HBO’s True Detective, created by Nic Pizzolatto, came virtually out of nowhere in January 2014, but it quickly moved to the center of the pop culture conversation during its two-month run on Sunday nights. With memorable lead performances from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, haunting cinematography, an eclectic score, colorful dialogue and an intriguing plot, HBO had unveiled a new TV phenomenon - one that had the benefit of being an anthology series, where each season would change up the plot, setting, characters, and cast members alike.
HBO and Pizzolatto, who writes every episode, were quick to start work on True Detective season two after season one's success. Production was delayed, as the process of assembling a cast and crew took longer than expected. In the interim, Twitter users relied on the the hashtag #TrueDetectiveSeason2 to suggest possible actor combinations for the follow-up season - some serious, some in jest. A year and a half after the first season began, though, True Detective season two has finally premiered on HBO, starring Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch in a political crime thriller set in California.
The True Detective cast and crew discuss some details behind the production of season two, in a behind-the-scenes video released by HBO. “It does feel like a small movie every week,” Kitsch says, describing the rigors of production on this series. “Season one was fantastic and very connected to Louisiana. In the same way I feel like this is very authentic and connected to Los Angeles,” Vaughn adds. The video shows a few moments of the actors getting notes on the set as well as brief glimpses of Pizzolatto offering suggestions. Executive producer Scott Stephens describes Pizzolatto’s authorial voice as the show’s “throughline” and says it’s “very present” this season.
The second season of True Detective is off to a rockier start in term of the overall critical response, compared to season one.. And indeed, several of the first season’s key assets have been replaced this season: McConaughey and Harrelson are back to pursuing film work, and the director of all eight season one episodes, Cary Joji Fukunaga, has also moved on, with his latest feature Beasts of No Nation set to debut in theaters and on Netflix later this year. In fact, reviews indicate that Pizzolatto wrote a character into an upcoming episode that’s intended as a transparent jab at the director, with whom he allegedly feuded during production on season one.
On that note, HBO has also released the True Detective season two opening credits online. Check it out, below:
Fukunaga’s direction elevated the first season, even when Pizzolatto’s sometimes pretentious and hollow dialogue threatened to drag the show down. Erasing him from the series’ arsenal may have been a wrong move on Pizzolatto’s part - if the season continues to be a letdown, he will have to accept much of the blame. As further evidenced by the widespread mockery of a recent profile of Pizzollatto in Vanity Fair, asserting Pizzollatto’s voice as the central appeal of True Detective might be a misguided decision.
However, with all that being said, True Detective season two is just getting started, and most critics haven’t seen past the third episode. It’s possible that the season’s momentum will gather steam later than it did in the first season. The combination of actors and appeal of the brand should keep viewers watching for at least a few more weeks. And if things don't work out, there’s always the possibility of righting the ship with a refreshed third season.
True Detective continues next Sunday with ‘Night Finds You’ at 9pm on HBO.