Our long national nightmare is over. True Detective‘s second season has ended.
Well, never mind.
–Leonard Cohen, opening credits
I had every intention of being a kinder, gentler writer this week. I swear it on my life. With True Detective finally ending, I was planning to look back on a largely negative season and point to the things I thought were bright spots. There’s Colin Farrell’s performance, the notion of evil inherited across generations personified by the Chessani family, and that creepy bird mask. Those are all positive things! Then there’s a second level of positive premises that offered interesting possibilities, but were unfortunately mishandled. Those include the show’s attempt at a female protagonist, an investigation into the culture of masculinity, and the tradition of California Noir. These were the things that I wanted to talk about. Sure, Season 2 of True Detective was a disappointment, but we’ve seen Nic Pizzolatto churn out an excellent story before. Maybe he could take something from this year’s negative reception and learn from it. Maybe a bit of a get-back slap would encourage him to seek out other writers for collaboration and a decreased work load. If so, maybe we’d actually end up with a Season 3 that aligned more closely what True Detective offered the first time around. I want to hope so. I’m an optimist.
But then “Omega Station” happened, and there is no way around it. This episode was hot garbage.
The season’s “mysteries” were largely wrapped up in the show’s first 45 minutes. In short, Leonard and Laura Osterman were Ben Caspare’s killers. Who are they, you ask? You probably don’t remember them because they only appeared in two minutes of the show before “Omega Station,” when we visited Not-Fukunaga’s film shoot. They’re also the children who were forced to play dead and lay next to their parents’ bodies after they were killed in a diamond robbery…by the corrupt cops who stole the diamonds…back in 1992. Like all of this season, everything was revealed in moments of Big Exposition that revealed an overly complicated crime. What’s intriguing here is that that needn’t have been a problem.
Despite all the internet chasing of the Yellow King in Season One, that mystery was largely simple, and only minorly related to most of the season’s investigation. The real pull of Season One (aside from the creepy aesthetic and incredible direction) was Rust Cohle and Marty Hart. It’s the characters that really mattered. You wanted to spend time with Cohle’s captivating philosophical ramblings. Marty Hart was a cheating dog, but he was an interesting cheating dog. These year’s characters are none of those, and a lot of it is the result of the writing.
Ray Velcoro has been largely neutered since he shaved off his mustache. Even when everyone in the world knew that it was a death sentence to go see his son one last time, he still went. He also made almost no effort to take the tracking device off of his car. Sure, they might still be onto you if you take it off, but leaving it on only makes it that much easier for your pursuers to find you. Maybe Ray’s unadulterated love for his son might be touching if his son wasn’t the most boring child on the face of the planet. He just looks grumpy when Ray goes to see him for the last time, as every time.
Ani Bezzerides gets unfortunately sidelined from the episode’s action, and ends up the season’s only survivor of the four protagonists. Not much more to say there.
Frank Semyon, however, takes the cake. He manages to kill all of the gangsters who wronged him, and even makes good with Ray (who seems to have forgiven him for passing along the info that led to Ray killing an innocent man). But remember those Mexican gangsters that Frank picked a fight with for no reason a few weeks back? Well, they showed up, kidnapped Frank, drove him to the desert and stole his retirement fund. Even still, Frank could have survived if he had been willing to part with his suit. A million dollars? Frank will part with that. But his SUIT!? You must be out of your mind. So Frank gets stabbed, and wanders the desert encountering visions until he dies.
Could it be any more obvious that I’m completely exasperated by this show? You might think it’s fun to crush a show every week, but I swear that it isn’t. It’s so much more enjoyable to hold up and praise something that you love. True Detective has been nothing short of painful. I spent one week on bad dialogue, another on a drinking game, still another writing up a drinking game, and one more examining not the show itself, but comments about the show from an executive. It’s because there just isn’t anything else to talk about. Beneath all of HBO’s advertising bluster, big starring names, and ridiculous musical cues (ex: Ray and Ani see a bird mask at Leonard and Laura’s house, so horns on the accompanying soundtrack blare BBBWWWWAAAAHHH!!!!!) the emperor simply has no clothes. And more, despite the endlessly complicated plot, the show has no heart. Yes, Season One had a heart of darkness, but at least you could hear it beating. Season 2 was dead on arrival.
As the credits song relayed every week, “never mind.”
Season Grade: F