The second season of HBO's brooding cop anthology series True Detective trades the mystical nihilism of the first for a grim libertarian fatalism: The whole system is rigged, and there's nothing to be done about it.
The story, insofar as it can be determined, revolves around a scam put on by the City of Vinci—modeled after the real-life California city Vernon, which was set up to bilk taxpayers and benefit a small band of municipal hoodlums—to enrich city employees and their crony-capitalist pals as a new high-speed rail line is installed.
The show snidely references Hollywood's use of film tax credits, pokes fun at psychiatry and New Age self-fulfillment, sneers at workplace sexual harassment training, and offers barbed asides about the impossibility of destroying vice markets for drugs and prostitution. It's a show about dour detectives digging for the truth—and finding that everything, everywhere is some kind of a scam.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Trouble Is Their Business".