True Detective Season 2 Premiere Review: A Spoiler-Free Look

True Detective Season 2 will be a relentless search for a murky truth. Here's our spoiler-free review of the season premiere...

For the spoiler-filled version of this review, click here!

For anyone who didn’t read all the preliminary hype and who still might be expecting what they saw in True Detective season 1, this ain’t it. There’s no Woody Harrelson or Matthew McConaughey. There’s no Louisiana woods. True Detective season 2 has a whole new cast, a whole new theme song and a whole new vibe.

The atmosphere is palpable on True Detective season 2. Everything seems to have a haze. Whether it’s the red afterglow of an empty bar, the golden haze over the city of angels or the sun streaming through the windows on breakfast, a dingy sheen hangs over the cameras. The cuts immediately take our perspective through the story as if we’re reading a novel. Each new paragraph hints at the line before but only in passing.

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Colin Farrell plays Ray Velcoro, a sad cop. He’s overcoming a family tragedy and sending his son to a new school. He used to work at the sheriff’s office and he welcomes judgement. He’s got a lot to be judged for, working both sides of the law with a strong arm and brass knuckles. I like Farrell. He used to project a wide-eyed aura of naïve optimism. He shed that hopeful nature for this, but he still has a twinkling of likeability behind his haunted eyes.

There is a great deal of humor in the eyes of Rachel McAdams, who plays Ani Bezzerides, in spite of her aloof disregard for anything that smacks of commitment. If the sheriff’s detective had her way, everyone would stop screwing and start using drugs. And not the good kind that Velcoro enjoys, and he goes through the whole repertoire – drinking, smoking, and sniffing, Bezzerides would put the whole world on Zoloft, especially her sister Athena Bezzerides (Leven Rambin).

Ani is a veteran of a failed marriage and has a hatred of all men. She lives in a state of resistance, making up problems for herself because she’s fail angry at the entire world, according to her father, played by House MD’s Michael Tritter. He also says she has a false sense of entitlement for something she never received. Bezzerides has a definite chip on her shoulder.

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Paul Woodrugh is another chip off the old road block. Taylor Kitsch plays a CHiP, a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer and war veteran. He’s currently on administrative leave for soliciting a blow job from a young actress to avoid a citation. We don’t know if he did it or she’s just accusing him of it, but the other cops in the squad room know what she looks like and they think he’d be a moron if he passed it up.

Vince Vaughn didn’t gain weight to play Frank Semyon, but he won some gravitas at Vinci Gardens Casino, which he oversees. He skimmed it off the top even when you know he’s not above dealing from the bottom. Semyon apparently used to be quite the hell-raiser, but he cleans up real nice. Kelly Reilly from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows plays Jordan Semyon, Frank’s wife. She was a D-list actress who knows how to fasten a cuff-link.

Vaughn looks at everybody like he’s sizing them up for a good rap on the jaw, but he’s got nothing on the dour expression of his henchman, Nails, played by Chris Kerson from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Nails finishes Semyon’s sentences, usually with a punchline. Semyon is a drinking buddy with Velcoro and sometimes throws him odd jobs, for old times’ sake. It is Semyon’s business partner’s murder that brings the three cops together.

The city of Vinci, California, survives on a codependency of interests. Those interests are being upset by an eight part series on corruption in the local papers. Every city has something going on in its underbelly and Vinci deals with those problems by siccing the cops on them. Legal issues are treated ambiguously in Vinci. Once the murder is discovered, that’s what brings everyone together and kicks off the investigation. 

It looks like True Detective season 2 won’t be as diabolical as the first, in spite of the masks and the ladies floating in milk, but it will be superior to most police procedurals, which this season looks like it will be. The procedures will proceed from a skewered rule book.

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True Detective season 2, episode 1, “The Western Book of the Dead” was written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Justin Lin. It debuts Sunday, June 21 at 9:00 p.m.

So you like spoilers? Listen to Den of Geek Presents: The World We Deserve, our True Detective podcast: 

Keep up with True Detective Season 3 here.