My Biggest Disappointment of 2015: 'True Detective' Season Two

Season two of 'True Detective' let us down in a big way.

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2015 was a year of pop culture joy, but also of deep disappointment for the Complex Pop Culture squad. This week, we'll each share what was our greatest pop culture disappointment of the year. 

Long before Frank “your best self is your worst self” Semyon’s banal musings were shoved down our throats on a week-by-week basis, many in the TV streets were already prepared to hate-watch True Detective season two. This contingent loathed season one and thought the praise heaped upon it was underserved. Season two, they expected, would only validate doubts of Nic Pizzolatto “genius.”

I was not one of these people.

True D season two was my greatest letdown of 2015 because I made the mistake of coming into it with high expectations. I was lost in the sauce, blinded to the fact that season one succeeded (I do still think it was great) in spite of Nic P and his “genius.” Take away the extraordinary vision of Cary Fukunaga and the the super-magnet that was the McConnaissance, and what do you have? The unfettered shitshow that was season two.

Ideally, TDS2 would have been a chance for Vince Vaughn to emerge from his 10-year stay in the rinse cycle and a high point in Colin Farrell's up-and-down career. And Rachel McAdams would have been the strong, Bechdel-approved female character season one so glaringly omitted. But their efforts were drowned out by Nic P’s clunky, eye-roll-inducing dialogue and convoluted mystery. Poor Vince, especially, never had a shot. Just look at the lines the Ernest Hemingway wannabe made him recite. There’s not an actor alive who could have delivered these try-hard zingers, heavy-handed metaphors, and tidbits of dick-swinging philosophy masquerading as wisdom:

  • “That's one off the list. A Mexican standoff with actual Mexicans.”

  • “Someone hit the fucking warp drive and I'm trying to navigate through the blur”

  • “Never do anything out of hunger. Even eating.”

  • “All my life I’ve been bringing knives to gun fights. And now that I’ve got a gun the whole world’s switched back to knives.”

  • “A good woman mitigates our baser tendencies.”

Those are actual words written for and aired on an HBO Sunday night drama! And you know what the network did after we made fun of them all summer? They gave dude another overall deal to keep him around until 2018. Homeboy has a pass to weave more cobwebs of mystery in a third season of True Detective or a brand new struggle entity.

Cliffsnotes could have cleared up the confusion, but studying up would have required enough intrigue to make a couple of clicks—something this eight-episode journey by train couldn’t accomplish. By the time of the Big Reveal it was hard to care who’d been screwing over Frank and trying to sabotage our true detectives’ investigation. The trail took a few steps too many through the mayor’s office, a jewelry store, a commune, a giant sex party filled with old white dicks, a film set run by a Cary Fukunaga doppleganger, and a meth lab housed in a building impressively/impossibly resistant to chemical explosions. Following the plot was like getting stuck into a conversation with someone (Ray Velcoro?) who’s coked out.

The many twists and turns may have been pulled together more masterfully had there been a single director throughout the season, but the perfect man for the job moved on to write and direct Beasts of No Nation. Instead we had a rotating cast of six directors, with only Justin Lin and John Crowley returning for more than one episode. Fukunaga’s haunting, decaying bayou and tense, nihilistic mood were even more essential than we realized.

Casting away season one in hindsight isn’t necessary, but our lesson of the year, children, is to be wary of all things Nic P going forward. Fukunaga still hasn’t watched TDS2, which is his next greatest decision after letting his former partner torch himself.

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