Why All the Bad News About True Detective is Actually Good News

Like all television shows that appeal to the intellectual and the obsessive, True Detective has gathered itself a menagerie of obsessive fans, the sort that remind you that fan is derived from the word fanatic.  I’m not referring to the people who are excited for another season, or the ones who have watched the first season and liked it a lot, or even the ones who watched the first season two or three times already.  I’m referring to the wild ones, the ones who argue in internet forums, who watch for any hints at what the next season will be of their favorite thing, and then proceed to panic and criticize every piece of news they get.

These kinds of fans aren’t unique to True Detective.  They’re the same kinds of fans who lose their minds every time Game of Thrones deviates from its source material.  They’re the ones who are going crazy over Jared Leto’s Joker (based on one photograph), who went crazy over Heath Ledger’s Joker (before they had seen or heard anything), and who are still upset over the idea of Ben Affleck as Batman.

But, yes, the upcoming season of True Detective is at the receiving end of endless angst, concern, and advanced criticism from the same people who loved the first season.  And those obsessive fans are quite likely wrong about everything.  

1. Collin Farrell is an incredible actor.  For those who doubt this, I recommend watching In Bruges.  It’s hard to argue that Farrell is anything but excellent in that film.  If not satisfied with that, or if doubting his ability to play diverse characters, recall his performance in Phone Booth.  Sure, the premise is pretty simple, but the guy can act.

This movie is good, and he is good in it.
This movie is good, and he is good in it.

2. Vince Vaughn is also an incredible actor.  He has a range of emotion and some stellar acting abilities, regardless of the fact that he has often played the same character.  Sure, it’s hard to recall what sets apart Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers from Vince Vaughn in Dodgeball.  But all that means is that he has a tendency to be typecast.  And it’s fairly obvious that Vaughn hasn’t been cast as “the loveable, down-on-his-luck oaf who has some rakish qualities but is still pretty much a nice guy and just has to overcome some obstacles” like, well, the character he almost always plays.  No, in this he’s “a criminal and entrepreneur in danger of losing his life’s work.”  If your concern with him is that he’s always the same person, well, that’s not a valid complaint anymore.  Now remember that Vaughn was in Swingers and Into the Wild and Thumbsucker, all excellent films in which his performance shone.

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen Thumbsucker, which also might be the best Keanu Reeves movie:

3. Rachel McAdams is also an incredible actor.  Evidence: Midnight in Paris, Mean Girls, The Notebook, Wedding Crashers, State of Play.  You don’t have to like all those movies, but you should admit that she is consistently excellent in them, and that they display her wide array of acting abilities.

4. These talented actors will give their best performances possible.  HBO is known for drawing in talented, A-list actors and getting some of the best performances of their careers out of them.  They will not cut corners on writing, directing, editing, or any of the other things that make TV shows and movies bad.  Consider Zack Galifinakis: while the Hangover movies typecast him as the Rainman-esque comic relief, his performance and character in HBO’s Bored to Death is arguably the most realistic, compelling role of his career.

5. The setting is interesting and unusual.   Another common complaint out there is that it will be disappointing because it’s set in California, and most assume that means Los Angeles.  But writer Nic Pizzolatto said the second season will be set in “the places that don’t get much press and where you wouldn’t normally set a television show,” which includes Big Sur and other parts of California between LA and San Francisco.

6. Same writer as Season One.  We have to remember that the reason McConaughey had such great lines in Season One is that someone wrote those great lines and, yes, it’s the same writer, Nic Pizzolatto, for Season Two.  The quotes from him in the other points in this blog post are from his recently-published interview on Medium.

7. It will be character driven, just like Season One.  I am a firm believer that most complaints about TD Season One can be disregarded based on one reality: True Detective is, first and foremost, about its characters.  Telling the story of the protagonists in a realistic, compelling, interesting way is the primary focus on the first season, and it will be the focus of Season Two as well, based on Pizzolatto’s statement that  there were certain themes he discarded “in favor of closer character work and a more grounded crime story,” and that the “characters are ultimately what have to shape the world and story.”

It will be sad not having these two around.
It will be sad not having these two around.

8. Multiple directors is a normal thing, and a good thing, for a television show.  One of the unique elements of Season One of TD is that every episode was directed by the same director, Cary Fukunaga.  This was exaggerated and clickbaited into a bigger deal than it actually was, with one great example being when a Forbes blogger declared that “True Detective Will Change the Way You Watch Television” because it didn’t use multiple directors during its eight episodes, but rather had every episode directed by Fukunaga.   My point is that it’s actually a good thing for them to abandon the effort attempted with Season One, as it’s not realistic, very unusual, and entirely unnecessary.  True Detective is a great television show, yes, but it’s not as good as Man Men, Breaking Bad, or The Wire.  And when fans suggest that switching directors between episodes will somehow weaken the themes?  This is just hyperbole and intentional outrage, the kind reserved for people who troll the internet looking for things to make them angry.

9. The lack of “occult” materials is a positive.  I found myself wondering what exactly people were talking about when they said that the second season be about the “secret occult history of the U.S. transportation system.”  When it was revealed that it would no longer be about that (during the same interview mentioned and linked-to before), I took it to be a good thing.  My hope, and it sounds that this is the case, is that the biggest links between the first and second seasons of True Detective, in terms of content, are that it is a show primarily concerned with telling compelling stories about realistic characters.  I have trouble with the idea that the compelling stories it should tell should necessarily be compelling occult stories, and so it was a relief to hear that would no longer be an element.

Regardless of whether each of these nine points are correct or not, we will find out on June 21st, when the second season begins.  Until then, we can only remain calm and trust that the people in charge of this know what they’re doing.

Enjoy this?  Try Why All the Bad News About Game of Thrones is Actually Good News.

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