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I heard it wasn’t good, but I kept seeing the previews for the second season. In fact, I started seeing those previews before I ever watched the first season. I saw Colin Farrell in a rumpled suit with three days of beard and a cigarette dangling from his lips. I saw Vince Vaughn sharply dressed and oozing charm. I saw Rachel McAdams’ no-nonsense stare down the barrel of her automatic pistol. I couldn’t wait. What I found in season one was none of these because I wrongly assumed season two starred the same characters. But I loved the first season. I just wish I had watched the two seasons in reverse order.

Season two suffers from the haunting subject matter and stellar performances of the first season. It is a vastly different ride than the second season, and you’d be smart to heed the warning at the ride’s entrance. It’s disturbing and definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s dark, twisted, and even nauseating at times. I loved it. BUT, it’s also definitely not anything like season two. If you thought you would get more of what made the first season such a wild, delicious mix of creepy, suspenseful, and artfully heartbreaking, I could understand your dissatisfaction with the second season. I reminded myself over and over, before I started season two, that I would love it or hate it on its own merits or disgraces. So, I did. Mostly.

When viewed with the expectations of suspense, complex characters, intrigue, betrayals, corruption, tragedy, and a dynamite cast, season two can stand on its own. Honestly, it was better than I hoped it would be, given all the negative press and fan tirades I read about after its release. Far better. I remember Vince Vaughn taking some real abuse for his portrayal of Frank Semyon, and though he may have been one of the weaker actors in the cast, I think that’s largely unfair. Have you seen The Internship? Trust me, Vaughn’s True Detective performance is relatively great. The rest of the cast, from the bit parts to the stars, is excellent though at one point I thought Colin Farrell was impersonating Nick Nolte. Rachel McAdams portrayed Det. Ani Bezzerides’ war with herself as achingly real. Even with the occasional faltering step, the development of the characters throughout the season and the growth of their relationships made me like even the most deplorable of them. It was easy to see them as the “good guys” when the plot tumbled to reveal they were largely victims, in over their heads and scrambling to survive.

With my guarded expectations of the second season, maybe it was easier for me to see it as just another cop drama. Certainly there are plenty of those, some better and many worse. If you stack it up against something like The Wire, you will likely be disappointed. But you might feel the same letdown if you were to expect more of True Detective season one when you saw The Wire. The two seasons are that different.

Should you watch True Detective Season Two? I recommend that you do, if you can completely avoid any expectations based on the first season. There are so many shows competing for everyone’s spare time, it’s difficult to stay loyal to a series that doesn’t reward you. Season two delivered something compelling in every episode. But if you’re like me and watched all of season one in three days, you’ll find you have an easier time viewing season two in smaller doses.

I anxiously await a third season of the show, though I may have to wait a while. Have you seen the second season? If so, I’d love to hear your comments. Please make sure they are free of spoilers.