True Detective: “The Western Book of the Dead” Review
True Detective Season 2 Episode 1
“I WELCOME JUDGEMENT.”
Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
Expectations were incredibly high heading into “The Western Book of the Dead,” the opening episode of True Detective’s sophomore season. Cast, director and plot all lined up to provide us with the perfect storm of a debut season, so it was always going to be tough to follow it up. The change of scenery and completely new cast go a long way to setting this season apart from the last, but within the first few minutes it’s clear that this is still going to be a gripping show, even if the first episode wasn’t as captivating from the off as I had hoped for.
My biggest take-away from this episode is that pretty much everyone is absolutely miserable. Our three main characters who are on the “right” side of the law are damaged and haunted by demons of all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a dysfunctional upbringing or traumatic events happening to them or a loved one, these people are messed up. Standing head and shoulders above them all (for now) is Colin Farrell’s detective Ray Velcoro. Velcoro initially didn’t seem that bad to me. You could tell there was darkness behind his eyes, but he seemed like a down-on-his-luck guy who was willing to love a kid whom he could be relatively certain wasn’t his. By the end of the episode we’ve learned that he’s a crook, and a very violent one at that. I think it sums up his character pretty well when I wasn’t certain whether he was going to beat the crap out of a child or the child’s father at one stage. It’s a great performance from Farrell so far. Velcoro has given up on pretty much everything at this stage, so he’s just living from one end of a bottle to the next.
We’re also introduced to Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) and California Highway Patrol officer Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch), who each have their own fair share of problems. Neither of these characters particularly drew me in as much as Velcoro did, especially Woodrugh, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. Ani’s problems stem from her family, with a dead mother, drug addicted prostitute sister and a father who runs a meditation center. Like Velcoro, she’s a bit of a drunk, but she seems to focus more on card games than savage beatings. Woodrugh is a veteran who gets suspended for allegedly accepting a sexual favor from a woman he stopped. Considering we see him having to pop Viagra here, I guess it’s pretty unlikely that he actually did what he is accused of. There isn’t anything about Woodrugh that we haven’t seen before, but I’ll wait until we see a good bit more of him before making further judgement.
Rounding out the main characters this season is Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughan), a criminal chasing the elusive “deal of a lifetime” that will enable him to go fully legitimate. Perhaps the funniest part about this premiere was that Semyon actually came across as a whole lot nicer and better held together than the three police officers we’ll be following. It already looks like Semyon’s deal is starting to fall apart, though. The main set-up for the seasonal arc was the theatrical murder of City Manager Ben Caspere, who also happens to be heavily tied into Semyon’s deal. Caspere’s death is the tie that binds our three “detectives” together, along with bringing them all into Semyon’s orbit. What I’m really looking forward to is seeing if Semyon will slide further back into his criminal nature as things get worse for him. He already has Velcoro on his payroll as an enforcer of sorts, but I’m hoping that we might get to see him getting his own hands dirty.
“The Western Book of the Dead” felt kind of like a pilot episode, and it basically was when you think about it. We got introduced to a whole ton of new characters and I get the sense that we’ve only really began to scratch the surface with many of them. Season 1 revolved around the captivating partnership of Rust and Marty, so it’ll be interesting to see how four different central characters are managed this time. I wouldn’t like to see any of them getting short-changed. With the sheer amount of expectation lying on its shoulders, I felt that this was actually a pretty solid yet unremarkable start to the season. It laid the groundwork, introduced our leads and then piqued my interest fully with a bizarre murder involving crows’ heads and acid. While not as immediately addictive as Season 1, Season 2’s premiere did enough to make me look forward to the next installment.
Was the premiere up to the standard you expected, or did you feel a little disappointed? What were your favourite parts of the episode? Tweet me @OldSnake24. And be sure to follow us @YouNerded!
*We do not comment on anything relating to previews for the next episode and beyond.
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