Warning: This post contains details about Season 2 of True Detective including the finale.
In Season 1 of True Detective, the finale saw the light winning. On the surface, the same cannot be said about Season 2’s bloody ending. We saw three of our four main protagonists meet their end. Well, Officer Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) got killed in the penultimate episode but we do see his corpse being zipped up into a bodybag. But their deaths do not mean it was an entirely bleak finale. There were a lot of silver-lining moments here. Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) getting a salute from his son and we find out later that Chad (Trevor Larcom) is indeed his biological son. Ray’s other son, a result of his fling with Ani (Rachel McAdams), is being brought up by Ani, Jordan Semyon (Kelly Reilly) and their bodyguard Nails (Chris Kerson). Ani also gets all of the details of the case to a reporter who can hopefully bring to light the utter cesspool that unearthed itself during the Caspere case.
There will be a lot of debate about Season 2 as well as comparisons to Season 1. It had a fair share of faults and missteps, an overall storyline that often became muddled and confusing, characters who were brought up often but had little actual screen time (looking at you Stan), and some uneven performances by Vince Vaughn, Taylor Kitsch and Kelly Reilly (though Vaughn’s performance does get much better and by the finale, he owns it).
Early on in the season, it was entertaining, and even batshit crazy at times. You get the feeling that writer/showrunner Nic Pizzolatto was trying too hard to do something vastly different from Season 1, attempting to move past the plagiarism allegations that haunted him. The strong performances by Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell kept many people interested, though, and by the end of the season, we saw some great things. The last half of the season became something terrific, escalating the show from a standard cop procedural that you can catch on network TV to a show you expect from HBO. The brutal shootout in a busy street, Ani’s one-woman raid on the sex party and Woodrugh’s escape from the underground setup all made for wonderful television viewing.
The main storyline – the Caspere murder – does get wrapped up fairly neatly by the end. Many folks on the Interwebs predicted how it would turn out and are smugly sitting there going, “I told you so. So predicatable.” Those same people would probably be criticizing it if there were some unexpected twist to the murder. Like it was Ray all along! There is no winning for Pizzolatto in that case. Give enough info for viewers to figure it out or not give enough and be called out for it? Frankly, it worked. The motive behind his murder finally became crystal clear and the murderers unmasked (pun intended, Mr. Birdman shooter).
The finale also brought us some very good action sequences. Frank and Ray’s assault on the cabin where McCandless (Jon Lindstrom) and Osip (Timothy V. Murphy) are brokering their deal was the type of brutal action sequence that you want to rewind and watch again. And Ray got to fulfill his promise to Osip by putting a bullet into his head. That all happened with 30 minutes left in the 90 minute finale, so you pretty much knew it was not going to be a happy ending with Ray and Frank getting to Venezuela to be with the women they love.
Ray ends up getting tracked down by crooked cop Burris (James Frain) and going down in a blaze of glory while his final audio message to his son fails to get delivered. Frank gets carjacked by the Mexican drug dealers he made a deal with a few episodes back. Refusing to give up his suit (and the $3.5 million in diamonds that are more than likely in his pockets), Frank is stabbed and left for dead in the middle of a desert. During his own stroll down Via Dolorosa, a bleeding Frank hallucinates and sees images from his past that ultimately shaped him into the man he was. He finally dies after seeing his final image, his wife Jordan wearing the white dress she promised to put on when they next saw each other.
There will be a lot of people who write this season off as a waste of time. Hell, it’s even unclear if the season would have benefited from more time to flesh things out and make them clear or if it would have been better to have less time and a more streamlined story. But we got what we got: a highly enjoyable, often imbalanced, well-acted, 8.5 hours of TV.