April 24, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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True Detective “The Western Book Of The Dead”

Season Two, Episode One.

Man, talk about your sophomore slump!

So, something happened to True Detective between seasons. Much of what happened wasn’t necessarily a surprise. The series was intended as an anthology, so the new cast, mystery, and setting were all part of the premise.

But after the fantastic, binge-worthy first season, season two is a heck of a let-down. I’m not sure why that is.

Part of it may just be the absence of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart. Both McConaughey and Harrelson are listed as executive producers, but that doesn’t mean they actually did anything. And it’s not as if any of the new actors are necessarily bad. Miscast in a noteworthy exception (more on that in a bit), but no one is outright bad at the whole “acting” thing. However, none of the new characters have that crazy-eyed charisma of Rust Cohle ending the first episode by telling his interrogators to ask the right questions.

Heck, much of season two’s opener seems to be set up to go the opposite way of season one. Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro is being interrogated at almost the start of the episode, but it doesn’t last long, and his interviewer is a lawyer helping him get some more visitation rights for his son. And long, interesting, philosophical conversations in a car are cut off almost immediately by Rachel McAdams’ Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides telling her partner she doesn’t want to talk about much of anything in the car.

Good on creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto wanting to not stick to the same story as before, but it still doesn’t work as well this time.

Is the problem that Cary Fukunaga isn’t directing every episode again? That created a cohesiveness for the first season. Even that could have been avoided, but the episodes of season two have multiple directors, so that cohesion is lost.

Heck, Pizzolatto got a co-writer on some episodes.

Is the problem that Pizzolatto doubled the number of major characters to follow? We don’t have just Rust and Marty and their individual problems. Instead, we have Ray, Ani, Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh, and Vince Vaughn’s Frank Semyon all needing screen time to develop into characters we might theoretically if not care about, at least be interested in following for the next eight weeks.

Or maybe the problem is Vince Vaughn may have many talents as an actor, but a crime lord trying to go straight may be too far out of his wheelhouse to pull off. One episode in and it just doesn’t work.

Now, I tried watching this when it first came out. I really did. But I never really got into what was happening. The characters were too vaguely defined to be interesting, the mystery didn’t make a heck of a lot of sense compared to a back-bayou serial killer, and then we still had Vince Vaughn.

But I always try to finish what I started, so we’ll see how it turns out. So far, we have three cops from three different departments all getting involved in a murder. Corrupt cop Ray works for the town of Vinci, California’s police department, where he works for both the corrupt town officials and for the aforementioned crime lord. Why the crime lord? Years earlier, Ray’s now ex-wife had been raped, and he wanted the name of the man who did it. The son he wants more custody of may not even be biologically his. He’s never gotten the boy’s paternity checked and doesn’t seem to want to. He’s also fairly burnt out and a heavy drinker.

Ani works for the county as a Criminal Investigation Division officer at the rank of Sergeant. She has a drinking habit of her own, anger issues, a gambling problem, a sister she doesn’t like involved with porn and a father who appears to be a new age drop-out. She seems to be working all over the place doing everything from checking for missing persons to serving eviction notices.

Paul is a California Highway Patrolman. He’s technically suspended when he finds the body. He has some scars he doesn’t want to talk about, did a stint in the army he doesn’t want to talk about, was suspended when a woman he didn’t look twice at claimed he solicited her for sex to get out of a ticket, and he may be gay for all I know. He took some kind of pill before going out to pleasure his girlfriend, and it might explain a few things.

Whose body did Paul find? Vinci City Manager Ben Caspere. Caspere had disappeared a day or two before. His corpse, eyes burnt out, was found on the side of the road sitting on a bench in the middle of the night. He was partnering with Frank Semyon on an investment in a new California high speed rail. Semyon was looking to use this investment to go straight and have legitimate money for a change. Caspere had disappeared after stealing a lot of Semyon’s money for the investment. The money wasn’t recovered.

So, we have Semyon wanting answers, the city of Vinci wanting answers, and three cops coming to the scene.

Let’s see how this one goes. All I know for certain is I never finished this one, and it confused the hell out of poor Jimmy.