Why the 'True Detective' Season 2 Finale Failed On Every Level

by Brock Wilbur 11:50 PM PDT, August 09, 2015
Photo: HBO

Tonight the final episode of True Detective season two aired. That's it. That's all there is. Nothing good came from this. Nothing was resolved. Not a single person who tuned in eight Sundays in a row felt rewarded for their attention.

My God-- we made such a mistake.

If you're one of the American heroes who followed the first season of True Detective  in real time, you know how rewarding a television event can be. The Matthew McConaughey's partnership with Woody Harrelson yielded an elaborate Southern gothic that brushed shoulders with Lovecraftian horror and the threat of existential acceptance. While rumors swirled that swaths of the season were stolen from other texts, it's hard to argue with end-sum product: a horrifying Hemingway-esque meditation on the darkness of the human soul.

And then... season two.

We're going to get through this together -- take our hand.

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Season two focused on a fictional Southern California city and the police who ostensibly maintained a false narrative of safety against the backdrop of an elaborate criminal chess game pitting real estate development against murderous drug dealers. It's dumb. It's so dumb and it goes nowhere. And maybe it hates women, but not as much as it hates telling a good story. There's just nothing to say in its defense, and I cannot imagine that a single person feels their time was well spent.

Look, we're trying our best not to rant, but holy cow was this a high-flying endeavor that missed every single mark.

The season finale saw a collection of quasi-antiheroes band together to take a stand against bad people for the sake of money or family or pride or some ideal that was never fleshed out. It was the opposite of a victory lap, wherein the audience was reminded of the sheer level of talent that was bound together in this HBO epic, and how very, very little came from the collaboration.

Rachel McAdams, Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch, and Vince Vaughn were entrusted to tell an elaborate, compelling, challenging story that could keep pace with the show's complex yet unresolved first season.

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What we were shown was a series of poorly cobbled-together segments that seemed to always threaten the actors with punishment if they didn't over-act 110 percent.

Combined with a series of red herring plot lines that never found an emotional resonance, we just wound up waiting out the clock on a narrative experiment that could have been so much more.

As shows like True Detective and American Horror Story usher in this new wave of anthology television, there remains a promise inherent in the seasonal reinvention that you will at least hold true to the basic premise of the show -- Twilight Zone had weird wacky stories, American Horror Story will be spooky, and True Detective will have a compelling mystery.

But that's the problem -- the show forgot to even dabble in mystery. It's the single most fundamental element of what we were promised, and at no point could an audience member explain what the show's basic problem boiled down to.

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Bascially, this season of True Detective wound up most closely approximating the experience of watching The Lord Of The Rings -- none of the proper nouns made sense and sometimes the story was only entertaining when everyone was fighting.

Not to exaggerate, but the conclusion of this season is a red letter day that will alter the business of television for years to come. The massive failure of this splinter story may scare studios away from anthology storytelling for the discernible future.

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