Which Pulpy Genre Should True Detective Plunder for Season Two?
What matters about True Detective season two isn’t so much the plot or the cast—it’s the genre. Season one won the internet’s attention partly through its heady plumbing of Lovecraftian mythos and blending it with Southern Gothicism. There’s no use trying to repeat that formula, so where else can the show turn to capture lightning in a bottle?
So, early reports (i.e. this interview) suggest that season two of True Detective is going to be about “hard women, bad men and the secret occult history of the U.S. transportation system.” Whatever that means. Ghost trains? Devil-worshipping conductors? The satanically slow speeds on Amtrak? We’ll leave Nic Pizzolatto to his scripting, but in our eyes, what matters about True Detective season two isn’t so much the plot or the cast—it’s the genre. Season one captured the internet’s attention partly through its heady plumbing of Lovecraftian mythos and blending it with Southern Gothicism. There’s no use trying to repeat that formula, so where else can the show turn to capture lightning in a bottle?
Idea one: ‘70s conspiracy-theory thriller
Season one had a grand, governmental conspiracy weaved into its plot. Police reports were altered, Louisiana’s Senator was implicated, Rust Cohle was always fighting the system in one way or another. But as the show wound towards its conclusion, the big-picture stuff mostly fell away, and we were left with our two heroes going up against Errol in Carcosa. That’s fine, but why not go full Parallax View next time? Set it wherever you want—Washington, City Hall, some backwater town in Alaska. Get twisty and convoluted, but with that edgy, almost psychedelic element of madness that should come with any paranoia-based thriller. It really just sounds like I’m asking for HBO to produce season two of Rubicon. Well, that’s fine by me.
Idea two: Classic Poe
The Following did its best to ruin Edgar Allen Poe for everyone by having its chief villain, Joe Carroll, worship the macabre author and base a cult around his writing. His acolytes wandered around in Poe masks setting people on fire, and then Kevin Bacon would show up, point at a crime scene, and say, “Classic Poe.” This offense must be corrected, and while I’m sure Pizzolatto will feel the topic is overplayed, I wish he’d step in to draw from Poe’s writing in a much more thematically appropriate matter. The man wrote some of the earliest detective fiction, after all, and had the sense of atmosphere that proved so crucial to True Detective’s first season.
Idea three: The Wicker Man (but, y’know, good)
Season one of True Detective revolved around a Satanic Voodoo cult. What if next year we just go full pagan? The original 1973 Wicker Man is a deceptively creepy, shattering horror story disguised as a mystery, with a policeman investigating the disappearance of a girl on a remote British island. A bunch of no-good sex druids immediately start making trouble. It all sounds silly, and Neil LaBute’s horrendous Nicolas Cage-starring remake didn’t help that reputation, but there is something genuinely frightening and fascinating about being stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere. As long as there’s no Smoke Monster.
Idea four: Cyberpunk
Alright, this is as far-fetched as it gets. But a man can dream. If you really want to shake things up, nothing’s further from Carcosa than cyberspace, and there’s plenty of philosophical debate to plunder from the works of William Gibson or Neal Stephenson. Matthew McConaughey is coasting to a career revival partly on the back of True Detective—maybe it’s time for Keanu Reeves to enjoy the same renaissance? I look forward to much talk of “jacking in” and the “Metaverse.” Who am I kidding, there’s more of a chance that season two just ends up being about Rust Cohle and Marty Walsh chasing tail in an old folks home.