The news that Taylor Kitsch has finally, officially been cast in Season 2 of True Detective has fans of his many seasons of work portraying running back Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights cheering. And it’s not just because we’re happy to see Kitsch’s somewhat dreamy, looks-so-good-smeared-with-playing-field-dirt face back on the screen. In fact, it’s the opposite: we want to see Kitsch act, and get as deep and nuanced as fellow frequently miscast pretty boy Matthew McConaughey did in Season 1. Because with all its ultimate disappointments, the best part of True Detective was seeing McConaughey’s Rust Cohle get weird, dark, and tortured.
Tortured is a good look for Kitsch: the pathos of Tim Riggins drove so many seasons of Friday Night Lights to sublime TV perfection. If the Taylor family was the show’s heart, Tim was its Texas soul. Since FNL ended, though, Kitsch has shown up in a variety of uninteresting, straight-ahead blockbusters, which let him be a nice-looking, muscly leading man.
But Kitsch showed much more interesting range as Dillon’s #33 — from the almost-slapstick humor of watching Riggins fend off rally girls at parties, rib his teammates, or school good-kid Matt Saracen in the ways of hunting and cutting class, all the way to about 58 different varieties of pain. The pain of taking the fall for drunk Julie Taylor. The pain of taking the fall for his brother’s chop shop. The pain of defeats on the field, in the rain. The pain of being in love with his paralyzed best friend’s girlfriend. The pain of having to help his surrogate little sister get an abortion. The pain of having a weird meth-head roommate with a ferret. (OK, let’s forget that ignominious plot from Season 2.) The pain of watching all the friends and love interests he cares for in Dillon, Texas leave Dillon, Texas, and sacrificing his self-interest to encourage them to take their journeys far away.
Tim Riggins was a football-playing, joke-cracking, libido-possessing, poor life decision-making Jesus stand-in on the show. And it was an almost unbearably compelling role. I can’t think of his final scenes with his brother without crying, can you?
Kitsch can act, when given a good part. Let’s hope that his role on True Detective allows him to show his range. And maybe his abs, too. But only in appropriate circumstances.
Now, let’s enjoy a few homemade YouTube Tim Riggins tributes, because why wouldn’t we take every opportunity to do this?