The makers have gone for a very different approach
Season 2 Review
We get the world we deserveLet’s get this out of the way: Season 2 of True Detective is very, very different from Season 1, and this a both a blessing and a curse. Gone are the backwaters of Louisiana, gone are two main leads and gone is the one story narrative. All to be replaced with the hustle and bustle of city life in the (fictional) industrial town of Vinci, California, we now follow four main leads and contend with multiple story threads all interconnected to each other. This means that it takes the first three episodes to really find its feet (had this been season one this probably wouldn’t have been an issue) as introductions and backstories have to be explored – this tends to stretch the narrative, and in some cases interest. There are a number of stories that vie for our attention; the murder case, the corruption case, the three police officers back stories and the criminal’s empire building. And it is not until the latter half of the season when all these threads start to tie together.The four main protagonists are; Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), a Ventura County Sheriff's Office CID agent struggling with drinking, gambling and family issues; Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch), a California Highway Patrol Officer and war veteran, struggling with his sexuality; Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), a mob-affiliated detective from the Vinci Police Department having his own family issues; and Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn), a career criminal, whose stolen millions leads him back into the underside of life. Following these four stories divides the viewer's attention as there is no one single driving narrative, at least not until latter episodes when all the threads pull together; only then does it become the absorbing, engaging thriller that the first season was so well known for. But once that ‘penny drops’ then the season really takes off; with only the slight nagging issue of the actual murderer that brought everything together taking a very back seat to the action.
Picture QualityThe discs present a broadcast correct widescreen 1.78:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and are Region Free.
Quite a stylised image for this season pushing a ‘gold’ colour palate and occasional noise issues in dark corners for that ‘down and dirty’ feel. Detail is as strong as ever though with skin texture and clothing weaves clearly discernible as well as the many over head shots of the freeways (used as scene transitions) which are clear and extremely well defined (cars, road marking, lights etc.) whether day or night shooting; of particular delight are the helicopter shots of the industrial landscapes, best seen at night in their bold neon lights. Occasional softness creeps in towards the edges, but this is an artefact of the camera lenses used and not a digital issue.
Quite a stylised image for this season
Colour is bold and strong even with the stylised colouring which de-saturates the major primaries to give an overall ‘gold’ look to the image for most scenes. Flesh tones remain natural looking though and sky lines have a strong blue to them, while the grey of the concrete jungle take prescience over everything else. Contrast and brightness are set to give good deep blacks, check out any of the club, bar or underground interiors where shadow detail plays a strong part as well, giving decent depth to the frame. It’s here that the picture becomes its noisiest due to the low lighting requirements of the show. Digitally there are no compression problems nor any edge enhancement, and this, along with the clean-as-a-whistle print means this picture gains a clear 8.
Sound QualityI went with the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. The major parts of this track are the dialogue and score, both of which come across really well. The dialogue is clear and precise and held to the frontal array, excepting where effects give it some directionality (such as in episode 4), while the score makes full use of all the speakers to really place you in the centre of the room; it’s well layered into the mix and never drowns out the action. Effects are mostly used to generate atmosphere with the surrounds being used for ambience (street, club/bar, weather etc.) for the majority of their usage, though when the action heats up (looking at episode 4 again) there are some wonderful action stings (gun shots, explosions, ricochets, shouting, vehicles etc.) that open up the surround field to something akin to controlled mayhem – but perfectly natural sounding – it’s as if you are there; really terrific stuff. Bass is well levelled, with the score and effects taking the brunt of the action, LF effects are somewhat limited but the whole track benefits from the sub. We’re looking at a good solid 8 again.
ExtrasAudio Commentaries – For two episodes: Down Will Come with Nic Pizzolatto, Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Taylor Kitsch and Rachel McAdams and Omega Station with Nic Pizzolatto, Scott Stephens, Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn. Both have anecdotal information about the specific episode, but are very dry and so full of pauses that you wonder why they’re even included.
Making The Vinci Massacre – A thirty minute making of feature that looks at the shootout at the climax of episode four; from the planning, scripting, location shooting, to the stunts involved.
A Look Inside True Detective – Interviews with cast and crew in a short (10 mins) EPK type featurette.
True Detective’s California – A bird’s eye view / fly over California in the same vein as the scene transitions – accompanied to the show’s recurring themes.
Blu-ray VerdictSeason 1 of True Detective was a rip-roaring success, so much so that many felt any subsequent seasons must be a let-down. In trying to circumvent this, the makers have gone for a very different approach to the narrative: gone are the backwaters of Louisiana, two main leads, and one story drive; replaced with city life in the (fictional) industrial town of Vinci, California, four main leads and multiple story threads. Thus eventually makes for a very compelling watch, but it takes four episodes of backstory and exposition to get to that point, but once the separate threads start to come together the show hits the accelerator and becomes very gripping TV. As good as the first? Probably not, but in trying to be different it makes itself separate and distinct and one wonders how one would have felt if their transmission order were reversed …?
Fans of the show may take a little while to warm to it, but will ultimately be rewarded.
As a Blu-ray set the package is pretty good; the stylised picture is bold and sharp with good blacks and plenty of detail; the sound (5.1 DTS-HD MA) is atmospheric and bombastic when required, but sounds very natural with good bass in the process; while the extras do add a little something even if the commentaries are a waste of time.
You can buy True Detective Season 2 on Blu-ray here
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