Whatever the critical reception for True Detective season two ends up being like compared to season one – be it weaker, stronger, or on the same level – it’s fair to say the crime drama’s sophomore season will be both very different, yet similar to its freshman narrative. Season one’s Southern-fried tale of Detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart’s spiritual (and, in many ways, literal) journey into the heart of darkness – as they attempt to capture a serial killer over the course of nearly two decades – is, on a surface, a far cry from season two’s promise of a modern California neo-Noir tale of power, crime, and corruption.
However, as evidenced by the existentially-bleak season two tagline (“We get the world we deserve.”) – recalling Rust’s “Time is a flat circle” line from season one – or True Detective writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto’s comments about season two’s “disconcerting psychology,” this new season of the anthology series appears to have carried over season one’s tone and thematic essence, the surface differences aside.
HBO’s True Detective season two teaser was more of a mood setter than anything else, and the second preview (see above) is, in many ways, just as enigmatic as its predecessor. However, the second trailer does explicitly tease certain element that people now associate with Pizzolatto’s crime series, including: characters musing philosophically about their compromised lives and the world they live in; moody cinematography; visuals loaded with symbolism; and a lingering sense of tension, where it seems that violence could break out at a moment’s notice.
True Detective season two’s plot revolves around Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) – a carer criminal whose effort to go legit (with a deal that involves a Californian transportation system and real estate) starts to fall apart when his partner is murdered – and the three cops who become involved with the case: Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), a struggling detective in deep with mobsters; Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch), a veteran and Highway Patrol officer tangled up in a (manufactured) scandal; and Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), a small town sheriff disillusioned by her very system that she’s a part of.
Director Justin Lin (Fast Five, Furious Six) directed the first two True Detective season two episodes, establishing a visual template for the season that – by the look of it – recalls Cary Fukunaga’s approach on season one, yet is also distinct in its setting (overlapping highway roads, vast urban cityscapes) and more Noir-influenced style, compared to season one’s atmosphere (often recalling a troubling dream). The techniques used by Lin (and the other directors on season two) seem effective, thus far.
Combine that with a refreshingly serious turn by Vaughn – wtih Farrell, Kitsch, and McAdams all looking to deliver equally heavy dramatic performances – and True Detective season two looks quite solid on its own terms, regardless of how it ultimately compares to season one.
True Detective season two premieres on HBO on June 21st, 2015.