True Detective season 2 review: Kiss goodbye to any link whatsoever to the first series

Episode 1: There’ll be no simple, ritualistic psycho killers this time round

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The Independent Culture

It’s True Detective, Jim, but not as we know it. If you loved the first series, then you might want to take a seat. It’s all gone.

Gone are Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as the spiritually deadened detectives Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle. Gone is Louisiana, with its steam-drenched bayous and seemingly endless supply of burnt out cars. Gone too is director Cary Fukunaga (though he remains as executive producer).

Kiss goodbye to split narratives, meth-addled hillbillies and any link whatsoever to series one. All that remains is writer Nic Pizzolatto - who clearly has a pair of big brass balls - and a huge, shiny clean slate.

Say hello then to California (LA County to be precise), Fast & Furious director Justin Lin (for the first couple of episodes) and not two, but four troubled lead characters. One thing that Pizzolatto has definitely dragged north with him is the HR Department of the Louisiana State Police and their predilection for employing emotionally harpooned alcoholics.

Colin Farrell plays hard-drinking cop Ray Velcoro

Protecting and serving this time round we have the unholy triumvirate of Colin Farrell’s bent copper Ray Velcoro, the physically and emotionally scarred highway patrolman Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) and Ani ‘hey, Pizzolatto can write strong female characters too’ Bezzerides, a beer swilling, one night stand-having, knife-wielding tom boy detective played by Rachel McAdams (it’s characterisation via the kitchen sink method). I wouldn’t trust these three to solve the easy Sudoku, let alone a complex criminal investigation.

The trio have been brought together by the murder of the City Manager, who was discovered perched daintily - eyes burnt out, crotch mutilated - on a picnic bench by the seafront. This was a real shame for him, as he was due to host a fundraising evening for a new high-speed train line with hoodlum-turned-legit casino owner Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn, with a lot to prove). There’ll be no simple, ritualistic psycho killers this time round.

Vaughn, a man famed for being both fat and thin at the same time, is all hollow eyes and jowls as Semyon and, on this evidence, looks like being a decent foil for Farrell’s uber-intense Velcoro. I must admit to being a little perturbed when the episode opened with Velcoro showing us what a great dad he is, dropping his bullied little boy off at school and begging for greater visitation rights. However, later, as he donned a knuckleduster in order to savagely beat the father of the boy bullying his son, I realised we were on the right track.

There was something simple about the first series. Something clean and neat, despite its knotty plot, which was accentuated by the bleached-out cinematography. Here we are now, in California, and it seems rather messy and, somehow, too big. However, this is not the True Detective of series one, far from it, and all thoughts of Rusty and the blanched Louisiana plains need to be banished. Not a thrilling opener but promise galore. I trust you, Nic.