Calm Down, True Detective Will Still Be AwesomePosted: September 24, 2014
True Detective was one of the major zeitgeist-capturing stories told so far this year, so even with the next season starting from scratch with an all-new yarn, it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of enthusiasm and scrutiny. Unfortunately it’s also not surprising that the recent news regarding the cast- Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn- and crew- Fast & Furious director Justin Lin- has lead to more complaints and concerns than anything else. So here I am to tell everyone once again to chill the fuck out.
So far, we only have a general idea of what the story is, described by HBO as a “story that follows three police officers and a career criminal who will navigate a web of conspiracy in the aftermath of a murder.” It sounds like a more sprawling, multi-headed narrative a la LA Confidential, and the limited info we have has garnered comparisons to Chinatown as well. But in spite of the fact that writer Nic Pizzolatto seems intent on telling an absolutely different story than the Yellow King Mystery, it feels like everyone is letting the specifics of that season dictate their expectations of what this new season will be like. I feel like the absolute last thing anyone should be doing is expecting True Detective Season Two to be anything at all like True Detective Season One. And this misstep, combined with preconceived notions of the aforementioned new additions, are what’s driving a lot of people towards premature judgments here.
Let’s start with Colin Farrell. Am I the only one who remembers his stellar work with Martin McDonagh on In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths? What about Tigerland? Minority Report? Hell, even in stuff like Horrible Bosses he can be great. The biggest problem that Colin Farrell has had in his career is that Hollywood keeps trying to turn him into a Movie Star, when it seems his acting instincts tend to drift more towards twisted, offbeat, character-actor work. To me that makes him a great fit for True Detective; Pizzolatto needs performers who are willing to embrace the weird, the dark, the tragic, and Farrell seems to be a performer well-suited to all of that, while still looking like a “leading man”. If anything, the biggest problem with Farrell is that he fits the bill for this show TOO well. It’s akin to Benedict Cumberbatch doing Dr. Strange: great, but obvious. But I’m fine with that.
Then there’s Vince Vaughn, and… well yeah, I get it. But at the same time, the WTF factor of his casting makes me more excited for this character. On paper, it sounds like someone that James Gandolfini could have played in his sleep, but Vaughn playing him immediately paints a much more bizarre picture… and in the world of True Detective, bizarre is good. Furthermore, Vaughn’s sad sack appearance and his sarcastic delivery could easily fit into this kind of world. Imagine a crook who stumbled his way to the top, and keeps up his wiseass persona to hide his fear of failing and ending up in a ditch. More to the point, imagine his character from Swingers if he fell in with bad people and ended up living a life of crime. Whether or not Vaughn can pull all of this off is another question, but his involvement alone is intriguing to me, not disappointing. And by the by, if McConnaughey had done True Detective in 2010 instead of 2014, would it have been any more surprising than Vaughn doing this now? Just sayin’.
Finally there’s Justin Lin, and this is where the biggest concern arrives. But it’s not even Lin himself that bothers me; while his filmography has been far less prestigious than Cary Fukunaga’s, he’s still a capable filmmaker. Skipping past his Fast & Furious movies (which have been generally been wayyyy better than they had any right to be), his episodes of Community were terrific, and if you don’t think directing Community is as artistically intensive as directing True Detective then you’re just an idiot. The biggest issue is that Lin is only directing the first two episodes, and not the whole season, which runs the risk of losing the visual consistency and distinctiveness that helped the first season stand out so much.
Aside from the thought of William Friedkin directing a whole season of True Detective (he was rumored at some point I believe, and would’ve been a great choice), I would’ve been intrigued to see Lin do the whole season himself; it’d be interesting to see what he would’ve done if given the opportunity. Admittedly this is probably part of the reason they hired Lin in the first place. Once it was decided to not have one director for the whole season, it made more sense to get a less “auteur-ish” director to kick things off, so the subsequent directors would have an easier time maintaining the look of the show. This is one case where it seems HBO has traded in one of the defining strengths of Season One for the sake of expediency and cost-cutting, and that might be the biggest threat to Season Two’s quality.
In summation, I remain excited for True Detective Season Two. I’m excited to see the two remaining major characters cast (one of them a woman, thankfully) and I’m sure that it will be another solid run of television. And again, I think it’s important that we not use Season One as a signpost for our expectations here. We can compare them in terms of quality or structure or whatever, but we shouldn’t necessarily look for the same stylistic, thematic or tonal elements, because who knows how far afield Pizzolatto is going from last season. As always, my advice is to keep ourselves open-minded, and err on the side of optimism until we’ve been given reason not to