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‘True Detective’ gets second half restart

| Wednesday, July 22, 2015

In a vacuum, say you were asked to watch an untitled television series that showcased four hopelessly flawed individuals try to fight for some good in a corrupt city, all while trying to fight their own inner demons — and for that matter, fighting with each other. The premise sounds like something you would watch, especially during a summer in which you keep promising yourself to exercise tomorrow. Now you learn that this series is actually season two of “True Detective,” and so you naturally assume that this is a surefire repeat for an Emmy nomination. Right?

Except you can throw out whatever fond memories you have of the first season, and you can forget the times you, Rust Cohle and Marty Hart (played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, respectively) dived into creepy cults armed with quick reflexes and witty dialogue. This season is a completely separate entity from its predecessor and shouldn’t necessarily be given a pass for its missteps because of its legacy. This season presents to us twice the number of wonderfully flawed protagonists/anti-heroes to learn about.

We have Detective Valcoro (played by Colin Farrell), who is admittedly must-see TV for his erratic personality and emotional instability — which mirrors all the control of Bambi trying to walk on ice. There’s Detective Bezzerides (played by Rachel McAdams), who epitomizes the idea of self-identity issues, with a rough family upbringing to boot. Then there’s Officer Woodrugh (played by Taylor Kitsch, best known as Tim Riggins in “Friday Night Lights”) who struggles with role conflict between being a family man and a self-accepting gay man — all while being a hardened ex-member of the army.

Finally, there’s Frank Semyon (played by Vince Vaughn), who is the former-gangster-turned-property-owner that finds himself in a bit of a money issue. Semyon is also must-see TV, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons, i.e. an all-too-serious Vaughn who seems ready to reprise his “Wedding Crashers” role at any given moment.

If you think it was a mouthful to go over each of those four characters, then you can imagine what it has been like going over each of their backstories over just four hours — and therein lies the problem of the first half of the season. Viewers of the series have voiced the same frustration — there has just been too much “table-setting.”

There is a limit to how much each of the characters’ incompetence can be elaborated upon without the show feeling stagnant and, frankly, boring. And no, this isn’t a cry for nonstop scenes of guns, guys and gals — as a matter of fact, each of the first four episodes seems to have tried the same formula to no avail: slow start, even slower middle and then thrilling, heart-racing shocker (usually guns start blazing) for the last three minutes. But the start to the second half of the season was the complete opposite (not one gun shot), yet it still felt like a refreshing change of pace, with the episode seemingly flying to the finish as opposed to its usual unbearable crawl.

[Spoiler alert from here on out, in case you haven’t caught up to last Sunday’s episode]

Following the epic shoot-out from the end of episode four, the three detectives have seemingly given up the Caspere case, as they try to tend to their own personal lives — Valcoro with the custody of his son (if it’s even his), Bezzerides with being demoted to logging evidence after a sexual misconduct investigation within the police department and Woodrugh with his pregnant fiancé. And for good measure, Semyon is taking a break from gangsterism to deal with his and his wife’s inability to have a child. But the detectives are all brought back together to work “off-the-books” on the Caspere case, even if Valcoro rejoins only if promised custody of his son. However, working closely with the police again only proves to drop a bombshell on his personal life, as it’s revealed that Semyon had conned Valcoro all along, to have Valcoro wrapped around Semyon’s finger after all this time. With all this drama and renewed sense of purpose, the show is revitalized with a new sense of energy, suspense and vigor.

No “true” action takes place in episode five, yet it undoubtedly feels like the episode fans have been waiting over a month for now — our characters dealing with the seeds of mistrust in themselves and each other while trying to cooperate and solve this truly messed up case full of corruption, deceit and murder. The plot finally moves through the dialogue and character development, and for that we’ll see the season through — and we can only hope it will be worth the extended wait.

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About Miko Malabute

Senior student at the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Biochemistry. From Tujunga, CA.

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