"True Detective" Season 2 Episode 1 Review


An avid “True Detective” fan told me that while he was excited for the new season, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson just couldn’t be beat; Detective Rust Cohle and Marty Hart were simply too perfect, and even the most impressive cast and new story wouldn’t match the previous season. Season 2 premiered last night, and it confirms what my friend pointed out and what many would agree with: “True Detective” will not be the same.


            Episode One, “The Western Book of the Dead”, takes place in several cities in Los Angeles County, California; most prominently “Vinci” City and focuses on four different main characters. Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) is a real estate entrepreneur and a white-collar criminal, although we have reason to believe he has had a more hands-on, violent past. Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) is a police detective within Vinci City. As apparent from episode one, Velcoro was once an honest lawman but has sunken into depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and corruption after a family tragedy. Detective Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) is a similarly dark character. She isn’t corrupt, but may be an alcoholic and most certainly has family issues that contribute to her lone wolf, detached attitude. Finally, Officer Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) is the cleanest of the bunch. He is dedicated to a fault, yet is clearly troubled by his past. His bodily scars and ex-military history are good places to look for his current post-traumatic symptoms within the show.


            These dark characters are all drawn together through the disappearance and murder of the Vinci City Manager, Ben Caspar. This particular character is not actually shown on screen with a pulse, however we can put together that he is involved with Mr. Semyon in orchestrating a sketchy, California railway deal. His disappearance causes issues for Semyon, who must convince investors of the proposition’s adherence with the state government.  Velcoro is assigned to investigate Caspar's disappearance by his commanding officer. When Velcoro searches Caspar’s house he finds a disheveled residence filled with pornographic artwork, sex toys, and a very creepy, Aleister Crowley inspired costume. Caspar’s body turns up on the side of the highway propped up on a park bench. The man to stumble upon him is none other than Paul Woodrugh, who pulls off onto the side of the road during an intense motorcycle ride in the pitch black of the night. He reports the corpse to the police; the episode ends with Velcoro and Bezzerides at the scene of the discovery.


            The episode is filled with a lot of character development. Much of which is dark and depressing. The plot moves fast and the viewer is challenged to catch every little shard of information that comes flying across the screen. The characters all seem to struggle with deep-rooted, emotional issues that will define the tone of the show.


            The creator and writer of “True Detective”, Nic Pizzolatto, knew what my friend knew. Any follow up to McConaughey and Harrelson would be a disappointment. Pizzolatto himself grew up in and around New Orleans; the first season of “True Detective” was so natural and automatic that any kind of extension would seem artificial and forced. For that very reason, Pizzolatto has decided to take the show on a veritably different path. The first episode features a similar opening to the old season, as well as the familiar panning landscape shots, except now the camera peers over Southern California instead of the Louisiana bayou. This new setting in California provides a fresh canvas, and the new characters are different colors for him to paint. I don’t know how the rest of the season will turn out. But after one episode I can say for sure that Pizzolatto’s writing is just as dark as before, the acting is just as good and the plot is far more cerebral. In all, “True Detective” is back and it’s a whole new ordeal. I can’t wait for the story to unfold.