True Detective: What To Expect From The Second Season

HBO's 2014 thriller hit True Detective has garnered wide spread acclaim.
HBO’s 2014 thriller hit True Detective has garnered wide spread acclaim.

HBO’s hit crime drama True Detective has only been gone for a little over a week, but there’s already rampant speculation as to what will occur, who will star, and where the story will take place in the shows’ second season. It must be noted that while the series has garnered both critical acclaim and a high viewership, it has yet to be formally renewed by HBO, so as it stands there is technically no guarantee that the show will return. But the uncertainty of the show’s future has not hindered anyone (including Niz Pizzolatto, the show’s creator) from talking about what nightmares may be in store for us next year.

When the first episode of True Detective premiered on January 12th, it appeared as though it was immediately destined for greatness. And by season’s end, it was a sure thing that the show had carved a place for itself in the annals of the greatest TV series. Every facet of the show has since been lauded by both critics and the public; the writing and directing from Nic Pizzollato and Cary Joji Fukunaga, the lead performances from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (as well as the support provided by Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, and Tory Kittles), and the cinematography which transformed the backwoods of Louisiana into a classic Southern Gothic Hell, with elements of Faulkner and McCarthy. Moreover, by making the show an anthology series, the show-runners ensured that their show could tell a new story every season which will undoubtedly benefit the show by providing it a fresh-but-familiar feel.

As with the first season, the focus will be entirely on one case, though it is unknown at this time whether or not it will jump between timelines. One thing is for sure though; McConaughey and Harrelson will not be reprising their roles as the now immortal television duo of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart. Producers are on the prowl for new faces and it has been rumored that Brad Pitt is being eyed for one of the lead roles. Pitt is no stranger at all to the detective role (he stared alongside Morgan Freeman in David Fincher’s Se7en) so should he be cast, there will be a measure of dramatic weight to his character. An interesting point that has to be made; Pizzolatto has stated that the second season will revolve around, “Hard women and bad men…” so who’s to say that one of the partners won’t be a woman? It would be very interesting to see the chemistry between a male and female detective which may or may not be platonic.

As for the setting and the case, it has been speculated that the second season will take place in Southern California and deal with what Pizzolatto calls, “The secret occult history of the U.S. transportation system.” This brief synopsis could include any number of crimes. It could be a smuggling ring, a drug cartel, or perhaps, going back to the idea of hard women fighting injustices, the case could revolve around human trafficking. Whatever it may be, it goes without saying that Pizzolatto is certainly working on something big and mean. The only difference is that he won’t be alone this time around; there will be more directors involved in the filming as well as additional writers.

Nic Pizzolatto, the show's creator and writer.
Nic Pizzolatto, the show’s creator and writer.

While there is a lot of talk concerning about what the second season should have, it’s probably worth taking a minute to think about what it should not have. Perhaps the biggest problem facing the show-runners is the dilemma between wanting to tell something new while maintaining the brooding atmosphere that was so popular in the first season. Pizzolatto has already said that he intends to keep the series strange, but that doesn’t by any means imply that we will see exactly the same archetypes that were established the first time around.

There will undoubtedly be detractors who will say that the second season is too different from the first and that the show should have just ended, but it will probably be a lot worse if the show-runners decide to recreate what happened in the first season, point by point. If the two leads end up being another pessimist and relative optimist, then the show will show definite signs of extreme rehashing, or what is commonly known in the cinematic world as Hangover Syndrome. There is so much that could be done with an anthology series that should it go the same stuff, different day route, it would be a huge waste of talent and potential storytelling. What if both of the cops are rookies who still have romantic notions of being a detective? What if one of the cops dies? Or better yet, what if one of the cops is a bad guy? There were tons of rumors that said that Rust was the killer in the first season, but what it’d be fascinating to see one of the cops actually be in cahoots with the bad guys. He doesn’t have to murder anyone, but just have him be an ambivalent person who will turn a blind eye for the right price. That would add heaps of dramatic weight and make the show feel all the fresher. The only thing that Pizzolatto could do that would completely torpedo the show is to choose familiarity over novelty.

Though it isn’t a 100% guarantee that the show will get a second season, all signs point to the contrary. The cast and crew have all expressed their joviality and passion for the first season so it’s highly unlikely that HBO would choose to squander future greatness by canceling the show. With actors already being lined up and a potential storyline already in the works, it seems as though we are in for another trip into the foulest depths of humanity. The darkness is still there, and we are ready to face it.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. The bar was set so high, that whoever is in charge next season, as well as whichever major actors are involved, will likely be totally stressing out!

    • That’s true. I’m very optimistic about how the second season will turn out; I just hope people don’t scrutinize the show if it isn’t immediately better than the first season. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  2. T Wiese

    This show was about the journey and experiences of these two men, and how it changed them. The supernatural vibe and conspiracies were window dressing. Rust having somewhat of an epiphany at the end. Marty truly happy to see his family at the hospital. It’s been said that its the journey that’s fulfilling, not the destination. But this finale has proven that these two guys have reached a certain element of enlightenment. After watching this season, I have a hard time to think of season two with different actors. I can’t be the only one feeling like this…

    • I agree. The only criticism that I saw directed at the show was from people who were too invested in the investigation. Many people were complaining about how there were many loose ends and that there were a lot of problems with the logistics of the case. Needless to say I think these people missed out on the overall point which is, as you said, that the story was not about the crime but rather how two men changed over time as a result of their investigating. Thanks for the comment by the way 🙂

  3. Bret Manzo

    This was a great season, and proved to be even better than I had hoped for. When I saw the early previews I was interested, but my only real need was that it would be an interesting show to keep me busy until Game of Thrones came back on, and instead it blew me away with how it blended the tropes of the genre while breaking them all at the same time; also some of the best acting in a TV show since Breaking Bad just made it a true joyful experience to watch.

    I really can’t wait to see what they do next season, but if it is half as good as this one it will be well worth the wait.

  4. This might sound silly, but I always say great shows only come in 4-5 years period. Breaking Bad comes 5 years after The Wire, and i thought that was it. This show proves my theory wrong.

    • The Wire was on at the same time as The Shield. Breaking Bad started at the end of the Shield’s run. Justified started two years into Breaking Bad’s run. The Americans started last year. And, now True Detective has been made. I just see this as a golden age of TV.

  5. Socorro Covington

    I loved the way that it played to the cosmic horror aspect by having Rust see a vortex just before he fights the Yellow King – the personification of evil and madness. Rather than losing his sanity as per the usual (Cthulu, the King in Yellow play), he gains clarity. Awesome.

  6. It was a fantastic season and definitely the best thing since breaking bad. I didn’t expect this show… i thought breaking bad essentially broke enjoying television for me. This show was an excellent surprise. I have a new found respect for McConaughey. He freakin nailed the role and the chemistry between him and Harrelson made the show. I can only hope that season two holds up with the lack of these two excellent characters. This show has given me hope…. hope that i won’t wake up one day to a world where every channel is a never ending rerun marathon of desperate house wives and the like.

  7. Mette Marie Kowalski

    What a show, really, one of the best things that have been on television recently. I wouldn’t mind Pitt in it although I’m hoping for a female detective too.

    • I could live without Pitt. I was hoping for female detectives also, but a male/female dynamic could work too. Speculation aside, it could work with anyone as long as they cast well, which the previous season indicates they’re pretty good at.

  8. Tobias Coyne

    The great tragedy of this show was its overuse or I should say heavy-handedness of its metaphors. I understand symbolism and foreshadowing as narrative techniques, but when you insert these hidden “clues,” you invite analysis; inviting analysis opens yourself up to speculation and theorizing. If there is no mystery to unravel by weaving together these little bits of information, you’re going to disappoint those were intrigued by them. And it’s hard to feel the emotional impact of the last 20 minutes or so when you look at the clock and realize there is no way your questions will be answered. I stared at the television with my arms out, palms up.

    • I loved the ending, myself. I thought the story was INCREDIBLY tight. Not that I put this in the same group as Breaking Bad, but that was what was so impressive to me about Breaking Bad. There weren’t writing mistakes. They never really wrote themselves into a corner. The characters are real people and sometimes do things that are out of the ordinary but they FEEL consistent with who the characters were. This was a very tightly wound story that was REAL. Like the name implies, True Detective, this show was completely grounded in reality. Except, and I love Woody Harrelson, but Marty was Woody in physical appearance and voice ONLY. He got WAAAAAY to many “9+” women. Alexandra Dadarrio. Whew. But in all seriousness, this seems ridiculous but I feel content when a show captures my attention SO MUCH that I pick apart tiny details. When I can’t find giant, gaping holes in the writing, characters, plot, logic, etc. then the show is top notch in my book. Lost, Fringe, Walking Dead, etc. Those are all shows that the writers backed themselves into a corner at some point. True Detective did not. Of course, when I look at how many episodes of Breaking Bad there were and how the writers and Vince Gilligan were able to avoid that trap that so many television programs fall into it’s just amazing to me. True Detective was only 8 episodes, but man were they great episodes. That was an acting class by both Woody and Matthew at the end. Matthew especially will be on the short list for an Emmy.

  9. Enjoyed the series and the ending of season 1! Mcconaughy was amazing start to finish!

  10. It’s not often you feel like you understand the whole relationship between two characters for 20 years in it’s entirety in just one season of a show. Bravo to Matt and Woody!

  11. my personal favorite show of all time.. i have no idea how the show creator will be able to top it next season.

  12. I like the idea of contained mini seasons with new casts, it is a fresh take on the series structure, and it keeps the show new and exciting. Here’s hoping they go for quality in the net series over stunt casting- I mean, having M.M was amazing, and he was excellent, but I don’t want to producers to just try for another famous face. They have to be RIGHT.

  13. The weight of the first season rested heavily in the cleverness of the writers and the character development was phenomenal. Hopefully, the second season can maintain the quality of production that we’ve come to expect and get hooked on.

  14. Elle831

    I had heard that the producers were looking to make True Detective an evolving series, rotating out characters and plots. I think that by doing so, they keep viewers intrigued by constantly having to get to know the characters. This simulates the honeymoon phase of every series’ life cycle and keeps it from getting stale. I like the idea of rotating big name actors with the chops, who can bring their own niche to the series. Brad Pitt would do well as he is from the South and also able to play aloof. I would also like to see a female as Pitt’s counterpart. I see a shrewd woman thats nonchalant about the hardships of her job. Maybe Jessica Chastain, Vera Farmiga, or Melanie Laurent.


  15. Taylor Epps

    Fantastic show, of course, but is it all its cracked up to be? I love the idea of the anthology structure, introducing new characters and plot points every 8 episode season but I wonder, if the show were to market as a continued series would the writers run out of ideas? Would we have a story at all?
    It seems the trend to have a miniseries wrapped up in high traffic elements and plot points that generate a high viewership and returning audience. However this entire season extends no longer than the editors cut of any single Lord of the Rings movie and ADD point and shoot method of story development for the (possible) 2nd season; casting, going from one director to many, locations- I can’t imagine anything longer than 8 episodes would half as successful.
    It might be those flashy elements that hold these borderline cult phenomena status miniseries under the spotlight. It’s no Twin Peaks– as much as it might like to be, that story has already been told. The second series will show us if True Detective really has what it takes to stand up against the competition in the ever-changing entertainment environment or, like so many others, collapse under the expectations it’s setup for itself.

  16. Samantha Swantek

    I think that one of the challenges with an anthology series is living up to the previous season, as many viewers are likely to form attachments to favorite characters. However, this show gained such a following so quickly, that if they are able to maintain the hype of season one for the first few episodes of season two, it will be just as successful if not more. By the way, I love your insight into the show!!

  17. HBO has given its audience great shows and greater moments that everyone can’t stop talking about. I look forward to new elements on the show, including the representation of women as well as the other side of how men react to other certain situation that come along. I hope True Detective keeps going with the notion of having a different scene and set of characters as the series continues to develop.

  18. I agree the bar is set REAL high. Harrelson and Mcconaughey absolutely nailed the acting and their characters were so flawed but flawless at the same time. It was so good to see some quality tv after the end of breaking bad. My love for crime tv was satisfied with this show. I predict it will be a woman and man partnership this time and possibly set again in a past time. Don’t know if they will go to the present though.

  19. Those who will complain about the subsequent seasons being too different from the first season are just plain missing the point. A broad name leads to multiple interpretations of what it is to be a “True Detective”. I am beyond excited for the possibilities of this show due to the wide latitude in which Pizz and Co. can work and explore. Have faith friends.

    PS: I want Scorsese to direct a season in New York with Leo and DeNiro.

    • That would be ridiculously awesome; have it be kinda like Se7en with the old, wise cop and the young, naive cop. That sounds outstanding 🙂

  20. CriticalOtaku

    I’m really interested in seeing what comes out of the second season as well. I’m hoping though that it will end a whole lot better than the first season did (my opinion of course that the ending didn’t live up to the massive build-up with regards to the plot). I thought the first 6 episodes were fantastic but considering that the show ended with plot-holes (for example, the fact that the guy’s suicide in the prison after receiving a call is never fully explained) and the fact that certain elements of the show which were well-integrated in the beginning just seemed to fade out or come back poorly (for example, Rust’s hallucinations–the fact that he thinks he sees something right before he’s attacked in the final episode seemed a bit contrived and strange that he just gave into it completely considering how he mentions earlier in the show that he is able to tell the difference between his hallucinations and reality) does leave me a bit dubious as to whether or not the same quality that was there at the beginning of the first season will continue consistently throughout season 2. But anyway, thanks for the article! My friends and I were wondering about what was in the works for season 2.

  21. “…who’s to say that one of the partners won’t be a woman? It would be very interesting to see the chemistry between a male and female detective which may or may not be platonic.”

    Well, who’s to say that both detectives won’t be women? While I’m 100% sure you didn’t do this on purpose, your comment highlights a few troubling truths I’ve been noticing about film and TV audiences (at least in the US). We seem to expect male protagonists, and when females are present, we expect heterosexual romantic relationships to develop (even if that was not the intention of the writers). I suspect these sorts of pseudo-subconscious audience expectations help in part to encourage the proliferation of male-centric (and predominately white male, at that) narratives in film and TV – but I’d have to do more research before I would seriously make that claim.

    Anyway, no accusations being flung, just some food for thought.

    PS TD for life <3

    • I confess whole-heartedly that I’m a hopeless romantic and I 100% did write that comment on purpose. While I highly doubt that Nic Pizzolatto or the other writers will throw in a curve-ball/forced romantic subplot just for the sake of having one, I will be the last one to reject a potential love storyline. With that said, I did neglect to say that it would be very interesting to see two female detectives as the leads in the next season, so I appreciate you throwing that in there.

  22. With the success of shows like Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, I knew that other series would follow suit and I have to say – I like them. Of course, I enjoy series that show the progression of characters that the audience comes to love, and hate, but the writing in these new evolutionary series is so fresh and interesting. How else could you accept Jessica Lange as three different characters in such a short time period. Not dissing Ms. Lange’s acting skills, it’s the writing that makes these shows work. I’m talking the writing of Ryan Murphy in Nip/Tuck – not Glee. Nic Pizzolatto is a good writer with a particular style that works well with a show like True Detective. Matthew McConaughey’s performance was spectacular – I ‘m not sure if could see him as anyone but Rust Cole. The fact that the story spread over 17 years and showed such a change in both the physical and emotional character makes me think it might be possible. If, and that’s a big if, the writing stays on par.

  23. I loved it, particularly after the 2nd episode! But they have to bring McConaughey and Harrelson back! I honestly thought these were 2 of their best roles EVER! It won’t be the same without them. I believe they have solidified their friendship and trust by the end of Season 1 and they will be better partners than ever going forward! Please don’t get a whole new cast! HBO, you have to renew this!!!!

  24. To be honest, I have never really like McConaughey in a role until this. He was amazing and should definitely win some type of award for this. Harrelson was the perfect supporting actor/partner. They both nailed their roles!

  25. CDK

    I’m relieved because you think the series will have a second season – I’m usually more pessimistic, simply because I have no idea how these executives, in television or the movies, make the decisions they make. So, bring on the darkness.

    There is one element that will have to show up in the second season – namely, the whole slew of references to “The King in Yellow.” This book of short stories, written by Robert Chambers, published in 1895, concerns a fictional play within the fictional stories. If one reads this play, one may go horribly insane, descend into a vortex of madness, slip into catatonic despair, or commit acts of bestial depravity. Even just glancing at the page of Act II will drive the reader into a keening madness as the irresistible, repellant, and mind-shattering truths of the play reveal themselves.

    As you said, the series had this brooding atmosphere and that is exactly what Chambers successfully did with “The King in Yellow,” and why Nic Pizzollato used the trope in the series. H.P. Lovecraft admired Chambers and wrote that “The King in Yellow” “really achieves notable heights of cosmic fear.” This cosmic fear is a sort of inexplicable dread in the face of unknown forces and is very difficult to pull off, never mind in a television series. If your’re right that the second season will deal with “the secret occult history of the U. S. transportation system,” I’d bet that the occult portion will play itself out in reference to “The King in Yellow.”

    • You’re 100% right, and I regret not mentioning that in the article. This show is very Lovecraftian in nature in that it presents a puzzle that needs to be finished, yet finishing that puzzle could drive anyone mad. It’s a very frightening idea that embodies what Lovecraft once said about the nature of fear, that, “The oldest and strongest fear is the fear of the unknown.” I’m also really grateful for the Robert Chambers recommendation. I’ve never heard of him, but I’ll be sure to check him out.

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