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'True Detective': "We Get The World We Deserve"
June 20, 2015  | By Eric Gould  | 1 comment

The new season of True Detective has some sophomore issues after its smash premiere season but really, how could it not? Nominated for 12 Emmy awards (winning five) and writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto accepting Writers Guild of America awards for Best Drama and Best New Series, the bar was set astonishingly high — and it’s not a surprise that Season Two would be judged first by how it stacks up against the 2014 debut.

And so, watching the first two episodes released by HBO for review, the question, of course, is exactly what will Pizzolatto and new director Justin Lin do with the crime anthology in the wake of last year’s killing mashup of melancholy and mayhem?

The short answer is, not change too much. True Detective, returning for eight episodes on Sunday night on HBO, 9 p.m., ET, with a new cast, new story and (rats) a new theme song, is still very much wrapped around the things that made the original: grim characters plagued by a nihilistic world and by their own demons, a killer on the loose, long portending aerial shots of the corrupt city below and, again, rom-com stars going against type.

While it’s maybe lacking last year’s dysfunctional duo, Marty Hart and Rust Cohle (Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey), the new True Detective characters continue to channel much of Pizzolatto’s brooding zeitgeist with their best mumblecore.

Sunday night’s premiere relocates True Detective from the Louisiana swamp to the industrial wasteland of fictional Vinci, California, just outside of L.A., to find gangster Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn, top) attempting to go legit. He’s moving his casino holdings into land deals that will profit from new public transit projects planned to run through them. Vaughn, in his best street-tinged accent, tells a prospective investor, “Our grandchildren won’t even know where the money came from."

Semyon has detective Ray Velcoro unwillingly in his pocket to do his periodic bidding. Velcoro (Colin Farrell in full pornstache, left) is a functional drunk, violent, and divorced. He’s also the loving, but sadly under-achieving, dad of a young boy who’s generally afraid of him. (Abigail Spencer from Rectify shows up in Episode Two as Ray’s ex Alicia).

Velcoro's a wash-up and a mess, but stumbles his way onto a special task force when one of Semyon’s business partners, a Vinci city manager, shows up dead, Pizzolatto-style, eyes burned out with acid. 

In the style of the Cohle and Hart misfit pairing, Velcoro is thrown together with an odd lot of detectives to see if the vic’s connection to Semyon goes to the mayor's office or beyond.

Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams, below) is a divorced, hard-boiled sheriff’s detective with a military ankle knife and long roots showing from her last coloring. She a tough chick with a tough past and seems perpetually coiled to throw a right cross. Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) is a motorcycle CHiP who’s goes on the case when he’s put on leave for a traffic stop gone haywire and seemingly with a bit of his own to hide.

Rounding out the group here as Velcoro’s partner, is W. Earl Brown, fresh off his role as the victim’s father in this year’s triumphant American Crime. Brown, in perhaps the most ill-fitting suit ever to come out of wardrobe, is as cynical and slovenly a TV detective as ever imagined.

Conspicuously missing here — and perhaps intentionally — are the existential quips by Hart and Cohle last season that were True Detective’s trademark and Monday morning’s water cooler fun.

Together, the group starts to unravel the world of the victim, who had an extensive erotic art collection and a trail of dates with young prostitutes behind him. No one in the True Detective universe — not the cops, the suspects or the victims — is pure. They’re all sullied, more likely from within, and have to settle for Pizzolatto’s godless universe — a hardscrabble world with a California landscape strangled in colorless snakes of concrete expressways, and a droning soundtrack that’s more grim pulse than it is music. As Velcoro mutters early on “My strong suspicion is that we get the world we deserve."

For fans of the series, that’s a plus although at times True Detective relies more on its style than substance. But Pizzolatto seems content to let Season Two build its own house — still using the same bricks and mortar that made Season One. 

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Chris M
I liked the first episode...a lot of broken characters! but what is REALLY lame is using a fictional city! ---totally unnecessary. But IF necessary, VINCI? Really? that is just ridiculous! An Italian city in southern CA? Lame!
Jun 22, 2015   |  Reply
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