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'True Detective': Can the HBO drama's second season recover?

The second season of the HBO drama is halfway over and it's still polarizing viewers. Here's what happened on the newest episode of 'Detective' and why some viewers and critics are frustrated.

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    'True Detective' stars Colin Farrell (center).
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Fans who are getting more and more frustrated by the current season of the HBO drama “True Detective” were even more polarized by the show’s most recent episode.

(Spoilers for the most recent episode follow…) 

“Down Will Come,” the show’s newest installment, aired on July 12. This season of the show centers on police detectives Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) and Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) as well as Highway Patrolman Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch). The three are working together to solve a murder and the newest installment ended with the three participating in a raid, which went badly wrong and ended with many police officers and civilians dead. 

Like its first season, the second season of “Detective” is running for eight episodes, and so viewers are now halfway through the season. While some are enjoying the new installments and some felt the show was reinvigorated by the shootout sequence, many more are frustrated by the show in comparison to the first season starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, both of whom were nominated for Emmy Awards for Lead Actor in a Drama for their roles. 

Following the most recent episode, fans took to Twitter to discuss it, with viewers tweeting, 

Critics are divided over the final shoot-out, with one calling it “compelling stuff” but others writing that it’s “ridiculous, too chaotic to follow, and ended all too conveniently” and that “the amount of carnage borders on self-parody.”

But one of viewers’ and critics’ biggest complaints seems to be that we’re halfway through the season and various plotlines, whether it’s the murder investigation on which Ray, Ani, and Paul are working or the business endeavors of Vince Vaughn’s character Frank Semyon, are extremely difficult to follow.

Critics wrote of the newest episode, “The path leading to that [newest episode’s] denouement is a lot of aimless, grinding sorrow – all mood, no story” and “this episode completely lost me about midway through… Some other stuff happened in this episode, too, but it's barely tracking for me anymore.”

Another reviewer noted that the new episode “dumped still more plot into this already labyrinthine tale” and one wrote that “it’s been a difficult story to comprehend. What seems remarkable at this stage is just how little we know about the contours of this case, how deep it goes, and just how many people are involved in it. At the halfway point of this second season, so much remains opaque.” 

Shows' fortunes can rise and fall at what seems like an accelerated pace in our current TV landscape.

Cable and streaming shows often operate by different rules (for example, ratings for shows by streaming service Netflix aren't public knowledge), but on networks, few new shows succeeded last year at networks like NBC.

ABC gave many a chance, with new programs like "Black-ish," "How to Get Away with Murder," and "Agent Carter," among others, returning for sophomore seasons, but NBC canceled multiple new shows and picked up one, "The Mysteries of Laura," for a second season.

Viewers can respond quickly to a show via social media; this may play a part in networks' quick responses when it comes to canceling a new program. Similarly, the first season of "Detective" was critically acclaimed, with the show winning a Best Directing Emmy for Cary Fukunaga as well as McConaughey and Harrelson's nods and a nomination for Best Drama, but this new season has divided many.

The next episode of “True Detective” airs on July 19. 

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