Following the finale of Breaking Bad this spring, HBO’s crime drama, True Detective offered us a much-needed fix of intense, well-made, character driven, psychological television. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as two Louisiana detectives searching for a serial killer thought to have been caught seventeen years earlier, the show won over critics and audiences with its dark occultist overtones, intricate narratives, deep characters and twisted plot – to the point where the season’s finale crashed HBO’s on-demand streaming site, HBO Go.
Rumors about True Detective season 2 have been around for months, basically starting up as soon as the first season ended. From McConaughey’s possibly returning to the show (and then not), to Jessica Chastain possibly playing the female lead (and then not), to the number of leads, to even the number of seasons, the pace at which these rumors are being delivered and then discounted only shows the fervor fans have for this show. But there are some pieces of gossip that seem slightly more stable than others.
Early last week we reported that Colin Farrell had been offered the role as the ‘older male lead’ and that Taylor Kitsch (Battleship) was being eyed for the role as the ‘younger male lead.’ Now, on the tail of that, there is word that the setting, characters and plot have been firmly established. Needless to say, POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOLLOW.
True Detective Season 2 will allegedly be set in a fictional southern California city, and feature three main leads, two men and a woman. According to FilmDivider, where these rumors originate:
“I can tell you now that these [Farrell and Kitsch] would make up two corners of the series’ central triangle of investigators, two men and a woman from different Californian cities and their own distinct branches of the State’s law enforcement bodies, coming together to uncover a whole mess of corruption.
The third corner will be a woman, a character in her 30s. She’s a Monterey Sherrif with – as you might well expect – trouble in her past and problems in her day-to-day.
Her issues are with alcohol and gambling. Farrell’s character has terrible problems with cocaine and anger management. The young guy, a member of the California Highway Patrol, has been suspended for sexually exploiting a young woman he pulled over. Nobody is clean. It’s still True Detective.
The new mystery is to be kickstarted by the murder of Ray Caspar, City Manager of a fictional Californian city. From what I can gather, the new, partly invented map that Pizzolatto is drawing will be essential to his new story. As he teased, some months ago, part of the mystery will involve California’s transportation systems. This plot will involve a corrupt scheme to link North and South California with a high speed train, all in pursuit of profitable land ownership and lucrative federal grants.”
Much like season 1, there will supposedly be heavy references to the occult – but only around the “edges of the picture.” Meaning there won’t necessarily (or very likely) be anything supernatural actually occurring. There are many other plot details – to find out about them, head over to FilmDivider.
While this seems to support and broaden showrunner Nic Pizzolatto’s earlier statements about season 2, everything remains in the realm of rumors. There is very little that confirmed or concrete at this point. The only thing that we seem to know for sure is what’s not going to happen: McConaughey won’t be returning as Rust Chole, Jessica Chastain won’t be playing the female lead, but the most troubling denial is that Cary Fukunaga Won’t be directing every episode for season 2, as he did for season 1. Instead there will be multiple directors, each talking an episode or two. While this is how the vast majority of series these are directed and produced, it does have some fans worried that without a singular directorial voice to guide the show, the sinew of the narrative and the ambiance of the story will be lost.
Season 1 of True Detective hinged strongly on the performance by McConaughey; while not everyone loved his waxing philosophical monologues, they were the story’s driving force, and the relationship between McConaughey’s Rust Cohle and Harrelson’s Marty Hart was the show’s lifeblood. Given all the changes that seem to be coming down the pipes, can season 2 hit the fairly high benchmark that season 1 has left for it?
Taylor Kitsch – who shined in Friday Night Lights – hasn’t really found a good home for his talents; in fact all attempts at turning him into the next blockbuster draw (John Carter, Battleship) failed spectacularly.
Colin Farrell’s talents have been equally lauded, winning praise for his breakout role in Tigerland and a Golden Globe for 2008’s In Bruges; but he’s yet to find his household-name-making role, previous attempts (Fright Night, Total Recall) having fallen a little flat – although not nearly the bombs that Kitsch has produced.
Not that the original two stars were at the top of their form, either. McConaughey’s Oscar-winning performance in Dallas Byer’s Club hadn’t hit theaters when True Detective season 1 went into production, and while he was praised for his turn in Magic Mike, there were plenty of murmurs of that being a one-time-trick. Harrelson had just returned to the big screen with The Hunger Games, but aside from some recent critically-lauded performances (The Messenger) and some audience favorites (Zombieland), he was far off his stride of the late 90s and early aughts.
So this will possibly be True Detective’s modus operandi: taking quality actors who’ve lost a bit of their luster and giving them room to really shine. The problem, though, is that McConaughey’s performance (love it or hate it) wove perfectly with the ambiance of season 1. The show wouldn’t have had the feel that it did otherwise. Harrelson’s initially grounded Hart, gave the viewer, thankfully, something to hang onto as the narrative got stranger and darker and twistier; and his subsequent breakdowns and failures were heartbreaking and sad, but wonderfully visceral. The characters and the narrative and the ambiance all worked well together.
It’s fine to be introducing new characters and a new setting and story from season to season –American Horror Story most recently proved that this was a viable workable formula. But with that, Ryan Murphy smartly (and luckily) has Jessica Lang and now Sarah Paulson to help keep everything moving from season to season. With none of the cast returning, True Detective season 2 may have an untethered quality to it. Everything hung off Cohle and Hart as much as it did off of Cary Fukunaga’s direction; with none of those elements coming back, and with what seems to be a much tamer plot and setting, can they succeed with season 2 as wildly as they did with season 1?
True DetectiveSeason 2 will premiere on HBO at some point TBD.