It was always going to be difficult to meet the anticipation the first season of True Detective left behind, particularly with a whole new cast, new setting, and new director. But HBO and creator Nik Pizzolatto decided to bequeath this new series with the same name, hoping there would be enough similarities in theme and tone to make fans of the original return for more.
Though no episodes have yet been made available in New Zealand ahead of its international debut on Monday, several critics in the US have seen the first three episodes, and they have a range of opinions about this new story.
It is triggered by a strange murder in Southern California discovered by California Highway Patrol officer Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch), which leads to a conspiracy that ensnares mobster Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn), mob-affiliated City of Vinci Detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), and Ventura County Sheriff detective Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams).
The most common observations among early reviews seem to be that more central characters mean more exposition, a slower start, and less banter - there's no magic chemistry between two leads like Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, and no levity in the dialogue.
But the critics are divided on whether or not season two can live up to the hype.
David Hinckley from the New York Daily News is impressed: "It's still the kind of show that makes TV viewers reach for phrases like 'golden age of television drama'. The second instalment goes out of the way not to echo the first ... [but] as drama, though, the new True is in the same league. It's dense and it's dark. If there were a quiz, you'd have to take notes."
He doesn't go overboard with praise however, noting that it often seems there are too many characters for one show, and though he commends Taylor Kitsch "as you have not seen him before", he makes no particular mention of the talents of Farrell, Vaughn, or McAdams.
Melissa Maerz from Entertainment Weekly is also generally positive.
She happily points out the continuing issues of misogyny and crime-drama cliches, along with some overly self-conscious dialogue, but finishes by praising the show's overall vision.
"There are moments when this same old story about troubled detectives in a hardboiled world becomes something much weirder and more original than that description suggests. When creator Nic Pizzolatto stops trying to promote gritty realism and loses himself in a psychedelic vision - filled with totemic animal imagery and mythic themes about life and death - the fact that his characters feel less like human beings than archetypes starts to make sense. This is a dreamworld, one that explores those "baser tendencies" in a way that only the subconscious can, and certain scenes stick with me long after I've watched".
Matt Zoller Seitz of New York Magazine also applauds the way "Pizzolatto and director Justin Lin unveil Los Angeles' grimy corners with a mix of journalistic detail and visionary grandiosity." But he misses the humour and chemistry of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart.
"The brooding sourness of this one is fascinating in a different way, though it loses points for showing us a world that feels far more familiar than the one showcased in season one. When Ani, Ray, and Paul are drawn together as a unit, it takes a while to establish any kind of chemistry between them, because they're all variations of the Michael Mann-style, soul-sick badass."
Vaughn is clearly his favourite: "Only Vaughn makes you feel the loneliness, desperation, and resentment that we're told that the other characters are grappling with ... He channels early Vaughn here, and he's magnificent, especially when the details of Frank's distress become clear and Vaughn's swagger is supplanted by anxiety."
However, Ben Travers of IndieWire finds "all Pizzolatto's characters are as top-notch as ever" - he admits they can't capture the greatness of McConaughey and Harrelson, but "every actor understands their role intimately, and you can see them building toward greatness throughout the first three episodes. McAdams, in particular, stands out, and you get the feeling early on that the second season as a whole will hinge upon her development."
The big guns, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, are both on the fence, with their criticism mainly levelled at the writing and direction. But despite reservations, the overall message seems to be, "we'll keep watching". Though certain aspects of the show may seem wanting in comparison to season one, the critics are still hooked - enough to watch eight episodes anyway.
Where: Soho or Neon
When: Monday, 5.30pm and 8.30pm
What: The grisly underbelly of Los Angeles.