Now that True Detective is fully underway, I'm hearing lots of feedback that this season isn't as good as last season. I fully disagree. It's certainly different, and the move from the swamps of Louisiana to the not-quite-glamorous parts of California certainly took something mystical and creepy away from the show. But, as the episodes tick on, I'm starting to love these characters more and more, even if they don't have Rustin Cohle's spooky, country-bumpkin-philosopher persona. Case in point: Taylor Kitsch's character. How you can you not feel for the guy, especially after last week's "Maybe Tomorrow" episode? After watching that, I think Paul Woodrugh is True Detective's most sympathetic character ever.
Sure, it took some time. When we first met him, he was silent, sour, and barely got any screen time. But the whole point of True Detective is that it takes its time telling the story, so details come out slowly, as you need them. And the more I learned about Woodrugh, the more I found myself cheering him on. Here's why.
He's Trying, Sort Of
Everyone on True Detective — this season and last season — is damaged in some way, especially the "detectives," no matter what type of law enforcement they might be. Woodrugh, though, is the only one who still seems torn up about his demons. Maybe it's because he's younger than the typical True Detective lead, so the character's nerves are still raw. Still, it's a good change to see one of them who isn't just resigned to being a jerk.
That's Not The Only Way He Breaks The True Detective Mold
You have to say this about True Detective: It listened, even if the results didn't turn out the way you want them. Last year, after the first season, people complained that the main characters were both straight men with bad relationships with their underdeveloped wives. Complaints were that it was too one-note. This year, not only have they added a female lead, the third episode revealed that Woodrugh is a closeted gay character. This breaks the streak of the cheating-on-their-wives pair of Hart and Cohle from last year.
He Loves That Bike
It's kind of impossible to not find his love for his motorcycle charming.
He's Out of His Depth
The other investigators working the case have some sort of agenda. They're either looking for personal redemption and glory, or someone else behind-the-scenes is pulling their strings to get the outcome to shake out one way or another. Woodrugh is on the case because he just happened to be on the wrong stretch of highway at the wrong time. The higher-ups dangled a promotion in front of him for working the case, but he doesn't really want it. (He just wants to be on the bike!) He's definitely the underdog of the detectives, and who doesn't love an underdog story?
I Mean, Did You See His Mom?
She makes an appearance in the second episode, and it is rough. When I said "underdog," I really meant it. Seeing her trailer makes you totally understand why he would want to hop on a bike and ride the highway as far away from there as he could. (And I'm rooting for him.)