True Detective Season 2: Successful depression with a few failures

SPOILERS: don’t read if you haven’t finished watching season two.

I seem to be among a limited number of people who enjoyed season 2 of True Detective. I say enjoyed but the show was all about immersing you in the compulsive nihilistic experience of fighting against a mind set and system to which you personally proscribe and continue to support. The character’s were appropriately messed up, fighting inner demons as terrible as the corruption that surrounded them. The tragedy of Paul Woodrugh’s death is it became an apparently convenient resolution to the difficult problems of his sexuality, child and mother.
The intersection of the four characters was important but gave an authentic sense of continued misunderstanding. We never really know each other and we find our own lives difficult to manage. When you add the oppressive faceless presence of corruption, I think we ended up with a gripping, if not hugely depressive experience.

The biggest success has to be the names. Ray Velcoro, Ani Bezzerides, Frank Semyon and Paul Woodrugh. Clearly created to send Google into fits of self-doubt as the difficult spellings typed by thousands every day. I’m not even sure I have them spelt correctly.

My biggest problem with the series was the cheap way that Frank and Ray were killed. I must first state that both men were doomed. In other situations Ray was instrumental in supporting other characters in time of need, but his journey into the mountains with Frank was assassination pure and simple. It was vendetta and revenge. Oh yes and greed.

So Ray. Killed because he made the mistake of forming a bond with his son and continued to struggle with his own feelings of inadequacy as a father. And then because he was trying to protect Ani. By itself I could just about accept his death were it not for the tracker from the Incredibly Obvious Surveillance Device store, circa 1988. To begin with I’m thinking bomb. He can’t see the people following so why not take the cash and run? Nonsense.

And Frank. Killed by Mexicans because they are Mexican. The Google translation of Mexican is apparently violent crazy mother…you get the picture. It was a cheap plot twist. I can see that the Mexicans didn’t like him, but they were plot devices not characters, which would be ok if the series has not just made us spend 8 episodes investing in this character. And there were other questions. Surely Frank would go out fighting rather than let himself get taken to the desert, and how in hell did they find him? Maybe they cut a scene: Mexician’s in truck driving through White Castle. One says ‘Hey ese, is that Frank?’ The other one replies, ‘Yeah, lets take him to the desert where we have that grave already dug.’ Frank deserved a death that was written better. Vince Vaughn did his best with desert hallucinations and it wasn’t great.

The season is done. Can we expected more? Maybe. The actors probably won’t be as famous, but all the hype that has been created and all the rubbish that his been written (a twitter storm of plot confusion is still a twitter storm) means we are likely to get a True Detective Season 3. And I look forward to it.

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2 thoughts on “True Detective Season 2: Successful depression with a few failures

  1. It was a disappointment. Your post is actually pretty good in explaining some of the failures. For me, I was never engaged. I didn’t care about the characters. Maybe a little but maybe the story needed more than eight episodes to tell it all. You can tell the plot was really complex but I was never immersed in this world. The romance between Ani and Ray felt tacked on and their moments together felt cringe-worthy. The dialogue in this series was also cringe-worthy. The material just wasn’t all that great, given the performances of the actors which were really good. The death of the city manager wasn’t really the main focus after all. It was the corruption. His death just signal boosted the problems.

    The deaths of Ray and Frank were not very good as you articulated. I could think of a lot of different scenarios Ray could have tried before deciding to drive to his death in the Red Wood Forest. Add insult to injury, he was the boy’s father and his voice memo failed. Depressing.

    Frank’s death was supposed to be a surprise I guess, getting killed by an enemy he forgot he had. The hallucinations and the bleed out were cringe-worthy and mock-worthy. My sister when she watched just couldn’t and forwarded up the entire scene. The ending, where Ani is telling a journalist about the corruption and then her and Frank’s wife go off into the sunset seemed kind of weird. I don’t know. I’m glad you enjoyed it and don’t begrudge anyone that. I expected more than I got and that’s on me I guess.

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    1. It was successfully depressing, which isn’t exactly entertaining. I feel sorry for Vince Vaughn having to negotiate those hallucination but as you suggested the characters just weren’t engaging. Maybe we can hope for a better season 3. Thanks.

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