TV Review: HBO’s ‘True Detective’

Second season of crime anthology debuts Sunday, June 21 at 9 p.m.
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The HBO crime anthology series from Nic Pizzolatto returns for a second season Sunday at 9 p.m. Set in California, the eight-episode season stars Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams as detectives; Vince Vaughn as a criminal and entrepreneur; and Taylor Kitsch as a highway patrol officer. The following are reviews from TV critics around the web, compiled by B&C.

“And without his original collaborators around, Pizzolatto struggles often to turn leaden stories and dialogue into another season of Golden Age drama. [...] Judgment of True Detective season 2 will likely be harsher than that of season 1 — and, unless the season improves off this bumpy beginning, it may invite further judgment of what Pizzolatto and company did back then.”
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix

“Season two may yet reach those magnificent if flawed heights, provided a little bit of magic dust falls on the right places. But after watching the first three episodes that HBO sent to critics (of eight total episodes), the completely revamped cast of this True Detective has its work cut out for it. And not because any one individual has to one-up McConaughey or Harrelson, but because expectations and interest will be (fairly or not) higher than the first one, which came in as an intriguing idea on paper and then went way past that with its execution.”
Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

“Above all else, it’s this enigmatic swagger that’s missing from the opening chapters of True Detective Season 2. Removed from the lightning-singed mysticism of Louisiana and devoid of Fukunaga’s painterly touch,1 True Detective feels very much like a television show, albeit one dotted with stars and redolent with Pizzolatto’s humorless machismo.”
Andy Greenwald, Grantland

“We don’t really know, or can’t be sure of, anything except that this is one hell of a dark, cruel city, and Pizzolatto and director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6) unveil its grimy corners with a mix of journalistic detail and visionary grandiosity.”
Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture

“The only remnant of the first season is the dark imagination of its creator and writer, Nic Pizzolatto. And this time, Mr. Pizzolatto doubles down on much of what made the first season so distinctive. That doesn’t make it twice as good, though. Not nearly.”
Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times

“Season two captures that idea—of the massive, inhuman networks mankind creates for commerce—in the signature visual of the season, its aerial establishing shots of California freeways, with their vast curlicued interchanges. But that image also feels symbolic. For season one’s Rust Cohle, time was a flat circle. Season two thus far looks more like a tangle, going nowhere interesting.”
James Poniewozik, Time

“For HBO, the anticipation the first go-round engendered qualifies as a high-class problem. Although the gap between seasons one and two isn’t severe enough to merit the sort of angst in which these characters are mired, True fans might still come away feeling let down, if not downright blue.”
Brian Lowry, Variety

“So why can’t I completely dismiss this season? Because there are moments when this same old story about “troubled” detectives in a hardboiled world becomes something much weirder and more original than that description suggests.”
Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

“But in reality, True Detective was a one-off, and while the name returns, the actors, the story and the director are all gone. What remains are creator Nic Pizzolatto's writing and HBO's penchant for big-name casting — and the combination proves to be much less potent this time around.”
Robert Bianco, USA Today

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