An unscientific survey of recent media reports found that sheer verbiage about the finale of the second season of HBO’s “True Detective” outnumbered clear-headed analyses of the proposed Iran nuclear treaty by a factor of 1,000-to-1.
I expect that any day there will be an open letter from three dozen retired generals and eminent nuclear physicists explaining why they feel, like so many, that the noir crime-corruption series sucked at an extremely high decibel level.
There were few kind notices about the convoluted Southern Californian tale that required 50-inch explainers each week to decode the twists and turns of an overwrought plot built around everything from screwed-up family relations and sex trafficking to high-speed rail and screwed-up hippie communes.
Nevertheless, I don’t understand the tsunami of rotten tomatoes flung at the show. I admit Vince Vaughn wasn’t the best casting decision for an up-from-the-streets crime boss. He delivered most of his lines with the passion of a hungover clown performing his fifth kids’ party on a single Saturday afternoon.
But I was entertained — or immobilized after the Leonard Cohen cement mixer of a song that opened each episode — while I watched week after week. Still, I hope no other auteur-director will employ multiple scenes of the most depressing folk singer in the world performing dirges in the background over important lines mumbled by main characters. Banjos and accordions — shudder — would have been better, especially at drowning out those important mumbles.
A fall from critical grace was inevitable for TD 2.0 after the much-heralded first season.
I was late to the hallowed first season after somehow getting HBO on demand in a cable TV package far more confusing than the second season’s sprawling plot. All I’d wanted was to add SF Giants games and to discontinue Showtime because the third season of “Homeland” was so wretched, for reasons I won’t elaborate.
Somehow, I ended up with Showtime still, and a few other premium channels on a monthly Comcast package that would require the attention of a true detective to explain. Consequently, I binge-watched the first season of TD in another one of my periodic and hapless attempts to catch up with current pop culture.
Truth be told, 1.0’s plot was just as complicated as 2.0’s, and all the bayou scenery got on your nerves as much as all the overhead freeway shots in the second season.
Much of the appeal for 1.0 was the dime-store philosophy mumbled by the Matthew McConaughey detective as he drove down many hot roads with his window rolled down with the Woody Harrelson detective. I can’t remember any of these cosmic cogitations. Nor can I remember the brand of car McConaughey hawked in a series of commercials tied to the success of TD 1.0. My inner Sherlock deduces he’s not a good pitchman for either pessimistic world views or new Chryslers.
One thing certain: Colin Farrell will not be aping his TD 2.0 detective in any car commercials. On the other hand, I would certainly watch Rachel McAdams reprise her 2.0 role in late-night ads for amazing sets of cutlery.
I do have one gripe about TD 2.0 that I believe has gone unremarked upon by the thousands of professional and amateur critics who buried the show in a toxic landfill of negativity. In his lurch-across-the-desert death scene, Vince Vaughn’s character encounters many ghosts from his formative years. The salt-flat setting was reminiscent of many car ads. I think it would have made perfect sense for Matthew McConaughey to glide up in one of those luxury cars he’s been selling, roll down the window and tell Vaughn one of the secrets of the universe.
Vaughn, of course, would have flung several blood-smeared blue diamonds at the car and gasped, “You’re mumbling. I don’t understand!” TD 2.0 really face-planted by failing to include this scene. It could have meant easy critical redemption for the whole thing. Or not.
BONUS LOCAL ANGLE: There was talk that some of TD 2.0 was shot in Monterey County, either in Big Sur or on the Peninsula. I didn’t notice any local scenery, but there was a passing reference to Monterey itself in the script.One character said a huge orgy with a bunch of fat-cat businessmen, corrupt politicians and drugged prostitutes took place at one businessman’s home in Monterey. This struck me as patently ridiculous, if not downright insulting to the good people of Monterey.
Everyone knows that Monterey’s tight zoning laws and neighborhood parking regulations effectively proscribe huge orgies. I should think the current City Council will be seeking an immediate apology from HBO.