Screen: HBO

The World We Didn't Deserve

Where the chips fell for the True Detectives.

True Detective's second-season finale is...well, you can't really use the word "microcosm" to describe a unit of television that's half again as long as it needs to be, operating at a hungover-seeming half the speed it ought to, and putting a pointedly portentous red-ink period on every single character's story. By the same token, you can't really say creator Nic Pizzolatto drove a promising anthology franchise into the ground; it's more like it drifted onto the shoulder, then sat there long past the time anyone would have feared an explosion. And if you think these metaphors suck, you should have endured that white-dress-white-suit conversation between the Semyons. It's like Mamet Babies, with all the verbs taken out. Man, did I wish they'd started with Bez, Jordan, and Nails in Venezuela; this we haven't seen before, done better.

The finale's drying-paint conclusions didn't tell us anything new about what ailed the show in its sophomore outing, just reinforced the emperor's nudity -- so let's take a look at who veni vidi Vinci'd and who got True D-feated by S2.

Winners

Colin Farrell I didn't love the "full Batman five thy accent lies" acting/directing choice Farrell went with for Velcoro's voice, but he did a good job dimensionalizing a glitter-painted cardboard cutout of a man. Your mileage may vary; I thought he sold the 'stache.

Rachel McAdams See above. Handed a grab bag of PTSD tics and styling choices in lieu of realized character beats, she got me most of the way to giving a shit -- even, in the final frames, about Jordan, with whom she has a relationship whose outlines we only dimly discern and don't have overexplained to us.

Cary Fukunaga It's tempting to give Fukunaga, whose only involvement with the second season is his executive-producer credit, retrospective kudos for weaving the first season's compelling web. After all, in the first season, Fukunaga was present, and so were a lighter touch and any sense of humor at all about the proceedings. The failures of S2 aren't entirely down to his absence, of course, but I do believe based on his adaptation of Jane Eyre that Fukunaga has an aptitude for de-underlining capital-M Meaning and mussing up archetypal surfaces to get at the people in his stories. Certainly that nasty caricature of a director from earlier in the season didn't hurt his reputation.

Ted Griffin and David Simon Terriers and The Wire proved that complex tapestries of corruption and human frailty this bracingly total can be done well, without mushing the symbology into baby food.

McConaughey Harrelson LLP Believable, hilarious, never sold the lines out.

Calling It A Push

Taylor Kitsch I still like the casting; like everyone else, he got jobbed by melodramatic backstory, but unlike Farrell and McAdams, I don't think he has the tools yet to make big shouty scenes his own. He's used to playing everything Ennis Del Mar; forced to step outside that, he went to a panicky place that only partly the character flipping shit that Mommy Stop Touching Me spent his nest egg. Not a great turn for Kitsch, but it shouldn't stick to him.

Losers

Vince Vaughn Sombrero tip for effort; he really tried, and in the last couple of eps, he had finally found his gear. I despised the conceit of his final scenes, and their length, but I believed him. I hope the experiment leads to a wider range of roles for Vaughn and that he isn't punished for the steaming wheelbarrow of abstractions he had to push around the set with no help.

Nic Pizzolatto Get over yourself, boss. ...Faster than that. Thanks.

Kelly Reilly As always. I get that she has a look; I don't think she's worthless? That silent-movie opacity has its uses and I'd have liked to see it in play in the Venezuela/on-the-run story, as I said before. The Jordan character doesn't even rise to the level of "a mess" in the first place, but Reilly didn't help.

Abigail Spencer The next time your agent sends you a script in which your character spends 50-75% of her onscreen time on the verge of rage tears, send it back with a bye-Felicia Post-It.

Vaping; Parenting; California

The Bechdel Test I mean, not exactly; two women do talk to each other about a man in a way that's not based on their respective relationship(s) with the man or men, I guess -- but it doesn't change the fact that a single Franken-hookup between two broken people immediately turned into love and got Bez pregnant. Nice grade-school plotting. And I don't dislike the fact that Nails stuck around per se -- he did promise, and where else does he have to go, really? -- but that he's their bodyguard is not great.

HBO Stuck between a renewal and a hard place, aren't they? As of this writing, the network hasn't chosen to renew it, and I don't know what I'd do in Michael Lombardo's posish: admit that nothing gold can stay and sack it so critics can start forgetting it ever happened? or throw good money after bad and hope an S3 can turn it around? I'd probably go with the latter, and I imagine that's what HBO decides, but if half the budget doesn't go towards a director/story producer with the power to overrule the Piz, I'm not sure why they'd bother. Lord knows I won't.

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