The flat circle of life
Last year, HBO proved once again that they could knock it out of the park - by rewriting the rules of the tired, exhausted police procedural. That format, brimming with possibility, was invigorated by writer Nic Pizzolatto. He hooked in two recognisable actors - each undergoing their own career reboots - Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson and crafted a subtle, creeping cop thriller that spanned several decades.
True Detectives first season left its indelible print on the cultural landscape. From Rust Cohles delirium-tinged aphorisms on mans existential dilemma, to Marty Harts grapples with the work-life balance, and of course, the slow drip of the shows central plot - theres simply been nothing like it on TV. Now the show has been granted a second season, due to hit screens this week, will the next chapter steal its thunder? Read on for everything you need to know before the season premiere.
Nic Pizzolatto returns
Nic Pizzolatto cooked up the first season, writing all of its episodes on spec, and is back to do the same job once more. Originally toying with the idea of starting a writers room, which would have seen an assembly of scribes planning out the seasons story beats, Pizzolatto decided to take the entire task onboard himself.
One of the earliest public mentions of season twos story emerged early on in this isolated scripting process, with Pizzolatto describing it as a story of "hard women, bad men, and the secret occult history of the United States transportation system."
Fukunaga is out, Lin is in
Cary Fukunaga brought Pizzolattos vision to life in season one. The highly-stylized aesthetic, featuring the long, uninterrupted takes of Cohles lengthy diatribes; the nuanced teases of latter revelations; the solid turns from the cast. Every aspect of the shows execution was critically praised. Alas, Fukunaga, despite winning an Emmy for his work, wont be behind the lens, instead taking the role of executive producer.
Justin Lin, who successfully drove the Fast & Furious franchise to the top of the box office again and again, is one of several directors brought onboard - and the only one officially confirmed. He will direct the first two episodes. Another two filmmakers name-dropped in the past are William Friedkin and Andrew Dominik, but as yet, theres nothing verified by HBO.
A new chapter in the anthology
The anthology series continues. Unlike the ongoing serials which continue the same story with the same characters over countless seasons, True Detective wipes the slate clean with each new set of episodes. For the second round, the story is set to revolve around "three police officers and a career criminal, who must navigate a web of conspiracy in the aftermath of a murder.
A more recent series of leaked breakdowns hit the web which delved further into the specifics of the season. Those expanded details suggest the season will explore the death of a corrupt California city manager Ben Caspar "who's found brutally murdered amid a potentially groundbreaking transportation deal that would forever change freeway gridlock in the state." Those three police officers, who each hail from "different cities and branches of the government," must track down the persons responsible. Throwing in that element of the occult Pizzolatto mentioned, the victim is discovered on a stretch of highway with satanic symbols etched on his chest.
Colin Farrell is Ray Velcoro
One of the three main leads investigating the murder is police detective Ray Velcoro. Played by Colin Farrell, the actor himself described the character to Variety as a bit of a burnout. The official description outlines Velcoro as "a compromised detective whose allegiances are torn between his masters in a corrupt police department and the mobster who owns him."
Taking into account the tagline for the season - We get the world we deserve -Farrells morally-skewed cop struggles with events from his shady past that may come back to haunt him.
Hes somebody who, like many of us in life, is wrestling with events that took place in his past, Farrell added, and is trying to move forward from them, but trapped in this continual cycle of behavior he cant get out of. I think fundamentally hes a good man that made some very bad choices.
Rachel McAdams is Ani Bezzerides
The likes of Keira Knightley, Brit Marling, Rosario Dawson, Oona Chaplin, Jessica Biel, Malin Akerman and Jaime Alexander tested for the role of Ani Bezzerides, before it eventually came down to Rachel McAdams and Elisabeth Moss. McAdams finally secured the part.
"I love that she's not the girlfriend or the wife," McAdams told Marie Claire. "She doesn't really care what everyone thinks; she feels no responsibility for other people's feelings. "She's not trying to be charming, which isn't always the case with a leading lady. There's [usually] sort of a responsibility to be a little bit likeable... Not that you want to be a horrendous character, just a little more human."
As a Ventura County Sheriffs detective, Bezzerides has her fair share of skeletons in the closet that attest to her being a little more human. Spells with alcoholism and gambling - as a result of a terrible incident in her history - find her now in possession of uncompromising ethics that find her often at odds with the system she serves. Were sensing a cop squabble...
Taylor Kitsch is Paul Woodrugh
Rounding out the law enforcement trio is Paul Woodrugh, a highway patrol officer played by Taylor Kitsch. A war veteran who has since taken to patrolling the California two-tops on his motorcycle, he is trying to outrun a troublesome past. In particular a scandal thats rumored to involve the exploitation of a young woman he catches speeding - an incident in which he was wrongly accused.
The official HBO character synopsis states that he accidentally stumbles across a crime scene which triggers an investigation involving three law enforcement groups, multiple criminal collusions, and billions of dollars. So, sounds like hes the one who kickstarts the events of season two by discovering Caspars body.
Expect an exceptional turn from Kitsch - he took an entire year off from acting in the hopes of landing the audition.
Vince Vaughn is Frank Semyon
The leading quartet is rounded out by Frank Semyon. Played by Vince Vaughn, he is "a career criminal in danger of losing his empire when his move into legitimate enterprise is upended by the murder of a business partner.
An educated guess suggests that partner is Ben Caspar, the victim outlined in the leaked plot breakdown, and the legitimate enterprise is thought to be a high-speed railway system he and several corrupt politicians were attempting to kickstart. Presumably for shady business.
Pizzolatto wrote the part with Vaughn in mind while the pair were collaborating on a big-screen reboot of The Rockford Files . Even though Pizzolatto exited the film he kept Vaughn on his creative radar, concocting the role of Semyon to play to his strengths.
The supporting cast
On hand to help and hinder the titular detectives is an extensive cast of supporting characters.
Some of the early names released include Kelly Reilly ( Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows ), whose name appeared on shortlists for the Ani Bezzerides role, who plays Semyons wife Jordan, a D-list actress who is a full partner in his enterprises and ambitions according to the official press release. Attached to Sheriff Bezzerides is Michael Irby ( The Unit ) as her partner Elvis Illinca, and Lolita Davidovich ( NCIS) is on board playing the mother of Woodrugh, a former showgirl named Nancy Simpson.
Fleshing out the rest of the secondary cast in small, recurring roles are James Frain ( Intruders ) as detective Jeff Hunt, Dexter s C.S. Lee as states attorney general Richard Geldof, Abigail Spencer ( Rectify ) is Alicia, a survivor of a sexual attack, Leven Ramblin ( Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ) plays Sophia, Riley Smith ( True Blood ) is attached as the boyfriend of Bezzerides, and Afemo Omilami ( The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ) will bring about order as Police Chief Holloway.
West coast locale
Shooting for the show took place in California. Principal photography began in November 2014 and lasted for approximately 4-5 months. Early rumours hinted that Los Angeles would take over for the Louisiana setting used in the first season. Instead the showrunners opted to take the road less traveled, setting up production in smaller, unknown Californian towns - which will stand in for the fictional township of City of Vinci. That being said, its likely that the story arc will cast a wide net over the Golden State, especially considering the train subplot and the expansive reach of season one.
We're generally concerned with the places that don't get much press and where you wouldn't normally set a television show, Pizzolatto told reporters at the 2014 Winter Television Critics Association Tour, essentially taking the city of angels out of the running. "We're going to try to capture a certain psychosphere ambiance of the place, much like we did in season one," he added.
Dark and exceptional
The events are lifted to the sunny, coastal region of California - but thats not to say the creeping darkness of season one is a thing of the past. HBO's programming president Michael Lombardo confirms "It's still dark. Nic explores the darkness in people's souls. It's not as dark, but it's not a light ride.
The same visual style and substance
What made the first season such a slam dunk was the manner by which the shows content was married to its style. Neither were glossed over in favour of the other.
This next season aims to be continuing that trend. "Going forward, I want the shows aesthetic to remain determinedly naturalistic, with room for silences and vastness, and an emphasis on landscape and culture," Pizzolatto told BuzzFeed. "And I hope a story that presents new characters in a new place with authenticity and resonance and an authorial voice consistent with this season. Dominant colors will change. South Louisiana was green and burnished gold."
Pulls back on the strange
Im interested in the atmosphere of cosmic horror, but that's about all I have to say about weird fiction, Pizzolatto said of the first season. I did feel the perception was tilted more towards weird fiction than perhaps it should have been."
Does this mean an end to the unusual, the bizarre and the downright odd elements channeled by season one? A key factor in the shows success, aside from its stunning central performances, was its willingness to venture into territory usually avoided by big-budget TV. While theres nothing occult in this season, he went on to say, I think theres a disconcerting psychology to this world, and its characters have other kinds of uncanny reality with which to contend.
References to the occult began with Pizzolattos first mention of the shows premise in the early stages of development for season two - but those esoteric tendencies wont feature as heavily as expected.
The nature of the shows anthology format lends itself to future seasons. And, when Pizzolatto re-inked his contract with HBO - he signed himself up for the possibility of more. While theres been nothing revealed regarding potential story lines, the creator has an endless well of ideas.
Heres what Pizzolatto told reporters at 2014 Winter Television Critics Association Tour:
And, you know, there could be a season thats much more of a widespread conspiracy thriller, a season thats a small town murder mystery, a season where nobody is murdered and its a master criminal versus a rogue detective or something. Even the title, True Detective, is meant to be, of course, purposefully somewhat generic before you even get to the there are deeper indications. The word true can also mean honorable and authentic and things like that. But all the previous incarnations of anything titled True Detective was an anthology; right? So as long as there is some crime in there, I think the series format can approach it.
All eight hour-long episodes of True Detective season 2 will hit the small screen this summer, starting with the season premiere on Sunday June 21 on HBO.