Now that season two of True Detective has come to an end the reviews are out – and they aren’t great.
Season one was almost universally praised. The groundbreaking show had great storytelling, beautiful directing, and of course that crazy tracking shot. One of the few criticisms the show faced after season one was its treatment of female characters. With season two casting Rachel McAdams and hopefully solving its female character problem, there was a lot of expectation that season two would outshine the original. Critics aren’t so sure anymore (spoilers below).
Season two has been called crowded and too complicated long before the finale. With four main characters and a deep conspiracy plot, there was a lot going on that had to be wrapped up. By the end of the season, only one of the main characters remained alive.
Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh died at the end of the second to last episode. Colin Farrell’s Ray and Vince Vaughn’s Frank both tried to escape their fates but didn’t make it. Unable to flee from the mess they were a part of, both characters died during the season finale. Killing off characters seemed to be a way to tie up loose ends for season two. Neither Ray or Frank were able to finish what they wanted to do. Frank never made it out of the country with his wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly) and Ray didn’t run away with McAdams’ Ani.
Ani was the final main character standing and she was left with a son from Ray from their short-lived relationship. Many of the season’s mysteries were wrapped up but for many people it wasn’t done in a satisfying way. Ani gave the evidence she had collected over to a reporter and it’s left unclear if anyone will be taken down because of it. The winner of season two was corruption.
Variety‘s review found the season heavy on atmosphere but short on plot and mystery. Rolling Stone agreed – saying that the atmosphere was great but not enough to redeem the predictable plot that just didn’t draw in the audience. Others were even harsher on the sophomore season. Wired was left wishing the finale had been shorter and notes that it could not come close to season one, though arguably better than some other crime shows currently airing.
Not everyone found it to be an unsatisfying finale. Slate found the finale good even if it couldn’t completely redeem the season as a whole. Entertainment Weekly believes that a third season could still be great if creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto learns from this season’s mistakes.
Perhaps the biggest problem with season two has nothing to do with the show itself and is instead a problem with anthology series. It sets itself up to be compared with the show’s other seasons when it may be better judged alone. If season two was presented before season one, it may have fared better without the success of season one hanging over it.
Maybe Pizzolatto was shooting for a completely different audience with season two that let down fans of season one. Or maybe the storytelling just wasn’t a good. Regardless it will be interesting to see where season three goes should HBO believe in Pizzolatto again.