohle’s post-investigation fatalism. Although he is disheveled and doleful, he doesn’t spin the atheistic diatribes in the hypnotic way McConaughey did. Sadly, Vince Vaughn and company can’t smoothly utter Nic Pizzolato’s clunky, pseudo-philosophical dialogue (“Never do anything out of hunger. Not even eating.”).

Mostly the expanded cast of McAdams, Kitsch, Vaughn and Farrell are relegated to bromides like the obstinate female renegade with the drug-addled sister, the strictly by-the-book¬†highway patrolman, the businessman with tentacled, shady dealings and the lugubrious drunkard with a death wish. To put it bluntly, a backwoods bordello, a sexual solicitation scandal and railway-contract corruption are not rapturous television fodder on the wavelength of Cary Fukunaga’s test run. When Ani Bezzerides (McAdams) is handed a picture of a missing person, I was awash in unflattering memories of a quintessential case-of-the-week show like CSI, NCIS and Nash Bridges.

On the positive side, Kitsch quickly seizes the opportunity for the melodramatic¬†sandbox of a disgraced crusader on the road to reinstatement. While his bullying outburst at his introverted, obese son is overwrought, I like the plot mechanism of Velcoro soliloquizing into a tape recorder for his posterity’s reflections. Bezzerides’ intertwined storyline could be an anchor but it is a puzzling mixture of contrivances with her sister’s pornography and her father’s (David Morse) cult following.

If I’m to be candid, this second heaping of True Detective is not the nourishing entree that the first one was. From the purview of this debut episode, it’s mildly tepid leftovers. However, I will confess that Farrell’s loose-cannon beating of another father with brass knuckles is a wickedly funny moment and I tingled with anticipation in the final moments when the principals assembled at the crime scene of an slumping corpse.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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