True Detective, Season 2

Once again a Facebook exchange prompts a blog post.  As before, about television.

The second season of True Detective completed its 8 episode run.  Over the eight weeks there was endless complaining to be found in TV coverage, on blogs, just about everywhere, that Season 2 was not up to par.  Now that the season has completed there are many more articles and posts damning just about everything about the show: the acting, the script, the direction, even the cinematography.

Perhaps the bar was too high, after Season 1, with such excellent acting by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.  It had a certain faux-buddy/cop-movie vibe about it, but in this case the buddies (sic) were deeply flawed individuals thrown together by chance but equally drven to see the investigation through to the end.  So even the early episodes' slow, plodding, excruciatingly minimalist exposition of the characters and their backstories were tolerable --even gripping-- due to the interplay and the acting of the two leads.

But even that, last year, fomented complaints.  It was too slow moving, the clues were phantasmagoric, the pace was maddening. But then the final two or three episodes saw a quickening of everything: the insight into the characters, the bevy of clues (all of which semed, until the very end, to have been planted like Easter eggs for the armchair detectives watching the proceedings), the changes in relationships as does truly occur over time.  And the grumblers slowly shed their protestatons as the pace and action quickened. By the time it came to a conclusion it was being heralded as the best television since HBO's The Wire.

How quickly True Detective fans forgot their Season 1 misgivings.  Along came Season 2.  A new story in a different location with a larger cast.  Three different cops, and a mobster in lead roles.  That's twice the main characters as in Season 1. Add to that many more exponentially related supporting characters (wives, fathers, children, past lovers) and a variety of backstories for all of them.

There was far more to take in, watching Season 2.  The reaction in many quarters (HitFlix, Slate, HuffPo, WaPo, etc.) was negative.  

As the season came to an endit was widely characterized as a failure.
But not everywhere. Here's what a friend posted on Facebook after watching the final episode of Season 2:

That finale was worth every minute of every confusing, poorly written and acted episode that came before.

I saw that and posted the following in reply:

I am not among those who whined, moaned and complained about season 2 of True Detective. The slow build, the methodical drawing out of back stories (including the final episode when Felicia's history and real occupation is revealed), and the use of the actual bad guys as purely devices that string together the rest of the story ... was to me a delight. The tangled and multi layered webs of deception and avarice, coupled with the tragic stories of those on the side of good (to serve and protect), made for a gripping and somewhat convoluted tale.

When John Le Carre penned novel after novel of intricate story with background, Easter eggs, subtle clues and references, few complaints were heard.

In this case it was not international spy intrigue. The intertwined various enforcement agencies' top brass with their individual or common interests at heart, albeit while using and abusing the lead characters, was not so far afield of the politics and debauchery that goes on. Power corrupting, and horrific events of different sorts hovering like shadows or an albatross around the necks of each of the cops was depicted with steadiness and the real pain of how those affect and inhabit peoples' lives.

Not the simple, pat television sort of exposition in which problems arise and are over within a commercial break or two. Or sometimes over a brief arc. No, in this season there were not pat solutions, no saviours riding in on a white horse.

Or wearing a white dress in a Venezuelan townsquare.

Vince Vaughan's portrayal of an up and comer of a mob boss, yet stuck in that tier where dependencies and those above and below prevent emancipation, was spot on. He added a human factor to a role so often mired in stereotype.

Those with patience and an appreciation of good writing, character and plot development, and well directed acting got to enjoy a superb series. Those who did not appreciate it can complain their hearts out.

It was excellent television IMHO.