A new season of True Detective begins this weekend, and with it will come murder, mayhem and it it’s anything like the first, a few uncomfortable car rides. The days of Marty and Rusty hunting for the Yellow King are over. The follow-up to the HBO show’s huge successful first run will take place in the underbelly of California and tackle the wide world of railway and land developments, it’s been confirmed. The cast is larger: Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, and Friday Night Lights actor Taylor Kitsch all star, while a more complicated story has been promised by show-runner Nic Pizzolatto. But before season two kicks off, here’s five ways the show could take season one’s gripping air of menace to even greater heights this time around. Because True Detective was good, but True Detective could be amazing.
1. More female characters with more to do
True Detective’s first season may have given Michelle Monaghan a sizeable role as Marty’s (unhappy) wife, but that’s about all the series did for women. If not spouses, female characters were sex workers, sexual objects, or straight-up victims — although thanks to McAdams’ role as detective Ani Bezzedine, this trend could change. Provided she’s more than just the “token female,” Bezzedine could prove True Detective’s creators care more than just the stereotypical broken male experience.
2. Treat the series like a crime show (not a philosophy class)
Last year, Emily Nussbaum called out the show for being another example of shallow storytelling (despite it being heralded as something much more), and she wasn’t wrong. Rust Cohle may have offered Marty a glimpse of college philosophy 101, but True Detective was (and is) a classic whodunnit with an all-star cast. Which is fine: crime shows are a cornerstone of dramatic TV and popular culture, but with only eight episodes per season, either the series needs to dedicate more time to adding depth to its secondary characters to match its philosophical mandate, or let that part go and add more twists and turns.
3. Paint the realities of the American police force
There’s a reality about the American police system that eclipses almost any HBO storyline: US cops are shooting civilians, and particularly unarmed black citizens. So, if True Detective is going to examine the corruption of the American justice system, it needs to address the force’s liberal use of violence by painting officers who indulge in it as villains instead of as heroes. This means if we start to see cops go rogue with guns and violence, their behaviour can’t be glorified. A loose-cannon character will need to be defined in another way.
4. Give us more than just pity parties
Last season, Rust’s life was rough. He’d lost his child, he was divorced, he battled substance abuse, and at one point, he sleeps with Marty’s wife. As a result (of the aforementioned and his obsession with the Yellow King), he spiraled. But this season, we need more. Self-destructive lead characters are par for the course in TV dramas, so writers need to reach beyond traits like sad, alcohol-dependent, or completely reckless. At least if we’re supposed to remember these characters past the season finale.
5. A little more humour
Spoiler alert: True Detective is a series about murder, which doesn’t make it conducive to joke-telling. However, the best TV shows manage to combine both. The Wire delivered a scene consisting solely of the word “fuck.” Breaking Bad gave us roof pizza. In Mad Men, Roger Sterling delivered a one-liner weekly. True Detective can still keep its critical clout with characters who do more than just reflect on their terrible lives. Especially since Colin Farrell’s moustache could be the greatest punchline of all.