While it may have been a disappointment, though, it makes for a highly interesting case study. So let's look at what worked in season two, and, of course, what went wrong.
Yeah, we're finished with the positives already.
Pizzolato, the creator and showrunner, seems to have tried a much more complex story this time onwards. He's been an award-winning novelist before, and that novelist's sensibility has clearly seeped into the way the show's written. In fact, it can probably be assumed that the majority of the problems with season two (and even season one, to an extent) exist because he's written a novel instead of a script, and as a result, there's been a huge loss in translation to screen.
Let's invoke a popular fan reaction as an example.
And this isn't even a problem exclusive to this particular character. We've got too many characters, too much detail we're told they have (Pizzolato's admitted he plans out backstory for every character, even minor ones we don't see much), but not enough screentime or proper character establishing moments to make them stick out in our minds. And since the story still gives them a lot of importance, we're left dead in the water.
The central conspiracy is also needlessly complicated. A supergroup of businessmen are surprisingly super comfortable with each other and like participating in orgies with immigrant prostitutes provided by a core group of people who videotape them for blackmail material, this core group also happens to be involved in deals with certain police involving stolen diamonds from a robbery during riots in 1992, and they also happen to want the land Seymon had his eyes on because his rival, someone named Osip (I’ve seen through the episodes again for the article and I still had to google his damn name) offers a better deal, and oh, Osip also wants to steal his casinos and install the mayor’s son, Tony Chessani, as some sort of puppet mayor. This entanglement is tugged on and exacerbated when the Raven mask kills Caspere, the link between this core group, Seymon, Osip and the mayor’s son.
Yeah, I’m not going to blame you if you skipped the paragraph above, they don’t spend much time with the individual plotlines anyway. All this is based off of throwaway mentions that make way for more scenes where Seymon’s wife asks him (again) to stop his criminal relapse and cut loose.
So, basically, yeah, the plot’s a mess. The story is needlessly complicated, because the individual threads are all important, but there’s no sense of when to focus on which part.
In the show, we have a lot of such examples, and these scenes are often edited together in a slapdash way, with 10% of a scene awkwardly cutting to 10% of the other, and then going back and forth till it's gone long enough to make the viewers feel exhausted, after which it's over and no one cares anymore. Some examples include Vaughn visiting Stan's family, intercut with Velcoro spending time with his own kid, or an underground cop ambush intercut with Bezzerides and Velcoro getting hot and heavy, or the last episode with both Vaughn and Velcoro going through protracted final moments (with ten to twenty randomly placed bonus shots of Bezzerides looking glumly at the ocean). Each individual portion takes too long, and there’s no feeling of natural progression between them, even if they are thematically linked.
And all this is without taking into account any comparison to season one, which featured a highly acclaimed eight minute single take that was so perfectly executed that all such scenes in future TV shows would be judged by its achievement.
Please direct your eggs and tomatoes via mail for that bad joke. I offer no apologies.
(Fun fact, by the time I finished writing this article, I realized I'd completely forgotten to mention Taylor Kitsch's character. Then again, there's nothing to say, he's such a superfluous character that excising him wouldn't change the story much anyway, and there's nothing else interesting about him to talk about, so I'll take the risk and assume you've forgotten about him too.)