True Detective: The Road Ahead
It’s dark, it’s gritty and it will leave you wanting more. True Detective is an anthology series by Nic Pizzolatto consisting of two seasons. Season one has been critically acclaimed as one of the greatest television series of the modern era, winning 2 Emmy awards for outstanding drama series and outstanding directing. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the season, would be the incredible performance by Matthew McConaughey as the nihilistic and mysterious ‘Rustin Cohle’ and the excellent back and forth dialogue between him and Woody Harrelson’s character ‘Martin Hart’. Their relationship was a brilliant juxtaposition between the lone wolf and conventional ‘family man’. This dichotomy opened up a new debate entirely, in regards to their perspective as to who committed the grotesquely occult murder they must solve.
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the season would be the narrative structure itself. The story is told from the perspective of the 2012 incarnations of Rust and Marty, as they assist with a similar case to the one they had undertaken in 1995. This allowed for burning questions to be answered as the story is told over the 8 episodes- predominantly, what distanced the two characters over time and their emotional status as a result of their experiences. This separates True Detective from the run of the mill cop show because it tells a story larger than the case itself. It delves into everything from corruption to philosophical perspectives on life itself.
Despite the success of its inaugural season , True Detective’s failure to deliver on its second instalment left audiences disappointed. This is most likely why the show has dropped off the radar in conversations about what series to binge watch which seems to be a trend in 2017. Despite this failure however, True Detective’s layout as an anthology series is a major advantage as it allow the show to continuously reinvent itself. Just because season 2 wasn’t as successful as audiences hoped it doesn’t mean the series is beyond redemption.
Season 2 shortcomings
Despite the overwhelming success and positive reviews for its first season, True Detective experienced quite the opposite in its second instalment set in the industrial town of ‘Vinci’ California. The second season is saturated in the dark themes which made season 1 so famous yet it does so in a way unfavourable to critical reception. At times, the emotional brooding of each character, particular Colin Farrell’s portrayal of Ray Velcoro- an alcoholic police officer with a past of troubled relationships both with his wife and crime boss portrayed by Vince Vaughn, Frank Semyon. The relationships between each character felt less significant as oppose to the first season due to a broader spectrum of characters. It often felt like there were too many subplots occurring at once without a definitive direction. Subplots such as Frank Semyons impotence, Rays relationship with his son, his lust for vengeance and the actual case itself. It was simply too much source material to be compacted into 8 episodes. As a result of this, many characters were undermined such as Rachel McAdams rather refreshing performance as Annie Bezzerides- a tomboyish detective with a grim past and a drinking problem. Its almost as if there’s a pattern among these characters, perhaps the reason behind the downfall of the second season would be its reliance on the alcoholic and emotionally unstable cop with violent tendencies.
Despite these downfalls, Season 2 somewhat redeemed itself with its fresh new setting using an industrial hellscape shrouded by pollution and infested by hierarchical corruption. At least there was some sort of consistency between the tone, subject matter and setting. Other positives included a rather interesting relationship dynamic between Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell’s character which was an emotional rollercoaster throughout. This relationship was somewhat reminiscent of Rust and Marty’s because as it gradually unfolded as the season progressed, more was revealed about the troubled past of both Frank and Ray respectively. This technique was also used to display the past of Rachel McAdams character Ani, using a nightmarish and tragic sequence to do so which truly upheld the True Detective mantra: ‘Man is the cruelest animal’. Other moments of notoriety would be the infamous episode 2 cliffhanger which was an excellent way of keep audiences watching and the emotionally fuelled shootout in the 4th episode which left viewers on the edge of their seats.
Despite its intricate storyline, excellent cinematic production featuring visuals of intertwining highways which represented the overlapping storylines, season 2 simply lacked the delivery which season 1 had in spades. This could simply be chalked down to the hype being too high with the inaugural season of the show being a rational candidate for the greatest 8 hours of television in the modern era. Nic Pizzolatto sure had his hands full and aimed to emulate the beloved gothic style portrayed in the Louisiana Hellscape in a completely different timeline and setting in order to remain fresh but satisfy audiences. It was ultimately an unfollowed however, with 1 hit and 1 miss under its belt, True Detective has an opportunity to cement itself in cinematic history by evening the score with a third instalment. The hype surrounding season one has been somewhat neutralised by the dismal second season so Nic Pizzolatto should indeed capitalise on this and reinvigorate the anthology before it is too late.
Fargo formula for success
The reason hope should be kept high for the anthology to conclude on a high note can be seen in external successes. An example of this being the critically acclaimed FX series ‘Fargo’. Season 1 of Fargo was met with unparalleled success similar to that of True Detective, season 1. Fargo’s inaugural season was given an astounding 97% on rotten tomatoes and ranking 23/250 on IMDb’s top 250 television series, among the likes of Breaking Bad, The Wire and the Sopranos. This positive reception was primarily attributed to its unique use of dark comedy and the ominous presence of Billy Bob Thornton’s character, Lorne Malvo- a malevolent force which spreads evil and mischief throughout the season. Despite the overwhelming hype it had to live up to, the second season of Fargo not only succeeded, but it thrived, with some stakeholders claiming its successor had bested season 1 on some fronts.
In the same instance, it is entirely plausible that True Detective’s third installment will restore the dignity of the entire anthology however due to the noticeable disparity in quality, between the first and second season, It has been put up to question as to whether or not Nic Pizzolatto wants to renew it for a third season at all. This has been quite a let down for fans however its also a perfect opportunity to properly think out a stellar third season with many locations, themes and timelines to take into consideration, which weren’t present in season 1 and 2. There is an array of different possibilities which Nic Pizzolatto can apply his dark, brooding style of production to.
Season 3 settings
The first candidate for these locations would be the crime riddled streets of Chicago. Chicago is a city which has recorded one of the highest crime rates among recent statistics. This is attributed to its gang violence, public corruption and lack of policing in low socio-economic areas. The violence rate in Chicago is one which has been akin to Afghanistan by President Trump in a comparison that isn’t too far from the truth. This is what makes it the perfect location to film True Detective season 3. Nic Pizzolatto’s gothic/noir style will assimilate well with the dark themes of corruption and poor socio economic standards- both of which haunt the city of Chicago. Perhaps a season based on gang violence circulated around an isolated murder case would be a refreshing step away from the occult theme of the murders in seasons 1 and 2. This would give True Detective some more credibility as it would be quite bold and rather unique to document the real life issues in Chicago. Pizzolatto’s infatuation with the theme of corruption is also another way of documenting the current issue of police brutality in Americas crime riddled streets. Overall Chicago would be an excellent way of reviving the True Detective anthology whilst also providing for engaging social commentary akin to that of the critically acclaimed series ‘The Wire’.
2. Baltimore, Maryland
The Wire is highly regarded as one of the best series to ever air on television being praised in the same conversation as Season 1 of True Detective. The Wires success was rooted from its ability to tackle real life issues such as the aforementioned gang violence and the narcotics trade. The series was gritty and brutally revealing about the nature of not just crime, but corruption itself and the ripple effect it has. This refers to its impact influencing the lives of children and how education itself is often short changed in times of desperation in favour of criminal activity in low socio- economic areas. Nic Pizzolatto could use this as somewhat of an inspiration and basis for a story line incorporating the previously mentioned corruption and implementing elements of criminal psychology which appeared in both Seasons of True Detective set it in the city of Baltimore, Maryland- the very same location as The Wire.
The narcotics scene would be a a perfect way to rekindle the fan favourite character Rustin Cohle. A large part of Cohle’s character stems from his mysterious past as an undercover narcotics detective. This gives reasoning behind his drug riddled past, cloudy mind and connections/access to motorcycles gangs and weaponry. Nic Pizzolatto could revive the character by perhaps revolving the 3rd season around his days as an undercover narco- a character arc which offered thrilling action sequences such as the 6 minute tracking shot in episode 4 titled ‘Who Goes There’. This sequence was praised universally leaving audiences on the edge of their seat and winning 2 Emmy awards for cinematography. Overall, the Baltimore drug scene seems like an excellent way to not only revive the anthology itself, but also, to shed light on the fabled past of Rustin Cohle.
What lies ahead?
Despite the naysayers, True Detective is a series you simply cannot overlook in the vast conversation that is quality television. Its first season was a beacon of hope for episodic TV and was dawn the of a new era in terms of darker themed content. Though season 2 failed to live up to the hype, there is always room for redemption which is why season 3 is one which fans shouldn’t overlook should it eventually come to fruition. Nic pizzolatto’s creative prowess and unique eye for content is one which can solidify the series as one audiences will be recommending to others for years to come. With a well thought out location, central story and a director with skills akin to Cary Fukunaga-responsible for the breathtaking Louisiana hells cape and the exhilarating 6 minute tracking shot, True Detective can revive itself and earn back the credibility it has tragically lost.
There may be some hope after all for a revival as there has been rumours for a while now that the third season has begun production. Rumours of a story spanning decades about a gruesome murder in the heart of the ‘Ozark’s’ have been circulating with a possibility of Nic Pizzolatto working with director Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room, Blue Ruin). If this is the case, the third installment of True Detective may very well restore dignity back to the franchise and though nothing has been officially confirmed yet, these recent developments will have fans left optimistic.
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