When the final curtain closed on True Detective season one, many who had followed the tale from the start, shambled down the halls of Carcosa in search of the Yellow King, and then found “the light” on the other side, likely felt a little wounded by the way it neatly wrapped up. Nihilistic Rust Cohle had broken down into a guy who just might have some thoughts for the higher power and people automatically got a sour taste in their mouth. At least that’s what it felt like when you read reactions online.
The True Detective season two memes still flowed, the praise was still there, but now there was a buzz that not all was as it seemed. Maybe this man, Nic Pizzolatto, who we held up as a genius was truly just a man after all, and his characters weren’t the pillars of television greatness, they were just characters. Good, fun characters.
I’ve written about them before on this site, in a semi-defensive look at season one and the theories surrounding it. I felt then that the show was being looked at via several odd, but very fun locations as opposed to just letting it tell its tale straight on.
That’s sort of how I feel about True Detective season two, but only in a new frame. Gone are the mystical locales of Louisiana, replaced by the sun drenched sterile underworld of California, represented by those puzzling overhead shots we love to poke fun at. Also gone is the duo, the buddy cop situation that worked well due to the actors involved and the opposing trajectories of their characters. Instead, in their place, we get four different types that viewers are trying to fit into the holes they believe should exist on the show, but they’re just not fitting.
At the end of the day, True Detective is now a show on its knees, desperately searching for the light that illuminated that final episode. And it’s having a lot of trouble finding it so far.
If you’ve read the coverage on this site or look at around at other critics on the Internet, there is a recurring theme that stems out about season two. It is confusing, it is too on the nose, it isn’t on the nose enough, the direction is different. Basically, it isn’t season one. That’s why the show has been doomed from the start. It was doomed from that season finale. It wasn’t going to live up to those incredible heights and it couldn’t outrun any of those swiftly moving storms that came rolling in.
One of the main issues seems to be creator Nic Pizzolatto. He’s gone from a talented writer on a series with overwhelming potential to an embattled writer that seems to have bought what everybody was selling about him and is now paying for it. And who can blame him? HBO planted the seeds by giving him a deal and folks helped nurse it with a healthy serving of praise. Praise he deserved to a point, but probably not in the way that the Internet and reviews seem to like to lather it on.
You can see a lot of that if you read through the Vanity Fair profile on Pizzolatto. There’s plenty that deserves to be there, there’s also evidence that it might’ve happened far too quickly when compared to the way it developed in the past:
The first season of True Detective was a freak. It ushered Nic, without prelude, to the first rank. Everything depends on what he does next, the second season, terrible or sublime. He actually referred to it as his “second album.”