I just watched the Season 2 finale of HBO’s Original Series TRUE DETECTIVE.
I feel compelled to talk about the technical advising for the show, so this is your SPOILER ALERT!
In the very first episode of Season 2, I immediately noticed the attention to detail in the uniforms and patrol cars. I swear those are Ventura Sheriff’s Department badges and shoulder patches. The paint scheme for the patrol cars are dead-on accurate. This level of detail continued with other agency uniforms later in the season. The on-set Technical Advisor, Costume Department and the Prop Department absolutely nailed it.
The actors were well coached in the proper carry and use of their weapons. They searched areas with guns drawn while index fingers remained off their triggers, just like True Detectives. These visual technicalities were done exceptionally well. This is the benefit from having a detail oriented technical advisor on the set, to step in just like a “training officer.”
Unfortunately, Season 2’s Writers needed a technical advisor too.
It started with a few little things in the dialogue. In California, the State’s prosecution office is called “the Attorney General’s Office” and we often shorten it to the abbreviation “A.G.” To refer to the A.G. as the “S.A.” or to call it the “State’s Attorney” is to declare you’re from the East Coast or watch too much Law & Order. The Assistant Attorney General Katherine Davis (played by the amazing Michael Hyatt – she’ll always be Brianna Barksdale to me) would not refer to her own office that way, even if she’s originally from Bodymore. You might dismiss this as something only a cop would find annoying, but I challenge you to watch every CHiPs re-run ever, and tell me if Ponch ever refers to Jon or their CHP co-workers as “Stateys.”
Later on, Detective Ani Bezerides (played by Rachel McAdams) is transferred to the Evidence Room as punishment. Now we see her in uniform, but donning Sergeant stripes. WTF? Was she promoted? She certainly wasn’t a Detective Sergeant before. I wrote a guest-blog post about incorrectly assigning rank a few months ago, and why it hinders your characters’ believability.
Enough of the nit-picky stuff, though! Once the case switches gears from a homicide investigation into a public corruption case, we watch the technical issues snowball into major plot holes.
The trio of True Detectives are trying to investigate a decades old conspiracy that goes right to the top of their own totem pole. Our detectives resort to breaking in to an orgy to steal real estate documents (burglary) and kill someone in the process. Was it exciting? You bet. Will the real estate documents be admissible in court? Hell no; not after being stolen. Could they have obtained those same documents with a subpoena? Absolutely: they’re available through the Property Assessor’s Office.
So if all of these cops can’t touch their bosses through an official investigation, how do real-life corrupt city officials get caught? It would take a group of investigators that aren’t within the corrupt officials’ sphere of influence. The group would need significant funding, manpower, technical ability and access to undercover operators, all of the things that our True Detectives did NOT have. Which makes me wonder why the case wasn't referred to the FBI, as they are RESPONSIBLE for conducting Public Corruption Investigations. I realize the outcome of Season 2 was planned during its initial concept for maximum dramatic effect, but arriving at that point shouldn't require the viewer to overlook major holes in the plot.
All that said, I did enjoy Season 2 of TRUE DETECTIVE. However, it also illustrates the difference and benefits of having a Technical Advisor on the set and having the Writers team with a Technical Advisor throughout the plot development and writing process.
Detective B. Adam Richardson provides Technical Advising for Writers.
Follow him on Twitter @writersdetctive
What did you think of TRUE DETECTIVE – Season 2?
If you like what you read here, consider joining the mailing list for updates, seminar notifications and more!