Join Us For The Return Of True Detective!

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HBO’s True Detective returns tonight with an all new cast and story. We all have questions: will there be weird philosophizing? Will Colin Ferrell’s mustache be the villain? Will it be as good as the first season? We’ll see tonight: weigh in on the comments with your thoughts and comments tonight!


True Detective returns tonight, Sunday June 21 at 9 pm on HBO.

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I need a second viewing before I come to any real conclusions, but in the meantime, some comparisons with the first season might be interesting:

- We start and stay in the present. There isn’t the same frame narrative as the first season, so we’re not dealing with questions of authenticity and authority — so far we can assume we’re getting the story straight.

- We’re not dealing with partners who were pulled apart by a case, we’re dealing with individuals who seem to be made partners because of a case, another inversion of the first season

- Unlike the first season, which opens with a clear-cut mystery, this episode waits to get to that part until the end, again inverting the structure of the first season’s first episode.

- Both seasons have a ancillary sub-plots about women who choose to go into sex work on their own free will. We’ll see how it’s developed in this season, or if it just leads to Athena being an anchor on Ani’s soul.

- The first season dealt with how a landed southern family developed and maintained its status via unethical means, and we get a nod to something similar in this episode with Frank talking about federal grants with guaranteed payments on cost overages. Some may recall that kind of deal is partly what made the latest Iraq and Afghanistan adventures cost so much — private contractors being guaranteed government payment for their services no matter what the price.

- This episode lacked the overt psycholingophilosophicalizing of the first season, although it doesn’t take a linguistic anthropologist to parse the musician singing “This is my least favorite life.”

- If there’s any occult work going on, it may be with Justin Lin and his camera, because he can still work some magic with it.


- The title of the episode is “The Western Book of the Dead.” Which book is that? Is it the one with the maps in Caspar’s place? Or is the title just meant to be more symbolic? Or is it both?

- The overhead shots of the refinery — that’s probably not that last we’ve seen of it, and it too promises to be more figurative than literal.

- When we first saw Caspar sitting in the back seat of the car with the sunglasses on and the bird next to him, did anyone else think “This seems like something David Lynch would do”? Because the very next shot was the sign for Mulholland Drive.

- What’s with the bird?

Sidenote: As soon as I read Pizzolatto describing this season as “an occult history of the American transportation system,” my spidey-sense went off. British writer David Peace has used very similar language to describe some of his work. His quartet of novels Red Riding, the first of which appeared in 1999, is described as an “occult history” of Yorkshire, England and its police department. (The quartet was also turned into a brilliant three-part 2009 miniseries that was aired on English television and was screened in select theaters in the U.S. Well worth your time, and stars among others Sean Bean, Andrew Garfield, David Morrissey, and Mark Addy, so it more than fills the genre cast quota.)

Peace then went on to write GB84 (2004), an “occult history” of the 1984-85 UK miners strike; The Damned United (2006), an “occult history” of the Leeds United football club; and in 2007 he started another trilogy called Tokyo Year Zero, based a true detective story about a serial killer in U.S.-occupied post-WWII Japan.

So Peace has a habit of writing “occult histories,” which basically just means hidden or buried histories, and his latest work is a true detective crime story. One thing to note about Tokyo Year Zero is that the second volume is told in a Rashomon-type fashion, where different characters offer their take on the narrative, and the audience is left to puzzle it all together. Whadaya bet this season of True Detective also ends up being told in a Rashomon fashion, and we’re left to piece together Frank, Ani, Paul and Ray’s individual versions of the case?