Mason Cross is back to review the gripping final episode of HBO’s True Detective (Warning: spoilers ahead).
So that’s it – the eagerly-anticipated second season of True Detective has reached its blood-soaked conclusion. Did this year’s offering live up to expectations? Well, that depends on what you were expecting.
For one thing, anyone picking up on the strong James Ellroy influence on this show would have known not to expect a happy ending for all of the lead characters, and that’s just as well. The central mystery was tied up early on, almost as an afterthought, clearing the stage for a series of bloody reckonings which left just one of the four lead characters standing.
It’s fair to say the second season of True Detective has had its detractors. Some of the criticism is fair: as my esteemed Murder Room colleague Steve Cavanagh argued last week, the plot was distractingly convoluted rather than satisfyingly complex. Perhaps too much screen time was devoted to meaningful pauses, portentous musings and long car journeys. But to be fair, any show would have struggled under the weight of expectations after the critically lauded season one, particularly when it departed so boldly from so many of the things that made that season great. There was no McConaughey and Harrelson double act, no Southern Gothic stylings, no supernatural undertones. In a lot of ways, this incarnation of the show has taken a hit for defiantly doing its own thing.
So let’s dwell on the things season two did right: Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro was consistently great, only let down at the end with a muted exit versus some uninspiring LAPD shooters. The other leads had their share of nice moments, from Woodrugh’s poise in battle to Semyon’s descent back into the brutality of organised crime, to Bezzerides’s ruthless efficiency with a blade.
But if there’s one thing this season did well, it was action: the raid that closed episode four, the frantic escape from the party in episode six, Woodrugh’s takedown of a superior force before himself being taken out in episode seven. The final episode didn’t disappoint on this score either, resolving the story in a series of bloody outbursts, from a brilliant shootout at the railroad station to the assault on the Russians to Velcoro’s last stand. For a show that was justifiably criticised for being slow moving, it was capable of some nice explosions of action.
So again, True Detective 2’s epitaph should read that it did its own thing. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but the last thing you could accuse the show of is resting on its laurels. And the good thing about an anthology show? As the credits roll on season two, the reset button is hit. If you didn’t enjoy this story and these characters as much, maybe you’ll like the next one better.
So that, as they say, is that. What did you make of season two overall? Was it refreshing to see a series start from scratch or did it lose what made season one so enthralling? Let us know in the Comments section below!
Mason Cross was born in Glasgow in 1979. He studied English at the University of Stirling and currently works in the voluntary sector. His short story, ‘A Living’, was shortlisted for the Quick Reads Get Britain Reading Award. His second novel, The Samaritan, is out in hardback and ebook on 16 July, and the acclaimed The Killing Season is available now. He lives in Glasgow with his wife and three children. To find out more, visit Mason Cross’ website or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.