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Saturday, July 4, 2015

True Detective Season 2 is... awful, ok? It's really, REALLY, bad.

Taylor. f**king. Kitsch.

My HBO NOW subscription lapsed on Tuesday. Instead of feeling like I was about to loose an important part of my Sunday night, I thought "Good." Let's start with the new opening. Last season's was a soaring, yet bitter, country-blues ballad. I listened to it all the way through for every episode. Even my re-watch. But this year? This pretentious beat poetry B.S.? I had planned on giving S2 an unbiased shake, but immediately after a minute and a half of "I'm so dark and mysterious, you don't even KNOW!" I started making myself a drink.

Over the next 2 hours I would have 4.

Season 1 was interesting because it played around with the crazy outsider and abusive alcoholic cop archetypes. It didn't waste a second. Boom, here's a visually stunning serial murder site. Bang, our "hero" is a funny, nihilistic, wackjob. Bam, the central villain is called the Yellow King, he kidnaps runaway children and burns down churches. I DARE you not to watch the rest of that show.

The first episode slavishly sets up the 4 main characters, none of which are remotely interesting enough to carry the show on it's own. There is no Marty-esque straight man to react rationally to each character's $10 words and needless pontification. But even so, everyone is... fine. Ferrel's violent desperation to be a better father to his estranged son (who's clearly the product of his ex-wife's sexual assault) is compelling enough, but it feels like the story plays it's best hand too early and won't have anything left to say come episode 5. Oh, and Vaughn pointed him in the direction of the man who (possibly) did it 10 years prior. But now he's in too deep with Vaughn and... zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

McAdams is the hard line rookie detective who's got a screwy guru dad (David Morse!!!), way too much to prove to herself, and just pulled off a dead-end raid on what she thought was a prostitution ring. Again, she's fine, but has absolutely nothing to do for 2 episodes that involve emoting or reacting in any way. I was gonna give Vaughn his own paragraph but he has the same problems. Being the mobster turned legitimate business man, he's having trouble walking the line afte- zzzzzzzzz.

I'm sorry, but it's such a boring effing stock character. But I did love his monologue about his father locking him in the basement for 4 days. The show came alive for those 3 minutes.

And now, Kitsch. I've had a bone to pick with him ever since Friday Night Lights. He's not "bad" but in that show he was completely surrounded by actors miles out of his league. So was Minka Kelly and I skipped every scene they had together (You're the best, Netflix). This isn't the case here. Every main actor is meticulously set on the same level of pensive brood. No one stands out, so he isn't... exactly out shined. But when his character impotently begs to get back on his highway patrol bike, I believe him. This is his best work yet, but it's not enough. Not even close. I don't know how he landed this, but here we are.

The murder! Right, there's a murder. The guy had his eyes burned out and he was a keynote speaker on a proposed light rail constru- zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

You guys, I am so sorry. I promised I'd stop dozing off. But BirdMan is no Yellow King. The first season was always driving home themes of obsession and madness. Every character dealt with them in ways worth exploring. Rust Cohle was a dick, but I cared about him almost immediately. I don't give a flip what's happening to anyone in season 2. I haven't even bothered to look up their names on IMDB. This is all a sleepy modernization of Chinatown with nothing to say. Yet. I'd love to retract all this months down the line if it ever gets "gud." But... that's silly. That would be insanity.

S1 had a framing device and a driving, biting, mystery. 2 has no momentum whatsoever. I think Pizzolatto had years to write 1 and what's airing on Sunday nights now is a middling rough draft. It hurts to say that almost as much as it is draining to watch.

UPDATE: Oh! Oh! I forgot all about this little gem. Be more on the nose, True Detective soundtrack.

I dare you.

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