While there have been plenty of feverishly anticipated TV shows returning this year, the second season of “True Detective” might have had the heaviest expectations placed on it. The first season, which benefited from what we’ve all come to know as the McConaissance of Matthew McConaughey’s delivery of a series of indelible performances, was an intense, philosophical take on the buddy cop formula. The new season, with an entirely new cast, new location and new crime, has some big shoes to fill. Say goodbye to the flashback structure, and say hello to an obsession with the ways people have sex, think about sex and plan to have sex. Here’s what else you can expect.
1. The show heads west
Instead of the first season’s Bayou locale, the show is set in sunny, dissipated Vinci, California. It’s a city of few residents, toxic pollution and a whole lot of corruption. The ostensible crime that occurs (the murder of a city manager) is only a tiny pawn in the battle between the various individuals and groups trying to get a piece of the pie, and the potentially cleaner government officials striving to investigate them.
2. Things get a bit dry
Sure, the first season had an incredibly ornate serial killer murder scene to start things off, but what about a complicated land deal gone awry? There’s a new rail line going in, and plenty of corrupt government employees and local gangsters are lining up to benefit, including Vince Vaughn, who’s really trying to go straight. Unfortunately, the murder victim had almost all of his money, and seems to have failed to actually invest it. There are shades of the Justin Theroux character from “Mulholland Drive” in Vaughn’s desperate efforts tofigure out what happened.
3. Remember the ’70s?
The show certainly does. From the old beat up cars to Colin Farrell’s serious ‘stache, the whole thing has the feel of a hardboiled 1970s detective novel. The sun shines through a permanent Instagram filter, and the moments when those old cars rejoin normal traffic serve as a jarring reminder that this takes place in the modern era. The characters may carry cell phones, but that’s about the only indication that this show takes place in 2015.
4. A dark, wicked sense of humor
There are jokes here, though don’t expect many from Vince Vaughn, the ostensible comedian of the bunch. He’s stuck with some of the more philosophical lines in the new season, but struggles with them a bit more than McConaughey did. But there are plenty of throwaway lines here that have the cadence and appearance of jokes, despite the fact that no one here seems willing to crack a smile. Instead, they’re more often greeted by a sardonic look from one of the four leads (Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch are the trio of cops set at cross purposes to investigate the murder and each other).
5. There are women now
Creator Nic Pizzolatto seems to have listened to the criticism about the first season’s lack of three dimensional female characters. This time through, McAdams plays as big a role as the men, though it’s worth noting that both she and Michelle Monaghan, Season 1’s female lead, both make their first appearances onscreen in their underwear. McAdams is the quintessential tough, gritty cop, marooned in a field of men who seem fated to disappoint her and earn a withering side eye.