Review: True Detective (Season 2, Episode 3)

This was originally published at The Edge SUSU on 7th July.

By now it’s been almost universally accepted that True Detective’s sophomore season has struggled to step out of its predecessor’s shadow. Which is fine, after all those are some pretty big shoes to fill. Nevertheless it can’t be ignored that season 2 has had some teething problems, even when taken on its own merit. The pacing has at times been tortuously slow, the monologues have ranged from pretty good to downright abysmal, and the central storyline has failed to really grab in the way that it needs to.

The most commonly used defense offered up by fans is that it’s still only starting up, and that the first season similarly needed time to reach its peak. However that defense is only valid up to a point. When a long running show has a narrative lull it can be forgiven, it’s almost natural for it to. However, when a series aims to convey an entire narrative in just eight episodes, then it had better be tight and immersive throughout. So why are we three episodes in and still not hooked?

After the last episode’s shocking finale, things seemed to be on the up for the show. Episode 2 left us with the implication that a major character had been unceremoniously killed off whilst investigating a lead, however at the start of ‘Maybe tomorrow’ it quickly becomes apparent that Velcoro is really alive and well. Which isn’t unexpected. The non-lethal ammunition explanation seemed fairly logical, and with so many fans speculating that that would be how Velcoro would survive, there wasn’t too much surprising here. It is a little disappointing though. Not because Velcoro isn’t a good character, but because such a twist would have been the shot in the arm that this season needed to kick itself up a gear. Instead things just amble on in much the same way that they have done for the last couple of weeks.

Once again it’s Kitsch’s Woodrugh who is saddled with the weaker moments, as he continues to show how angsty and troubled he is by moping and mumbling his way through yet another episode. He is at least given a little development here, as it is all-but-confirmed that he is a self-loathing, closet homosexual. This should have made him more interesting. The problem though is that he deals with all of his (admittedly numerous) demons in the exact same way. By doing and saying precisely nothing, and just brooding instead. Which doesn’t make for a very thrilling viewing experience.

Still it’s not all bad. The actual detective element of the show is finally starting to pick up, and the several scenes involving Colin Farrell and Rachael McAdams show how good it can be when the season focuses more on the procedural aspect of its story, and less on artsy showing off. In terms of plot certain things remain a little hazy (exactly who was Stan again?) but at least events are actually occurring now. Additionally Vince Vaughan’s Frank is the best he’s been so far, as the actor is finally given some stronger material to showcase his potentially great performance.

And yet, for all of the positives that this episode displays, it still remains the case that this is something of a chore to get through. The writing, which was so masterful in the first season, is still overcooked and showy, and the characters are still not as enticing as they should be. Although maybe it would help if I could understand a word they were saying (seriously this mumblecore dialogue is trying my patience now).

It’s all well and good saying ‘Give it a little more time’, but we’re nearing the halfway mark now. Are we going to have to continue holding out for it to get better, even when we’re reaching the finale?

RATING: 5/10- As many have pointed out, it may still go on to improve. But as we near the halfway point, shouldn’t we be more engaged than this?

True Detective airs on Sky Atlantic on Monday at 9pm.

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