True Detective (S2: The Western Book Of The Dead)
True Detective, for what it’s worth, was sexily made and paced Nihilism. The Season 2 premiere The Western Book Of The Dead starring Colin Firth, Rachel Mcadams, Taylor Kitsch, and Vince Vaughn, is convoluted and compositionally uninteresting nihilism. Series primer Justin Lin (of Fast and Furious 6) streaks off the path of Season 1’s slow-burn for something more choppy and procedural. He gets right to business establishing the series protagonists, their origins, and (already) a few sizzling sub-plots. What remains of the first is Nic Pizzolato’s filthy underworld of licentious woman and two-fisted men drowning in their own cynical solipsism. Colin Firth gets high, binge drinks, and brass-knuckle punches a father on the job. Rachel Mcadam’s has dad and sis problems, and Taylor Kitsch has a need for suicidal motorcycle speeds and girlfriends who await him at home in their underwear.
And again it’s all wearily serious, with no Woody Harrelson to relieve us our pontificating McConaughey with his all-American optimism. I could never make out if Pizzolato truly clung to the ham-fisted monologues of Rusty Rust Cohle. But Season 2’s direction seems to degrade some of that ambivalence. Every character in The Western Book Of The Dead is a shadow of Cohle’s disdain.
Gone are Emmy-winner Fukunaga and his trusty cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, and with them their stunning cinematography on celluloid. It’s now aesthetically akin to Sons of Anarchy, with an anxiously placed shoulder in the foreground and a talking head in the rule of thirds. It’s a lot of this back and forth, dialogue driven, plot driving, with little room for cunning compositions. With one exception: A medium landscape shot where window blinds bend to reveal a beating. Gone also is Season 1’s attention to detail. I was immersed in its surrealist realism; I believed what was going on. Season 2 manages to be both less surreal, and less immersive. It’s difficult to believe any of this gunk for a second.
Gunk may it be, it is still sadistically addicting gunk. It’s a newfound more accessible vindictiveness that may attract new audience members while only marginally risking it’s established niche. There're few places to find this much malicious dark candy, with this much talent, and this much sillily-serious handiwork.