**SPOILERS: If you aren’t caught up with True Detective, read at own risk**
There’s a great line in Catcher in the Rye.
“The trouble with girls is, if they like a boy, no matter how big a bastard he is, they’ll say he has an inferiority complex, and if they don’t like him, no matter how nice a guy he is, or how big an inferiority complex he has, they’ll say he’s conceited. Even smart girls do it.”
The line transcends teenage romance. You see it in pop culture all the time. And, to that end, people seemed ready to hate the shit out of True Detective‘s second season.
Some artistic efforts are doomed to fail. The upcoming Batman v. Superman, any Eddie Murphy movie after 1985, a Trump presidency, and I’d put the new season of True Detective into that camp well. After last season, this reinvention is playing like a second career choice for Walter White, a follow-up band to the Beatles (fuck Wings). Reinvention is tough.
I am probably one of the very few who is not only enjoying this second season of TD, but who actually finds it superior to the first. I liked Season One; Season Two has more about what I liked of that inaugural effort–a bigger mystery, a better city, with bigger, more believable action and richer, more complex characters. Despite her stellar work in the criminally underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Michelle Monaghan, a good actress, was wasted in Season One, not unlike Vince Vaughn this time around, if for different reasons. (We’ll get to Vince V. shortly.)
In S1, I didn’t find a lot of depth in Woody or his wife. McConaughey was terrific, and Rust Cohle a great character, undoubtably the best part of the show. He is a persona impossible to replicate. Nik Pizzolatto & Co. did the next best thing: they spread the angst out among the four leads (Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro; Rachel McAdam’s Ani Bezzerides; Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh; and the much-maligned Vince Vaughn’s [equally reviled] Frank Semyon).
I read a review about Season Two, I think it was Entertainment Weekly, which said S2 doubles down on S1. If you hated One, you’ll hate Two, loved love, and so on, etc. I, like many of my crime-writing brethren, had waited with bated breath for the debut of Season Two, which judging by the response of social media has been an unmitigated failure. After every episode, I turn on Facebook the next day, and see supporters abandoning the TD ship in droves. What’s funny are the reasons they give, citing the same shit that they loved in S1 as the reason they can’t take any more. I just don’t get it.
Thomas Pluck writes a great, even-handed review of the show over at Criminal Element. I have the luxury (because no one gives a shit what I write about the show) of not being so impartial. Or critical. In a world of crappy TV like the Bachelorette or American Idol, whatever reality piece-of-shit show they trot out next, a daring work of art like TD, S1 or S2, should be cherished, all sins forgiven. Because that’s big-game hunting. Of course I know that is my aesthetic.
It’s how I look at art. I am willing to forgive flaws and transgressions if the work builds up enough good graces shooting for the stars. Take The Dark Knight Rises, a film a lot of people hated. Like TD S2, it was set up to fail by the impossible standards it set for itself by being so good the first time (or 2nd in TDKR’s case). But I often like the follow-up to the seminal work. I’ll take Wish You Were Here over Dark Side of the Moon.
Everything has holes. Books. Records. Films. My soul. If you like a boy and he’s conceited. I study this stuff like it’s my job. Because it is. I’d be dancing the happy feet if I wrote something as good as TD, One or Two, so it’s kind of sad watching how the show is being attacked. The question is why? S1 had McConaughey. But Farrell is every bit as good an actor, IMO. His scene with the ex-wife talking about taking away paternal visits? When he vacillates between begging and threatening to burn the whole city down? Fuck, man, it doesn’t get any better. And McAdams is a revelation.
When I went to the stylist to get my hair cut last time (yes, I go to a stylist; I’m not a fucking barbarian. You pay $14 for a haircut, you’re getting a $14 haircut), I brought up a picture of Farrell’s Velcoro on my iPhone. “I want my hair to look like this,” I said. (My wife, Justine, says, “But it’s so greasy!” Exactly!) Tabitha Wilson, a writer/friend/entrepreneur on Facebook, says she, too, is going after McAdams’s/Ani’s “hobo hair.”
No one has a problem with Farrell or McAdams, or Kitsch, for that matter; most seem to agree, the latter has done solid work too (albeit with far less interesting hair). So why the hate? Yes, the plot is convoluted, and yes it has major holes (so did S1). Every movie and/or book has holes. If you want to look for and/or point them out. The dialogue is heavy and clunky at times. Someone called it the “big voice.” But what’s Rust Cohle’s “time is a flat circle” speech? That’s about as “big” as it gets. Which is why it’s so easy to parody. My point is there was just as much ridiculous shit in the first season, but (almost) everyone was willing to overlook it.
Which leaves Vince Vaughn.
Now I like VV just fine. I mean, he was great in Swingers. And I certainly don’t hate him in Season Two of True Detective. But I can’t much defend him. It’s a combination of the role and not doing much with it. I had blamed the blandness of the role, and then I read at the Office: “Think how much Bobby Cannavale would nail this part!” Then I saw Ant-Man, and was like, Yeah, pretty much. Vince Vaughn isn’t right for the role of gangster Frank Semyon. He lacks menace. His henchman seem woefully inept and, well, tiny. You just don’t get the sense Frank could be feared. Others sense this too. I think it’s in the 3rd episode where Frank tries to assert dominance, gets laughed at, and then beats up a dude, before pulling out his teeth. The pulling out of the teeth with pliers move is always a good one for noir. But a scene that needed to be vicious and devastating was almost comical. Despite being 6’7″, he doesn’t look like he could actually fight. Or intimidate. He seems like a guy who majored in theater. What’s even weirder is apparently the role was written specifically for Vince Vaughn.
Still, like Holden says, I am willing to forgive the flaws of True Detective Season Two for one simple reason: I like the conceited boy. It’s not his fault he acts this way. He’s insecure.