There were many things that made True Detective Season 2 a sea change from Season 1, but none were perhaps more striking than the lack of director Cary Fukunaga’s presence. Though the rotating group of episode directors did admirably imitate some of Fukunaga’s Season 1 style, Fukunaga’s rumored tempering of series creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto was the mystery element whose absence was acutely felt.
Though Fukunaga was listed as an executive producer for Season 2, he recently told Variety that
“I really wasn’t involved,” he said. “My involvement in the second season was as much or as little as they needed me. It turns out they didn’t need me.”
That fact is certainly up for debate. But Fukunaga went on to say that it was always the plan for him to leave after the first anthology season with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson wrapped. (Though him also mentioning in the piece that each season would have a feature director did not exactly come to pass for Season 2). However, some saw a difficult director character in the new season’s third episode as being a dig at Fukunaga, given his and Pizzolatto’s reported butting of heads. But as far as Fukunaga is concerned,
“I have friends on the crew who told me about it. What’s there to make of it?” Fukunaga says with a laugh, declining to elaborate further.
Pizzolatto said in response,
“The director character in episode 3 was absolutely not meant to represent or allude to Cary in any way. The actor (Philip Moon) was hired because I was a fan of his from ‘Deadwood,’ and he arrived with the look he had. I have the utmost respect for Cary, and I look forward to his new picture.”
Whether or not the character was aimed at Fukunaga (and it very well could be), it all just speaks to Season 2’s desperation, and the fact that while Pizzolatto was praised as the maverick of True Detective, the real magic came from the collaboration with Fukunaga, and even possibly their creative tensions (which created such a gorgeous and haunting first season that I still adore).
But thankfully, True Detective‘s second season is done, with its lessons about ginger hair recessive genes and the importance of a good cell phone data plan. Another lesson, though, is to keep an eye on Fukunaga as a great talent. His Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, which will premiere on Netflix October 16th, and though I would love to see him direct another TV series (or miniseries/anthology), this project looks to be another exceptional visual entry to his oeuvre.