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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