What might season 2 of True Detective have in store?

Feature Michael Noble 19 Mar 2014 - 07:00

A new cast, a new story, a new location? We take a look at what might be on offer when True Detective returns...

Warning: this article contains speculation.

Securing a recurring role in a top-rated TV show is a dream of many actors. In a profession that is frequently dogged by unemployment and uncertainty, a secure berth season after season is one of the best ways to ensure that the mortgage is paid every month. For some actors, however, paying the mortgage ceased to be a problem quite some time ago and they are free to leave as and when they decide to or, if they are so inclined, when the story demands it. So it is with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, one of whom is the proud laureate of this year’s Best Actor Oscar while neither of whom are short of job offers. By mutual agreement their joint eight episodes on True Detective will be their only eight such episodes and when the show returns next year it will be with a brand new cast, new characters and a new story.  

A second season has yet to be officially announced by HBO but that is likely for contractual reasons behind the scenes rather than genuine uncertainty on whether to proceed. Series creator Nic Pizzolatto has already started working on new scripts which, at this early stage, are very light on detail. The rubric name, True Detective, is deliberately generic, echoing some of the pulp novel strands of the twentieth century and giving Pizzolatto the opportunity to take each season wherever and whenever he wants, just as long as there’s a mystery involved somewhere. He’s not interested in serial killer stories as a ‘genre’ and he’s not constrained by any need to include murder as the motivating crime. Like a lot of crime writers, he bases his work on real life crimes and trends. In season one’s case, this was the (now largely debunked) spate of claims of Satanic child-killings on the 80s and 90s.


We won’t know exactly what shape the second season will take for quite some time and, naturally, many of the specifics will remain mysterious until the episodes are broadcast. Still, Pizzolatto has offered some clues as to the flavour of the follow up. Speaking to Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall, he gave a tantalising hint about the direction his fingers were taking across his keyboard. The second season will be about ‘hard women, bad men and the secret occult history of the United States transportation system’ he said. An expansive interview he gave with Buzzfeed’s Kate Authur is more revealing still. Pizzolatto said that he’d be prepared to leave the Gulf Coast setting of True Detective (and of his novel, Galveston) perhaps moving westwards. He’d been reading about ‘the last forty years of Southern California government’. The first season’s plot detail about the Tuttle schools and the involvement of local political and religious figures suggests an interest in how public projects can mask criminal activity so, unlikely as it sounds, a thriller involving members of a public transportation committee might yet see the light of day. 

A possible break with the format of the first season may come in the central relationship. The success of the first season means that top class talent will be queuing for roles, attracted by the potential acclaim and the straightforward commitment (from an actor’s point of view) of a six month shooting schedule. However, that does not mean that the pattern of the first season should be regarded as a template for the future.


To the possible chagrin of #TrueDetectiveSeason2 participants on Twitter (whose number includes your correspondent, a fact for which I offer my apologies) it’s by no means a given that the narrative will follow the perspective of two investigators. That binary POV was suitable to the first story but Pizzolatto is not limited to that formula. Rumours that he may address some of the gender-bias criticisms of the show by featuring two female detectives are likely to also prove unfounded. Pizzolatto is committed to telling the story that he wants to tell with the characters that are right for it. They may be male, they may be female; there may be a duo, there may be a team. What it won’t be is a direct response to the criticism of the first season. ‘I never want to create from a place of critical placation,’ he told BuzzFeed. ‘I don’t want, for instance, a gender-bias-critique to influence what I do’.

While a change to the central character dynamic remains in the Possible list, a change to the creative dynamic has already been promoted to Definite. The first season’s sustained aesthetic was partly the result of having one writer and one director work on every episode, an unusual approach in TV. The creative schedule of writing, filming and post-producton work on the second season means that having Cary Joji Fukunaga sit in the director’s chair for the entire run would be logistically impossible. Pizzolatto has been talking to a couple of ‘great guys’ about working on the show and has every hope of preserving a consistent aesthetic, although the ‘dominant colours will change from South Louisiana’s green and burnished gold’.

All in all, that sounds a rather appealing prospect. A sequence of individual seasons, each with its own story, its own characters and its own aesthetic would help sustain True Detective’s solid reputation and further its creator’s standing as a writer with a firm vision and several stories to tell. We’re all looking forward to it, even if, as seems likely, much of the above speculation turns out to be arrant nonsense. Best just to leave it in Pizzolatto’s capable hands. 

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It sounds interesting. I'm not really sure what to think of it. But then I had the exact same response when season 1 was announced which only made the shock even bigger when I watched the pilot and found out True Detective was the best new US show in years. The idea of at least one female detective sounds appealing to me but then again I also hugely support a writer who follows his own course and is not bothered by the public opinion. And let's be honest: season 1 was not the greatest thing on tv for feminists but neither was it really misogynistic. Change of setting sounds cool. I l really like Louisiana as a setting for a murder mystery but then again I also like diversity and though I feel less poisitive about CA as a setting I'm curious to see what Pizzolatto will do with it. The story involving the transportation board is also intriguing. All in all I'd say I'm quite intrigued by the minute tidbits we've been handed.

First season was a fluke. Second season will suck.

Thanks, Mystic Meg!

he did say somewhere that the narrative device of split time and shared recollection would very likely stay - he pointed out it doesn't have to be a police interview. he said something about that being a signature of the show in his head.

Idris Elba and Leonardo Di Caprio is my dream pair up!

Not watched any of the show, but I've heard good things. Might start watching later.

Aw, so phunny!

The big strength of this show was the acting and the two main characters, mainly Cohle. Cohle was a memorable character -- more authentically pessimist than anything you find on TV. Marty was fun to watch for all the pussy he got, the catastrophe of his marriage, etc. The plot itself was fairly thin, the murders pretty routine. The directing, for all its accolades, was glacial most of the time with occasional exceptions. So what will the formula for success be next time round? They going to get lucky and get another remarkable performance from another actor who isn't McConnaghey for a different and equally colorful/memorable character? Nah, bullshit.

Can 8 hours of consistently amazing TV really be defined as a 'fluke'? In fact you just explained exactly why it wasn't a fluke in your reply. Hard to judge season 2 before it's even out, I'm sure they will come up with something amazing and I look forward to watching them try.

It was a fluke because you had McConaughey in the middle of his McConaissance and you had a compelling and memorable character for him to play. Without that, the series would have blown, Woody or not. There's no way the guy in charge's going to write another equally compelling and memorable character with an actor who nails it.

season 1 a fluke? please. stick to watching breaking bad buddy. lol

It was a fluke because they cast a great actor in a great role and that led to great TV?.... Great thinking there Einstein. By your inbred logic, everything that has ever been good has been a fluke.

Unfortunately I think you're using the term fluke incorrectly, like Nev said.. you could apply that logic to anything that ends up being great. Personally I'd like to see someone like Joaquin Phoenix cast in season 2.

What a bunch of fanfags. Hope springs eternal! Here's little education for you: a fluke is something that is a one-off, a fortuitous combination of circumstance. The question is whether the same success can be repeated with different characters and different actors. The answer: unlikely. So, yes, to the commentard below: everything great *is* a fluke. How many novelists can top a great novel with a totally different one equally great? Why do sequels generally suck? Why do spinoffs generally suck? To the goofball who mentioned 'Breaking Bad' below: yeah, if they had changed out all the characters and actors, we'd likely be saying Season 1 of that show was a fluke also. Sure, the show might be as good in season 2 when it will *basically be a different show*. But I doubt it.

Be interesting if the plot ends up like the one to LA Noir or China town, as they both had plots revolving around municipal corruption. I think given the quality of the first season it wont be hard to attract very big names to the second season, personally i would love for Willem Defoe and Steve Buscemi to be involved, not necessarily as partners but that could work

Definitely not a fluke by any means. I live in that part of the US and it captures the dark nuances and character inflections quite well. A truly great and entertaining whodunit. Can't wait for season 2. Fanfag here.

Some education for us? Oh, how can we ever repay you.

Our point is this. You declaring season 1 a fluke either means you have a time machine or you are talking out of your arse and cannot possibly know what season 2 will bring. And if you think that every great thing ever is a fluke (and that admission alone is enough to discard every retarded thing you've said) then why ever bother mentioning it? If it is the case for everything ever then it shouldn't be used as a knock on true detective.

In short, you are clearly a total muppet.

So you have no point. Other than: 'You don't have a time machine, man! You don't know whuz gonna happen!' Dream on. The show got lucky: the right writing and the right acting. But 'Season 2' as you fanbois keep calling it won't be a second season of anything. Effectively, it'll be a whole new show. They aren't sticking to the one-director rule, another reason why the show was a fluke. So: director format changed, actors changed, characters changed. But it's gonna be great, man!

West Wing was great. So is the Newsroom. So was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.Same writer. Different shows. Different actors. Different directors. All great.

The second season of True Detective will, yes, basically be a whole new show. Go tell Aaron Sorkin that it is not possible for the same writer to come up with more than one good show.

Basically, you made a stupid, unsubstantiated point and got called out for it. No one likes looking like an idiot, so I understand why you are getting so defensive. I also know that starting arguments with strangers on the internet is probably the most human contact you have in your life, so I'll leave you to enjoy it. I'm done pointing out what a dick you are.

Guffaw. When you're done sniffing into your sleeve, you might realize: other shows that are great (e.g. The Wire, Breaking Bad) *started off* with different writers, different directors, same core characters. The creative formula in place ran through each series to the end. With True Detective you had the fluke of a same director/same writer duo. You also had the fluke of two major A-list Hollywood stars, one of whom sunk his teeth into a totally unique role (a role that was a fluke). Now the whole formula is disrupted: one writer, different directors, totally different actors and characters. True Detective was not a 'great' show. It was above average, and it was distinguished mainly by the performance of McConnaughey. Now that's gone. All that remains is one so-so writer who achieved success mainly because of one unique character and an actor that nailed that role.

What it boils down to is that it's all art man. And I believe the vision of True Detectives is unique and could successfully work for quite a few seasons. Think about it...A new geographical location...say a dusty old town like Truth or Consequences in Southern New Mexico, with two a-list stars like Ed Norton, Joaquin Phoenix or Paul Giamatti and Daniel Day Lewis. Have someone like David Fincher come on board to direct a series. So many great options with fantastic writers, directors and actors who would be more than happy to partake in the show.

This was a stunning story with stunning actors. It doesn't matter what gender or color the actors are for the next season .... it's about the story, not about diversity! I'm so tired of everyone reading race, etc. into everything.

By definition, it cannot be a fluke until inferior future seasons exist to make it one. All you are doing is making a prediction based on a few arbitrary facts. God knows Im cynical, but I at least wait for things to actually exist before having a go at them.

Realism, not cynicism. Dark storm clouds foretell rain. The writer hasn't really had TV success before, the show's main effective elements will be gone in season two. I don't see why all the fan love has to cloud our reason. However, if the second season is as good as the first, I'll be the first to applaud.

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