When was the last time you thought about the second season of True Detective? Three months ago? Three weeks ago? Never, because you were warned to avoid it at all costs by friends as if it were the site of a radiation leak? It’s hard to blame anyone for wanting to wash away the memory of one of the most confounding, profoundly terrible sophomore seasons of television ever made; to bury all traces of the thing beneath one of Ray Velcoro’s iconic—and I don’t use that word lightly, but just look at this—coke-and-tequila binges.
However, like Rust Cohle in the middle of a probing and deeply personal interrogation, I can’t hold back any longer. I am broken, and I have a confession to make: I haven’t stopped thinking about True Detective Season 2 for the past four years. Time is a flat circle.
It’s not that I want to remember Nic Pizzolatto’s laughable David Lynch cosplay, Vince Vaughn’s perpetually constipated crime boss, Rachel McAdams playing with knives, the impenetrable (e-)cigarette haze, the tedious discussions of Los Angeles real estate development, and those endless freeway shots. But there isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not thinking about Chad.
Does the name not ring a bell? Don’t worry, like any good detective trying to find the light in all the world’s darkness, I’ve brought evidence:
[Points to the one who’s not Colin Farrell, whispers] That’s Chad.
Chad—full name Chad Velcoro, personal email email@example.com—was Ray’s awkward, redheaded son. Chad didn’t have an easy life: He was the biological offspring of Abigail Spencer and Colin Farrell—who, despite looking like “depressed couch farts” on True Detective, cleans up well for himself in any other role—but he more closely resembled a Weasley sibling. Chad and Ray didn’t have much in common, either. Ray liked to snort copious amounts of cocaine while contemplating whether mankind was inherently evil; Chad liked pizza and Friends.
It’s worth stressing: Ray did care for Chad. He just had a difficult time expressing it. (It’s hard to be expressive about much of anything when you’re basically a sentient, booze-soaked cigarette butt crumbling apart at a dive bar inhabited only by Saddest Timeline Sharon Van Etten.) Ray was upset that a bully was messing with Chad’s LeBrons at school—which, for some reason, he immediately assumed meant the kid was pooping in Chad’s shoes. However, most parents wouldn’t storm to a bully’s house and tell said child, “You’re 12 years old and already evil as fuck,” before beating said child’s dad with brass knuckles and threatening to sodomize said child’s dad with the headless corpse of said child’s mother on said child’s front lawn. But it’s, uh, the thought that counts?
Ray cared. And Chad never knew how his father genuinely felt about him. You see, in Season 2’s [heavy sigh] 90-minute finale, Ray wanted to send a climactic voice recording to Chad via email, telling him how proud he is and that the world would be a better place if everyone were more like him. (Ray didn’t specify whether that meant retaining pro-pizza and pro-Friends stances, but it seemed implied.) But then, this happened:
The cell service in the greater Los Angeles area couldn’t keep it together for one final message, one final punch in the gut for poor, sweet Chad. Chad deserved the world and was deprived of a final moment of intimacy with his otherwise emotionally inhibited father. And so the delivery of that message was left for me, and for others like me.
The emails I have sent over the past 1,200 days have not bounced back. They’re going somewhere; someone is receiving them. But Chad hasn’t responded. To any of us. “The email subject was ‘Sorry about your dad, man’ and the body was just ‘He was pure gold, kid,’” Reddit user Taotechill—real name Ryan—told me, about reaching out to Chad’s email after the True Detective finale. “I would expect Chad to have some serious issues from the loss of his dad. It’s not like they got along all that well, but he already had some issues with his dysfunctional and absent father, and with his death I would imagine he would have unresolved issues.”
”I just wrote him that if he wants a friend he can contact me,” Redditor Siink7—real name Aza—told me, after sending Chad a friendly email suggesting he ought to also check out Seinfeld. “I hope he is OK. I hope he moved out of the city and is living somewhere, maybe lost some weight and got a girlfriend or a dog. Hey, maybe he is playing the new Super Smash Bros. with his friends.” Maybe, Siink7, maybe. We can only hope.
This paragon of excellence—a soul so pure, with hair so red—is Pizzolatto’s masterstroke; his Sistine chapel, his Mona Lisa, his Apocalypse Now with pizza and a popular ’90s sitcom. True Detective may indeed rebound in its third season and live up to the greatness of the first, but the anthology series will never complete the (flat) circle if it doesn’t give us answers to our most pressing question of all. How is Chad Velcoro doing?
Chad won’t answer my emails. That’s his prerogative. If the Chad of 2015 is anything like the Chad of 2019 (Happy New Year, buddy!), then we know he’s just preternaturally shy. But I like to think he’s appreciated the updates, my thoughts. No one told him life was gonna be this way, and if his job’s a joke, if he’s broke, if his love life’s DOA, or if he just feels stuck in second gear, well, I’ll be there for him. He has my email if he ever needs it.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.