True Detective Season 2 Review: Don’t Look Back

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It’s finally over. One of 2014’s most promising new shows returned with a season that was a beautiful disaster. It almost always looked gorgeous while being unintentionally hilarious and incomprehensible.

The easiest way to break down this season is by character, since the plot didn’t actually make any sense. So let’s start with one that did work.

Aside from some odd initial characterization in the first two episodes, Ray (Colin Farrell) was easily the shining light of True Detective season two. Farrell played him powerfully, using emotion when he needed and not being afraid to ham it up for the ridiculous dialogue. Everything after Ray’s rebirth in “Maybe Tomorrow” was really strong. His complicated personal life and made for the season’s only interesting drama. His death in the finale may not have been totally earned (what’s his reason for giving up in the woods?), but it did at least make sense. Ray was the best thing about a bad season.

Another character that mostly worked was Paul (Taylor Kitsch). Like Ray, his initial characterization was off-putting. It took a lot longer for his character to come around, in fact, it probably only happened in “Black Maps and Motel Rooms,” the episode in which he died. But it’s 2015, and having a gay character’s main flaw be that he’s so unrelentingly homophobic was interesting. He eventually paid the ultimate price for it, which was a heavy but oddly satisfying punishment.

Far less interesting was Ani (Rachel McAdams), the cop who seriously needs to unclench her eyebrows. Aside from occasionally being a strong female character, there wasn’t a whole lot that was rewarding about her. Though I will admit that having her get away in the end felt just.

As boring as Ani could be, she never even came close to the level of dull that was Frank (Vince Vaughn). What could have been a deliciously psychotic performance from Vaughn became the actor’s most uninteresting work, and that includes The Internship. Frank’s story was frequently incomprehensible and all but unnecessary. His final demise was sort of fun, but only because it broke the show’s mold, not because of the character.

Ultimately, the season did have a more fulfilling ending than season one, only because it managed to tie the characters’ stories into the season’s overall story. The overall theme of corruption and not being able to beat it was very interesting too. Had it been explored in a more interesting way, season two could have easily surpassed its predecessor. But alas, what we got was unfulfilling and most of the time just boring. This will go down as one of the biggest failures of a once great show of our time. Grade: C

By Matt Dougherty

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