True, Defective: How TV’s Hottest Show Squandered A Chance to Make a Statement

It was Facebook official on Tuesday. “The Guardian,” “The Nerdist,” IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and — most importantly — BuzzFeed reported the news. HBO’s groundbreaking TV drama, “True Detective” has its Season Two leads.

And they’re both white men.

Okay, okay, so that’s not the full story. Let’s dial it back a bit for context.

“True Detective” premiered this past January and generated more buzz than just about any TV show aside from that one about the chemistry teacher dude. The eight-episode series, penned by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga, aired to universal acclaim and tremendous response. Helped by scintillating performances from Woody Harrelson as Marty Hart and Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle, “True Detective” tracked two Louisiana detectives and one continuous mystery surrounding occult practices in the backwoods. It was a beast that TV hadn’t seen before, and its finale left fans itching for more.

However, Season Two of “True Detective” definitely will not be more of the same. Pizzolatto has billed the series as an anthology show, chopping and changing casts and stories each season while keeping unifying themes. While this meant no more Marty and Rust (or Woody and Matt), some fans hoped Pizzolatto would fix the blemishes on an almost-pristine first season. The most polarizing of those blemishes is Pizzolatto’s portrayal of women. The two white, male leads star in a particularly male-centric show, with very little wiggle room for anyone else to get a word in. Throw in some elongated sex scenes, and you’ve got a recipe for a very iffy eight-episode run.

Pizzolatto did promise change. Early buzz claimed that Season Two would see the introduction of not one but two female leads. It eventually tailed off and became one female lead. Then it was two males and a female. And now… well, the female detective is still involved in a smaller, yet-to-be-casted role, but what were the two first – and arguably prioritized – casting announcements?

Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell.

Vaughn fits the McConaughey-esque actor in need of a career boost mold, and Farrell is a proven actor on the big screen who is built for a small-screen part, but something doesn’t feel right.

Maybe my hopes were too high when Idris Elba was linked with the part a few months ago. Or maybe two rumored female leads (with Jessica Chastain, Elizabeth Moss, Ellen Page, et al., in the running) was asking too much. Maybe Season One was too successful and HBO wants to stick with two white male leads to keep with the formula. Or maybe Farrell and Vaughn were just that good.

Either way, I expected more.

Adding a person of color or a pair of female characters would have been a serious statement for a show as successful as “True Detective” was in its first season. Not to detract from Vaughn or Farrell or even Pizzolatto, I’m sure Season Two will be just fine, but for a show that already changed so much of TV, fine just seems a little lackluster.

I can’t say I won’t wonder what it could have been.