True Detective Season 2 Premiere Recap: Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch Have Issues

Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell in True Detective
Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell star as law enforcement in Season 2 of True Detective. 

True Detective is back for Season 2 and it might just be better than ever. The HBO anthology series debuted a brand-new installment on Sunday night, with Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, Vince Vaughn, and Colin Farrell taking on the lead roles. The show is just as complicated, evocative, and moody as the first season, this time revolving around a murder case in the fictional (and super corrupt) town of Vinci, Calif. 

Read our recap for everything you need to know about True Detective’s premiere!

First Up: The Murder

True Detective wouldn’t be True Detective without a murder investigation, and this season’s unfortunate victim is Vinci’s city manager, Ben Casper. This poor guy goes missing after a newspaper article comes out threatening to expose Vinci’s corruption, and the city police department immediately gets to work hunting him down — which brings us to Ray Velcoro (Farrell). 

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Ray, a brilliant detective with amazing eyebrows and a whole lot of feelings, looks like someone out of a Shakespearean tragedy as he searches Casper’s home and discovers that the man was a sex addict.

But it turns out Ray more than has the looks of someone whose had a hard life: He’s a depressed alcoholic whose wife was beaten and raped, then gave birth to a son, Chad, nine months later. The verdict’s still out as to who Chad’s dad is, but Ray’s deeply committed to the child — despite the fact that he’s not exactly father material. This becomes apparent when Ray shows up to Chad’s school drunk and forces the little boy to narc on a bully, whose dad he later beats to a pulp. Yikes, friend.

Ray isn’t about to win a Father of the Year award anytime soon, but he does have the help of Vinci’s resident career criminal, Frank Semyon (Vaughn), who helped him hunt down his wife’s attacker back in ye olden days. The catch? Ray is on Frank’s payroll, and Frank happens to have a vested interest in getting to the bottom of Casper’s murder.

Vince Vaughn Is Oh So Bad

Frank owns Vinci’s classiest casino (just kidding, there’s nothing classy about this place) and is business partners with Ben. The problem? 1) Ben is missing, and 2) the season started with a pesky journalist sniffing around city corruption, which could mean bad things for Frank.

Vince Vaughn is career criminal Frank, and Kelly Reilly plays his wife, Jordan, in True Detective
Vince Vaughn and Kelly Reilly in True Detective

The good news is that Frank has Ray on his team, and he promptly beat up the journalist. That’s one problem solved, but Ben’s mysterious disappearance poses a huge issue for Frank, as potential investors in their land deal started backing out due to his absence. But hey, at least Frank has his wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly), to lean on! We don’t know much about her yet, but it seems like she could be the brains behind their operation.

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Not Even Ryan Gosling Can Solve Rachel McAdams’ True Detective Problems

Over in Los Angeles, Ani Bezzerides (McAdams) is a slightly jaded sheriff who spends her time hooking up with a random guy named Steve (she’s so not that into him), judging her sister for being a web-cam sex worker, and investigating a missing person’s report on a woman named Vera (Miranda Rae Mayo). With the help of her partner, Ani traced Vera to the New Age center her father happens to run, which gives us some insight into the sheriff’s background. 

Turns out Ani was raised in what appears to be a religious cult, that her dad’s approach to parenting is basically “YOLO,” and that her mother committed suicide by walking into a lake. No wonder she seems so depressed! 

Taylor Kitsch Proves That Dreamboats Have Problems Too

If you’re wondering how Kitsch fits into True Detective, the answer is that he plays highway patrolman Paul Woodrugh, another depressed resident of So-Cal who has a death wish. Paul started the episode by pulling over an actress for speeding, and despite saying no when she offered him oral sex, he was put on disciplinary leave. Paul went home to find his girlfriend, Emily (Adria Arjona), waiting in his bed, but before they got down to business, he popped a few viagra on the DL.

Taylor Kitsch's Paul Woodrugh has a few problems in True Detective.
Taylor Kitsch in True Detective

It’s unclear at this point what prevents Paul from being aroused without the help of meds, but he definitely has a dark past — complete with a stint in the army and time spent with what appears to be a secret group called Black Mountain.

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Either way, it’s Paul’s angst that sets True Detective in motion: He goes on a high-speed bike ride with the headlights out — and when he finally turns them back on, who should he find? Ben, naturally, which brings us to the show’s final shot: Paul, Ani, and Ray teaming up to solve True Detective’s newest murder.

True Detective airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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