True Detective is in a slightly difficult position right now. The first season of HBO’s detective story was a fantastic eight hours of television. The central mystery itself was fairly routine, but that’s not what the first season was about: it was about seeing Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle’s (Matthew McConaughey) wildly different world views conflict and come together. Each second with Marty and Rust is a treat. Their limited exposure (in an age of 9-season TV franchises) is part of what makes the experience special.
Those episodes said everything we needed to know about their relationship. Since they’re not the focus of season 2, show creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto has to create a new dynamic that will be inescapably compared to the star-gazers. Considering how people responded to Marty and Rust, that won’t be easy. Right now all we know about season 2 is it’s set in California and focuses on two men and one woman.
One of the show’s executive producers, Scott Stephens, participated in a panel at the Los Angeles’ Produced By Conference over the weekend. While he couldn’t discuss any specifics, Stephens did explain how much more challenging the production will be on season 2.
“We promised, in a fit of madness, that every year would be different,” said Stephens, on how they initially envisioned the show. “The idea was to fuse cinematic elements into a television program, to use the episodic format to tell finite stories every year with a beginning, middle and end. We hoped to attract talent that would normally not do television, because there’s no ongoing season-to-season commitment.”
Basically, what was so appealing about the show is now proving itself as a challenge: having to hit the reset button every year.
“Now, after the completion of season 1, we’re left trying to replicate that model, while… we do have to get the show back on the air. We had well over two years to get the first season written, developed, into production and on the air. We can’t sustain that moving forward, because they want a successful show back on the air. We’re now scratching our heads, digging deep and trying to develop a compelling story in a timely manner.”
So with all these changes, what should we expect to remain the same?
“The one consistent thing is the strength of the writing,” answered Stephens. “We only have one writer. If you look at his published work before True Detective there’s a consistency to it, which is really what we’re bringing to it: a consistent depth of character and that skewed vision of the world.”
Pizzolatto has said season 2 will attempt to capture California similar to the way season 1 captured Louisiana. What kind of worldview and themes Pizzolatto plans on exploring remain a mystery, but hopefully he shows us a new side of California through the eyes of very different characters and actors as skilled as Harrelson and McConaughey.