Review by Mike Bax
HBO Home Entertainment
I don’t know what I enjoyed more about True Detective’s Second Season – the massive amount of internet hatred the show mustered up as it originally aired, or the actual show itself. The internet vitriol got so bad midway through the second season that I had to go out of my way to avoid reading about the show online and take it in week by week, formulating my own opinions about the series.
Sure, yes, it’s not as good as season one. Season one was indeed phenomenal stuff. The bar was set exceptionally high. With that said, True Detective season two was still a virtuoso blend of cinematics, storytelling and acting that delivered many moments of quality television. Ignore all of the pissing and moaning about the second season you may or may not have already heard and go into this season with an open mind. It’s a pretty amazing eight-episode arc, full of highs and lows sure to keep you guessing until the season wraps up. Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, Kelly Reilly and Vince Vaughn all deliver great performances while playing deeply flawed individuals. I personally found it a bit hard to look at Vince Vaughn without expecting him to drop a funny through most of his scenes, but that is simply because I’ve never really seen him to a dramatic role before. He was great in all eight of these episodes. Nic Pizzolatto is back as chief writer and the creative force behind True Detective. Season one director Cary Joji Fukunaga (who directed the entire first season) is not here this time around, and the direction is divided up between six directors new to the series giving the episodes a saturated ‘California’ feel.
We are no longer in Louisiana following homicide detectives Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin “Marty” Hart (Woody Harrelson). Season Two’s story takes place in California and centers on a case that interweaves officers from three police departments, each with their own unique trust issues. The crux of the story follows California Highway Patrol officer (and war veteran) Paul Woodrugh (Kitsch) discovering the body of a corrupt city manager (Ben Caspere) on the side of a highway. Vinci Police Department detective Raymond “Ray” Velcoro (Farrell) and Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division Sergeant Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides (McAdams) are called in to assist in the investigation.
The entire first episode slowly sets up this scenario, with the final shot being the three police investigators sizing each other up over the crime scene. Unbeknownst to these three detectives, career criminal Francis “Frank” Semyon (Vaughn) has been working hard to legitimize his business dealings, and had fronted the majority of his wealth over to the now deceased Ben Caspere. An angry Frank Semyon, unsure of the standing of his capitol with Caspere dead, starts his own investigation. We quickly learn that Detective Ray Velcoro and Frank Semyon have had past dealings, throwing Velcoro’s integrity into some uncertainty for the duration of the show.
There’s MUCH more to the story than this. Daddy issues, corruption, sexual tension and some pretty crazy violence abound (including a point-of-view street level gunfight during episode four that impressed the hell out of me) as each of these characters digs further into the Ben Caspere murder, culminating in a revealing and satisfying conclusion to a storyline that I feel is on par with its season one predecessor.
True Detective: The Complete Second Season is available now on Digital HD, with the Blu-ray being released on January 5th, 2016. I was provided with an early release of the Blu-ray, which comes with a dissection of The Vinci Massacre (the aforementioned gun fight), a look Inside True Detective featuring interviews with all of the major actors, a lovely aerial montage of California set to a score by T Bone Burnett, and audio commentaries on two episodes by Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, Kelly Reilly, Vince Vaughn, Nic Pizzolatto and executive producer Scott Stephens. The amazing DTS sound, and crisp high definition picture captured on the Blu-ray set is a genuine thing of beauty in and of itself.
Don’t fall in with the haters before giving this amazing series a chance on your own to formulate your own opinions. True Detective: The Complete Second Season is a downbeat piece of crime-noir that deftly built its way up to the series finale in fine form. I enjoyed watching it even more the second time around.