True Detective Season 2 Episode 1: The Western Book Of The Dead

HBO’s groundbreaking detective masterpiece True Detective returns for a highly anticipated second series. We put authors Steve Cavanagh and Mason Cross to the task of reporting on a season featuring brand new setting, plot, and the obvious absence of Hart and Cohle. How does it fare?

Mason Cross and I, fresh from our great trip through Bosch territory, are taking a look at season two of True Detective.

Let’s just clear this up right away, so that there is no confusion and we can all be friends and move on. Season one of True Detective was unashamedly, and correctly, a complete story with a beginning, a frenetic middle and wonderful end. It’s over. Finished. Marty and Rust had their time. This is something new. Now that doesn’t make it automatically worse – it’s just different.

Happy?

Why not?

You should be because this opening episode of season two is a fantastic hour of television. So we’re not in Southern Gothic territory; we’re not ruminating in long, nihilistic psychobabble; and we’re not leaping back and forth in time to fuel the narrative. Well, we are a bit.

Our new season takes place in the fictional LA city of Vinci – an industrial, smog bound, quintessentially LA town that sweats corruption, greed, redemption, and whiskey. In fact, much of the first episode is a love letter to the LA crime fiction Gods. The dialogue is terse, hardboiled stuff and, if you look closely, you might even spot a Maltese Falcon. Our main players are Colin Farrell as Ray Velcoro, a once straight laced sheriff who is now part of Vinci PD. We catch a glimpse of Velcoro as a sheriff during his Faustian meeting with another big character in the series, Vince Vaughan’s Frank Semyon. Vaughan plays a gangster who is attempting to go straight with a big time property development deal that’s tied up with a rail development, but only if he can convince some other shady looking gangsters that the numbers stack up. To do this he needs city manager Casper who has conveniently disappeared. Velcoro is on that case and soon discovers that Casper’s disappearance looks very much like a kidnapping.

Our two other main protagonists are both cops; Rachel McAdams as Ani Besserides, and Taylor Kitsch as Paul Woodrugh. Are both troubled? Yep. Do both of them bear the scars from the past? Yep, in more ways than one.

I don’t want to give too much away, but by the end of the episode you feel like you know these characters – that they have depth and a good deal of mystery and all of them are in their own world of hurt and misery. And their worlds are about to collide, big time.

Farrell is brilliant here, as is McAdams and Kitsch. Vince Vaughan is equally good and I suspect that he and Farrell will steal this series.

What else can I say without giving anything away? The opening credits are exceptionally cool, with Leonard Cohen singing/just-kinda-talkin’ (maybe Bob Dylan should’ve stopped singing and just started talking about 10 years ago. His singing voice now sounds like a bull farting in a bucket, albeit in a quite pleasing way). Oh, and the cinematography is pure LA Noir – just fantastic.

I sense this will be a great series and if episode one is anything to go by, we’re in for a wild ride.

 

What’s your verdict of the first episode of series two? Does it achieve the heady heights of the first season, or is there a Rust Cohle shaped void? Leave us a comment below!

Steve Cavanagh was born and raised in Belfast before leaving for Dublin at the age of eighteen to study law. He currently practises civil rights law, and in 2010 he represented a factory worker who suffered racial abuse in the workplace, and won the largest award of damages for race discrimination in Northern Ireland’s legal history. His first novel, The Defence, is published by Orion in March 2015. Find out more on Steve’s website.