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TRUE DETECTIVE Season 2 Final Thoughts and Observations

The Negative Reaction to True Detective Season 2

True Detective
Image: EW.

True Detective Season 2 has come to an end tonight with the airing of the 90 minute finale “Omega Station”. The first thing that immediately jumps out about Season 2 is the largely overall negative/disappointing reaction this season has received compared to Season 1. Indeed, the show’s creator, Nic Pizzolatto, may have used up all his good will and praise that was heaped on him for Season 1 .

In some ways Pizzolatto was fighting a losing battle the whole time. Season 1, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, received widely positive reviews and fandom. Some critics even went as far to say it was some of the best television the medium has ever seen. British philosopher Nick Land called True Detective Season 1 “the most intelligent series in TV history”. Was there any possible way that Pizzolatto could deliver something that was equal or better to Season 1?

The answer, probably not. At least, not in the way he went about constructing Season 2, which is vastly different in tone and structure from Season 1. Season 2 was more of a slow burner, and I’m not sure if this tone is exactly what fans of Season 1 were expecting or wanting. Based on these tweets below to the reaction of the Season 2 finale, it’s clear that the reception to the season was largely mixed.

Variety recently posted an article titled ‘True Detective’: Understanding Its Decline in Three Easy Charts. They’re not necessarily talking about the decline in quality, but the decline of the reaction to Season 2 compared to Season 1.

It’s not just TV critics sensing a drop-off in evidence of positive buzz that the series generated in its first year. Canvs, which tracks sentiment regarding content on Twitter, detected that tweets with emotional reactions citing “hate” and “boredom” are up 52% and 97%, respectively, when the first six episodes of the season are compared with the first six from last year. On the flip side, “love” has decreased a whopping 81%.

True Detective

Similar dynamics are playing out on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, where a huge 38% drop is rippling across likes, shares, comments and views, according to ListenFirst Media. What is more worrisome is the major drops in the number of likes, shares, comments and views across Facebook, Instagram and Youtube, which went from 2.9 million to 1.8 million.

True Detective

While a decrease in fan acquisition and organic search volume is normal for most programs as they transition from season one to season two, a drop in post engagements is something we don’t frequently see, particularly since the community size is larger in a series’ second season.”-Jason Klein, Co-CEO/Co-Founder of ListenFirst Media.

Even the star-studded cast of the second season doesn’t seem to be registering much, with Vince Vaughn in particular drawing some high negative numbers, according to Canvs data.

True Detective

In aggregate, Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch and Rachel McAdams comprise 18.4% of the emotional reactions–down over 28% from the tweets demonstrating previous stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey were resonating.

It’s not like season 2 is being ignored on Twitter; There’s 27% more tweets around the first six episodes of “True Detective” season 2 than season 1. However, while the Twitter buzz built over those episodes last year, it’s headed in the opposite direction over the same span this season.

Alright, you get the point….

My Rating: [usr 2.5]

True Detective

Yes, I agree, I don’t think Season 2 is as strong as Season 1. Looking back, it might have been foolish to have that expectation. Despite that, I think that overall Season 2 does not deserve the hatred being heaped on it. The pace may have been mind numbingly slow for the first 5 or so episodes. However, when things started to get clicking in episode 6 (“Church in Ruins”), I think the show was consistently entertaining and exciting.

Unfortunately, it takes way too long for the season to get to to get to that point, which is why I can only half heartedly recommend Season 2 in it’s entirety.

Pizzolatto gives us four layered characters this time compared to the duo of detectives in Season 1. I think the performances from the four principal cast members — Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch — were fairly well acted. Vaughn, especially, hasn’t been this good in a very long time. It was nice to see the actor dive head on into this role unlike the last 10 or so years of his career.

There’s a complete sense of dread that envelopes Season 2 from the very outset. Unlike the red herring early episodes of Season 1, Season 2 prefered to take it’s time, probably a little too much time. In terms of style, I couldn’t help noticing the influences of Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and even Brian De Palma that permeated throughout Season 2’s 8 episodes. While Season 1 had the stunning, star making direction of Cary Joji Fukunaga for it’s duration, Season 2 had the directing carousel of Justin Lin, Janus Metz, Jeremy Podeswa, John Crowley, Miguel Sapochnik, and Daniel Attias.

The decision not to stick with one director I feel hurts Season 2 because Fukunaga’s direction in Season 1 felt like a full, consistent vision. In Season 2, the directing carousel results in a largely inconsistent tone for the duration. There were honestly times in Season 2 where I honestly felt that literally nothing had happened in terms of plot and that’s largely due to the languid pacing.

Still, the show does get under your skin, and there are a handful of sequences that stand out in terms of visceral impact. A shoot out at the end of episode 4 (“Down Will Come”) is especially taut and intense. The sense of shock permeates after the shootout, wisely adding layers to the mayhem, unlike most action films.

Perhaps, True Detective Season 2 will find some more appreciation as time passes. I respect Pizzolatto for trying to give us something more than a mere retread of the first season. While Season 2 ends on a more entertaining note, and delivers layered characters, it ultimately could have benefited from tighter pacing and a less convoluted plot.

I’m certainly not ready to give up on Nic Pizzolatto though.

True Detective



About Knox Harrington

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