True Detective: Lightning in a Bottle

On Sunday the world finally saw the first episode of True Detective’s second season. While reviews have been generally positive, holding a 65% critical rating and 88% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s also come under some pretty heavy critical fire. Most of which, in my opinion, read like petty angry failed screenwriters who are looking to tear down anything successful and anticipated.

Here’s my big thought; Season One was lightning in a bottle. There was very little hype going into it. Anecdotally despite being in a prime demographic for the show I didn’t ever hear about it until it was already out on Blu-Ray. In one of the reviews the critic even mentions not knowing anything beyond the stars of Season One. With no expectations, and nothing to compare to, the first season stood on its own merits. Yet somehow, despite having different actors, a new director(s), new setting, new story, fresh everything we still feel the need to hold it up side by side with the first season. I get it though. I’m not ignorant to the reason for the comparison. Same writer and same name mean comparable.

Still, I can’t help but feel that Nic Pizzolatto (whom I’ve never met and am assuming this intention wholly unfounded) knew he couldn’t recapture the instant magic of the first season so decided to take a different approach. Recognizing the first season was magical allowed the second season to build something different. Will it be better? Stronger? More in-depth? Only time will tell. Maybe I’m giving a lot of benefit to the show because of my love for the first season. I don’t think so though.

After finishing the episode my wife turned to me and asked, “If you hadn’t seen the first season, would you still like this show?” I gave the question a moment’s consideration, as I feel that kind of question deserves more than a gut reaction, and responded that I would. I didn’t fall in love with the first episode of season two like I did with season one, but it captured my imagination enough to want to see and know more. I can’t help but feel that was the intention.

It also bears consideration that the main cast has double in size. Season one was a vehicle for Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Season two features Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, and Vince Vaughn as equally important characters. You have the same amount of time to introduce the character, the narrative, and the setting, but in season two you have to split all of that introduction four ways instead of two. Especially with four characters coming together, as opposed to season one’s leads already being a duo.

If I’m being totally honest with myself. I didn’t fall for season two the way I fell for season one. Except that’s not fair. Your first is always special. It’s showing you something new, something fresh. It’s exciting and different. My hope is that the love of season two grows with the show. That by episode three or four I’m madly obsessed with it’s tale. The first episode enticed me. It looked at me from across the bar and winked. I’m excited to see where this takes me, and just hope I don’t end up dead in a gutter.

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