True Detective Premiere Recap: I Was Not Caught, Though Many Tried

True Detective Premiere

Remember when being a TV cop meant being a cool badass instead of being an emotionally frayed burlap sack of misery?

It’s not hard to imagine Officer Frank Poncherello shaking his head in shame at True Detective‘s men and women of California law enforcement, so woeful are their backstories, so apparent is their sadness. The Season 2 opener does little more than introduce these featured cops and tee up the crime that kicks off their shared narrative — and that’s compelling enough to make you want to come back next week — but oof, is it tough to witness so much unhappiness.

In a moment, we’ll want to get your take on the HBO series’ premiere. But first, a quick rundown of this season’s main players and the murder that ties them all together:

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RAY VELCORO | Colin Farrell’s (Winter’s Tale) character, a detective in the fictional California town of Vinci, is the first character we meet, and — bolo tie notwithstanding — he seems like someone you might wanna grab a beer with: He’s a divorced dad who’s trying to get more custody of his preteen son, and a cop who’s got the hangdog look of a public servant just following orders. But as the hour progresses, we learn that Ray is a hard-drinking mess who carries out violent tasks on behalf of a local mobster and beats a suburban dad bloody after his kid bullies Ray’s son.

ANI BEZZERIDES | Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) plays a sheriff’s detective with a dad who’s a self-help guru and a sister (Athena, played by All My Children‘s Leven Rambin) who’s a webcam pornstar with a wig even Sydney Bristow would’ve vetoed. Ani doesn’t get along with either of them, and even her boyfriend seems to take a backseat to the wooden stabbing dummy she keeps in her apartment.

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FRANK SEMYON | Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers) plays it completely straight here as the mobster with ties to Ray. Frank is married to Jordan (Kelly Reilly, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) and is trying to go legit, via his involvement in the building of the Golden State’s central rail line. He is measured. He acts swiftly (such as when he has Ray beat down and burgle a reporter doing a story on corruption in the county). And he starts to subtly freak when one of his business partners goes missing.

PAUL WOODRUGH | Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) is all “just the facts, ma’am” as a motorcycle police officer who has the misfortune of pulling over a speeding actress and winds up getting suspended from the job he loves when she lies and says things got improper. “The highway, it suits me,” he asserts to his boss, who tells him he won’t be going on patrol for a while. Woodrugh is a war veteran with a scarred shoulder — “from before,” he tells his girlfriend (?) after popping Viagra and giving her a ride on his hog — and, apparently, a death wish: He leaves his lady’s bed to speed his bike, without a helmet and a headlight, up the Pacific Coast Highway. When he thinks better of his foolish actions and comes to a skidding stop in Ventura, he finds a corpse sitting on a bench and wearing sunglasses, Weekend at Bernie’s-style.

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THE MYSTERY | The dead man (whose eyes have been burned out) is the aforementioned missing business partner, a corrupt city manager named Ben Casper whose case Ray was assigned at the top of the episode. Ray and Ani (and her partner, Elvis) are called to the scene, where Paul still is, and boom: They’ve all got a murder to solve.

True Detective‘s stylized writing is sharp, the plot is gripping and the opening credits so chilling (anyone else really, really creeped out by that Leonard Cohen song?) that I’m definitely in to find out Those Who Brought Us The Spaghetti Monster have planned for the season. Plus, I’ve gotta find out what Paul’s Black Mountain comment — “We were working for America” — is all about.

That’s what I thought; now it’s your turn. Grade the premiere via the poll below, then hit the comments to elaborate!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Susan Chapman says:

    Anxious for more but Vince Vaughan is totally outclassed.

  2. theeinvisiblecircus says:

    Reblogged this on Invisible Circus.

  3. Lisa says:

    Didnt love it. Didnt hate it. But it definitely has potential and ill be back for more. Really enjoyed the cast I have to say.

  4. Lyn12 says:

    Loooved the Leonard Cohen song! (With age he’s sounding like Tom Waits, but so it goes.) I didn’t see the first TD and only caught this ’cause GoT has left a hole in Sun. night. I dunno. Rachel McA in particular contributed to a “Top of the Lake” vibe, I thought. My concern is: Will there be anyone on this show to like? I kinda want to like SOMEone.

    • Bwhit says:

      I think Taylor Kitsch’s character had some redeeming qualities. He might be the one to root for but I have been wrong several times before ;)

    • smartysenior says:

      Good writing demands contrast: A good guy to offset bad, humor vs tragedy, irony vs cruelty and so on. A one note show filled with creepy dark people won’t keep your interest, someone has to have a bit of light in their character.

    • DanielleZ says:

      I thought that sounded like Leonard Cohen in the opening credits. Thanks for the confirmation.

  5. I am hooked. With twice the leads this was always going to be an introductory episode, but they dropped enough well-acted hints to leave me impatient for next Sunday.

  6. Joey says:

    I feel like I got a present seeing Jane’s Frain two nights in a row! First Orphan Black and now True Detective!

  7. Jenna says:

    This show seems to be continuing the dark tones of GoT, so maybe I’m just use to being in a funk on Sunday nights. I’ll continue to watch, because the cast is superb and the mysteries compelling. Looking forward to the season.

  8. BL says:

    I was concerned as many of the reviews were…not great. This first episode was very well done and I am anxious for more. I really like the film noir tone and the aerial shots. Yes, it’s different than season 1 but isn’t that a good thibg? Why do we want retreads of something we’ve already seen?

    Vorcoro is one demented dude. Taylor continues to play the brooding tortured soul and continues to make my heart ache.

  9. BrianR says:

    It gets a B for now. These guys and gal seem way more messed up than last seasons detectives.

  10. Bill Brennan says:

    Seems like the critics have their knives out for this show, but I loved the first episode. Moody, highly stylized, Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams in top form. Great TV.

  11. lkh says:

    They are kinda a hot mess–maybe too much, we’ll see.
    Oh, and pleeeese, he’s not a ‘motorcycle police officer’, he’s CHP (pronounced chip–California Highway Patrol.

  12. Erin says:

    An interesting start. A lot going on, in my opinion, for an opening episode but I’ll be interested to see how it all plays out. I actually didn’t like the opening song at all and thought it was a misstep for the credits- the song sung in the bar would have been a better choice.

  13. Concerned says:


  14. KS says:

    I feel like the weird jazzy background music is ripping off Homeland.

  15. I love how you referenced Winter’s Tale of all movies for Colin Farrell. That film is amazing… for pretty much all the wrong reasons.

  16. I love that our county is finally getting some high-profile recognition. ;) By the way…Ventura was the name of the county where they found him, not the city. That would be Pt. Mugu, the naval base right by Camarillo, my hometown. That spot is called Mugu rock, a popular scenic beach stop.

  17. LT says:

    This show is trying to hard…dial it back a bit. I was impressed with Colin, Taylor is Taylor…Vince kinda sucks, but this is really Rachel’s show. She is the standout for me so far.

  18. RichCD says:

    I really wondered why HBO couldn’t make a compelling promo for this. I mean, c’mon – it’s HBO, right? Well, now I know.

    It reminded me of The Leftovers. Just long scenes of dull people being miserable. No thanks, I’m out.

  19. agent86 says:

    Is CF’s neckwear some kind of product placement? Does anyone in a blue state really wear a string tie?

  20. I really enjoyed Last night’s episode. No metaphysical rambling by Matthew. Just four screwed up people and a crime story

  21. amadeline says:

    It was way too depressing. I won’t watch any more. I slogged through last season, but not this time.

  22. Walkie says:

    The Vince Vaughn casting is going to sink the show. I am a big fan of his but this kinda role for him makes no sense. You can’t take a risk like that with a show like this.

  23. DanielleZ says:

    I’m in for now. It was entertaining.

  24. jay says:

    disagree I thought Vince did a great job, never have I seen him serious before. And as for the open and the song, to be not as creepy as season 1………

    • Beckers0505 says:

      I agree. I don’t get all the hate. I think he pulled it off really well. I wonder if people just can’t get past it being him.

  25. Debbie says:

    It was badly written and cheesy. No character was redeeming enough to invest time in discerning this convoluted plot. The attempts to be deep were obvious and comical. I thought it was ridiculous. It just fell flat on its face for me. By the time anything interesting happened it was over and by then I’d lost the will to live.

  26. Beckers0505 says:

    I enjoyed it and I am ready for next week. It’s a slower show. However last season was slow too. It took a little time to get going. I really enjoyed Rachel’s character.

  27. MikeH says:

    I thought this first show was pretty darn good. Loved the opening song by Cohen.. can’t believe some didn’t like it. This first episode pretty much just set up all the main characters (brillantly written I though) and introduced the crime that touches all of them. I also thought that Vince Vaughn was very good in this… and his character might actually be the one “good” person to root for… a former bad guy trying to go good. But I might be wrong on this. I like this kind of complicated film noir type of tv show… makes one used their brain a little.

  28. I can watch the rest now! it was okay-ish

  29. Sara says:

    I enjoyed it and am anxious to see more. The music they played (non singing) reminded me of House of Cards.

  30. bill says:

    Had to laugh when Farrell instantly sobered up after he got the phone call about the body being found by the motorcycle cop. He was passed out in the booth at the bar after drinking an enormous amount of booze and then miraculously sobered up when he got the phone call. He didn’t stumble. He didn’t slur his words. He even drove himself out to where the body was found. What a joke.