How To Approach ‘True Detective’ Season 2

Above: Colin Farrell leads the new cast of True Detective.
Above: Colin Farrell leads the new cast of True Detective.

HBO’s True Detective returns this Sunday with an all new story, aesthetic, and all-star cast. The hit series premiered with much fanfare and critical acclaim when it graced our screens in January of 2014. Powered by enthralling plot turns and a foreboding gothic setting, the show soared with career-invigorating performances by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. After much anticipation, Nic Pizzolatto yet again holds all of the pieces to deliver another hit season.

Following the first white-knuckle finale, fans immediately went into speculation-mode. We wanted to know what was next for the dark and nihilistic world Pizzolatto had crafted. We had heard news of a thematic continuation, one that would once again, incorporate the occult. We were lead to believe a number of things, but we had no idea what to believe. Executives and Pizzolatto himself, later confirmed a departure from the show’s format. He would be straying away from the Yellow King and eliminating the anthology aspect. While there was a relative hush on specifics, details still trickled in. A rough premier date was set and casting rumours began to swirl. Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Taylor Kitsch, and Rachel McAdams were all names tossed around before each of them were finally confirmed to star.

True Detective‘s fandom is relatively problematic for its new season. The issue with mounting another run of episodes, is that after such cultural success, there of course comes expectation. At this stage, the expectation seems to have been set uncomfortably high. Even if your find yourself cautiously optimistic for Sunday’s viewing, your subconscious has cemented a base level of expectation. We cannot go into the second season of True Detective expecting the same results. The previous season was so amazing, partially because the viewers went into a completely fresh experience. When we watch the show, it’s best to sit with a blank slate. Having been aware of this factor, Pizzolatto distanced the legacy of his franchise by creating a separate story in a seemingly distant world. When he could have just reused ideas, the now sophomore showrunner set out to challenge his fans, just as much as he’s challenging himself. We know the lens will follow another set of homicide detectives, and it’ll likely present another philosophical analysis of the human psyche, but it will do so disparately. This factor shouldn’t seem discouraging, either. Why would we want the same format to be executed all over again? Isn’t it better to cherish what we had and be excited for more amazing storytelling? In fact, we should no longer focus on what we want replicated from Rust and Marty’s experience, but hold the show accountable if they pull similar narrative tropes.

The new cast is facing an incredible amount of pressure. Way back when, Harrelson and McConaughey committed to a project that was hardly on our radar. Farrell, Vaughn, Kitsch and McAdams are in a much different boat. Their main advantage, however, exists in numbers. While the original story rested on the shoulders of two A-list actors, the second season is indebted to four. All four of which are equally seasoned, and up for a challenge. While we are familiar with what Farrell can bring, it’s harder to be convinced by the others. It’s this general uncertainty that makes any actor hungry to prove their acumen. Vince Vaughn enters the fray with limited dramatic credits, and Kitsch is recovering from a handful of box office failures. Rachel McAdams is serviceable, but she’s yet to be handed something with this much meat. These actors know what they signed up for, and giving it their all, is the only acceptable outcome. Each brings a different level of intrigue, and if executed justly, their contribution can do wonders to any, and all of their careers.

True Detective has the benefit, and subsequent disadvantage, of being an annual mini-series. We loved the show, it’s time to love the franchise. If we’re able to accept each addition as something new, it will have the ability to succeed. This cannot be a series that lives in the shadow of its previous incarnation. Nic Pizzolatto is gifting us with an elongated crime saga, a truly gritty and original drama. The hype for this season has only lead to more question marks. We can combat pending disappointment by approaching the show as we did in 2014. This should be viewed as a new show, with a new cast, supported by the same incredible writer. True Detective was always Nic Pizzolatto’s show, it was simply aided by terrific performances. When we remove our expectation, we set up everyone involved with the ability to wow us. Who knows, we may even enjoy this season more than the last.

Aidan D'Aoust

Aidan is a writer from Toronto. His favourite things in the world are music, movies, and mini dachshunds. Give him a follow on Twitter at @aidandaoust, where he’ll also accept your mixtape submissions.

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