I mean it: SPOLIER ALERT! Watch season 2 before you read this.
Okay. You were warned.
First of all I have to say that the acting impressed me a lot. Season 2 resembles season 1 in this respect. I already knew that Rachel McAdams was a genius. I'd already seen Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch, and Vince Vaughn in lots of other stuff and liked their worked, but still, all 3 of them surprised me here, showed me things I hadn't realized they had in them. Farrell above all. No offense to Kelly Reilly, but she didn't wow me. But she never made me cringe either, and neither did any of the large supporting cast, and usually when there's a cast this big, several of its members make me cringe and daydream about how much better the production could have been with their roles re-cast.
The opening-credits music: hats off to 80-year-old Leonard Cohen. I few weeks in I googled the opening-credits music. It reminded me of Leonard Cohen, but I assumed that it wasn't Leonard Cohen, because I had never particularly liked Leonard Cohen. (Sit down, Leonard Cohen fans: he's been getting along just fine without my support. There's nothing here to make him or you lose any sleep.) I was surprised that it's actually him. Somewhat the way I was surprised when I heard "People Ain't No Good" in Shrek 2, and it reminded me of Cohen, but I figured it couldn't be Cohen because I didn't particularly like Cohen and this song knocked me out, and I found out it was Nick Cave and that surprised me because it was the first time Cave had ever really gotten to me. (You see: this is not about how good Cohen and Cave are, obviously they're both great. It's about how long it took me to get them.)
Just as in season 1, the musical score by T-Bone Burnett, the cinematography, editing, set design are all amazingly good.
This is very, very, very good TV. So please keep in mind that I think it's very, very, very good, even thought the main reason for this post is something which I dislike about season 2. Keep in mind: if I didn't think that the show generally was very, very, very good, a shortcoming like the one I'm about to discuss wouldn't bother me nearly enough for me to write a blog post about it.
And that shortcoming is the way that Farrell's and Vaughn's characters die in the end. It's a cliche that I hate: characters who are bad guys, but clearly better people than all the other bad guys, have to die, so that people they love who are better can escape the really-bad bad guys. Both characters do horrendous things. (On behalf of all writers I must make it clear that I do not condone Farrell's character's behavior with the investigative reporter digging into corruption in Vinci early on in the season. Dentists will have issues with something Vaughn's character does. Etc.) I saw their deaths coming episodes in advance, and sure enough, this series, which is so well-written and directed and acted, so high above all cliches in so many different ways, followed this cliche down to the letter: the worse guys are closing in on every side, the not-completely-so-bad guys are desperately trying to escape and we're all pulling for them, but there's this Law of Drama which says that they have to be sacrificed, that they have to die, in order that people whom they love, better people, can survive. And to me that Law is as disgusting as a dramatic portrayal of actual literal human sacrifice done to appease gods.
Nic Pizzolatto, I hope it's completely obvious already that I love this show, but I'll say it one more time: great show. Wonderful. If it doesn't win beaucoup Emmys, then youse guys wuz robbed. But why, for the love of all that is William Faulkner, after having spent 7 1/2 episodes providing us with one big surprise after another, did you have to wind up finishing season 2 the way that all crime dramas end up, with the bad guys who really aren't so bad being sacrificed in that way on the alter of utter convention? Still a wonderful series, but why? When you could have ended the season with still more and greater surprises?