WARNING: MAJOR "TRUE DETECTIVE" AND "GAME OF THRONES" SPOILERS AHEAD!
In only two episodes, "True Detective" season two proved it has the capacity to do something that many other shows lack: The ability to pull off a "Game of Thrones" episode nine-level twist in only the second episode.
Anyone who watches both shows felt the same Eddard Stark-inspired pit-of-the-stomach despair by the end of last night's second "True Detective" season two installment, called "Night Finds You." In the episode, volatile Vinci detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) finally rejects his crime-corrupted connection with gangster Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) and explores a lead in the show's central murder mystery all on his own, without any illicit money involved. Just as Velcoro finally decides to operate on the level, opting for a noble pursuit rather than the easy cash-in-the-pocket ways of yesterday, he pays what appears to be the ultimate price: a shotgun blast to the gut, followed by yet another shotgun blast at even closer range.
Few shows have the courage to kill off their poster boy at all, let alone in their second episode. But "True Detective" isn't just any other show. It's from the same home as "Game of Thrones," a series that earned its stripes by putting its viewers through traumatic character death after traumatic character death, beginning with Sean Bean's heroic Ned losing his head in "Baelor," the penultimate episode of season one…
…all the way through such recent traumas such as Jon Snow dying at the hands of the Night's Watch.
Likewise, "True Detective" pulled the trigger on Colin Farrell's character after only two episodes, pulling the plug on the man who was pretty easily the most disturbed and fleshed-out figure on the entire show — and certainly the most recognizable on the poster. (No disrespect, Riggs. You're still cool.)
That's assuming Velcoro really died, of course. There are reasons to assume he's still a factor moving forward, not the least of which is, you know, it's Colin Farrell. Then again, he was pumped full of led from a one-foot distance, right in the gut, by a shotgun-wielding killer wearing a horse head. Even if he survived the wounds, it's a Bran Stark-pushed-out-the-window moment.
This is not what we expected from the man hyped up as the new Matthew McConaughey. Then again, this is "True Detective," a show that's tasked with reinventing itself from season to season, with all-new stories, characters, and A-list actors pulling it all together. Who's to say that a big name like Colin Farrell is coming to play in the HBO sandbox for a full eight-episode season? Maybe the man's only in town for two hours and out, shocking viewers with his absurdly abrupt exit.
It's a twist that's deadly and jarring on one hand, and incredibly exciting on the other. There was something immediately magnetic and water cooler worthy about the first season of "True Detective," and the second season has had some trouble latching onto a similar quality… but yanking Farrell off the table in such cruel fashion, or at least brutally sidelining him, goes a long way toward turning "True Detective" season two into a must-see event. The case continues.