True Detective is The Beatles vs. The Stones

Seasons 1 & 2 of True Detective — Different, Similar and All Too Brilliant at the Halfway Mark

– Kevin Donnan – Regular Contributor to The Scoop Entertainment and The Scoop Sports


[Let me begin this piece by saying there are no episodic spoilers ahead.]

Over the past 50 years, it’s probably fair to say that the question of, “Are you a Beatles person, or a Stones person?” is asked at least once a day on this planet.

chicagomag.com
chicagomag.com

In the times it has come up, I’ve always said, “Both.” No need to debate, and no need to take up time and space to something that has been explored to death, but I couldn’t help but think of this analogy as HBO’s True Detective has returned to the small screen.

Divergent as the bands may be, there’s also no denying their similarities. The same can be said, for seasons one and two of True Detective. They are decidedly different, yet similar, while adding the critical element that makes it all work: maintaining a nostalgic look, feel and perhaps laudatory tribute to the cinema of the days when Mick, Keith, and The Fab Four were on everyone’s lips.

True Detective is amazing film noire that takes the viewer back to the days of Serpico, In Cold Blood, and Bonnie and Clyde.

HBO
HBO

Whether you are a fan of the tortured and brutalized partnership of season one featuring the brilliant Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, or the unlikely and unlucky quartet that is season two, the unifying element beyond its name is that this show or series or whatever you want to call it, like the Beatles and the Stones, is the best the medium has to offer and quite possibly episodic television among the very best we’ve seen.


The Series That Isn’t a Series

I’m not sure anyone who has seen it can deny the power of a television series that really isn’t a television series. True Detective is back this summer, and this time the dark and greasy underbelly of L.A. serves as the backdrop, and creator Nic Pizzollatto has created another gem.

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Its first run was as if you were watching a classic 1970s movie every Sunday for two months. One week, Chinatown. The next? Dog Day Afternoon. It carried that kind of brilliant intensity. No matter the turn, you never could truly anticipate whether there would be light or more darkness.

That hasn’t been lost this season either. At its midway point (four episodes), Pizzollatto can still generate the boil of those classic and gritty dramas of the 70s for this new generation that is all too unfamiliar with that bygone and beautiful genre of film.


Mick & Keith and Ringo

HBO
HBO

The most obvious and most definitive difference for season two is the replacement of the Mick and Keith of the bayou for a somewhat unlikely quartet navigating the murder and mayhem. Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch and Vince Vaughn meet at he intersection of greed, sex, power and murder. Three different cops, from three vastly different places, yet, all broken, and a crime boss desperately trying to go legit.

 

As the tragically flawed and tortured ‘Glimmer Twins’ chased pedophiles and the occult in season one, this time around True Detective is a lot like The Beatles. The performances of Farrell, McAdams and Kitsch represent Lennon, Harrison and McCartney, mesmerizing, evolving and exploring. And then you have Ringo Starr.

 

Hulton Archive
Hulton Archive

The jury remains out, but halfway? Vince Vaughn at this point seems a little like Ringo. As the rest of the band evolved, Ringo always seemed stuck back in The Cavern Club.

Make no mistake, he is an undeniably important and essential piece, but hasn’t every Beatles fan pondered if Ringo‘s abilities could have been somehow enhanced, if he could have had someone else sit in, or was Pete Best actually worse?

Spelling-Goldberg Productions
Spelling-Goldberg Productions

Right now Vince Vaughn is having to do the most work to keep up and move beyond his very strong work in comedy over the past two decades. It’s a gamble, and a not-so-easy transition for someone who’s predominantly known as a comedic actor. Every fan of this show certainly hopes that Vaughn‘s talent will win out and he will pull off a career-altering performance.

 

Every Beatles fan has had to face the difficult reality that from album to album, Ringo never got better, but that never kept you from silently hoping he would. The same can be said for Vaughn as this story starts the turn for home.


Season one with Jagger and Richards, or season two with The Fab Four (with Ringo warts and all)? Either way, it’s television you can’t, shouldn’t and don’t want to miss, and is the most intense series we’ve seen since The Sopranos and Breaking Bad.

When it comes to which one I prefer, or which one I think is technically better, like the Beatles and The Stones, I’ll say, “Both.”


Kevin Donnan is a regular contributor to The Scoop, and is a sports obsessed and self-confessed Pop Culture idiot savant trapped in a frozen, northern wasteland, yet, loves all things Texas, and is the most “American” Canadian who has ever lived above the 49th parallel.

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