The second season of the HBO anthology series True Detective begins this weekend and we still don't know much about what it'll actually be about. All there really is to go on at this point are a few oblique trailers and the freshly-released reviews penned by the lucky few who received advance copies of the first three episodes. But in combing through those reviews, the face of an infamous but still little-known town has begun to take shape. The initial crime that moves the story along this season takes place in a nonexistent city called Vinci, which the Washington Post describes as "Within sight of downtown L.A. [and] an industrial mess of refineries, plants, transfer stations and a casino."
Minus that casino (a reference to Bell Gardens?) and its sweet public transit connections (though the Blue Line runs close), this is pretty much a rough sketch of the tiny southeastern Los Angeles County city of Vernon, which has become notorious for its rampant corruption and toxic industry. Back in 2011, when Vernon was struggling against state lawmakers' plans to take away its cityhood, the New York Times introduced the troubled city as "a bleak, 5.2-square-mile sprawl of warehouses, factories, toxic chemical plants and meat processors that looks like … an industrial wasteland." (While it's cleaned up its corruption act, the "industrial mess" persists at sites like the Exide battery recycling plant, which was poisoning neighbors for years and was only shut down recently. Its cleanup will continue for a long while.)
The Post's review adds that "Though [Vinci] has only 95 permanent residents, thousands of workers come and go every day." As of 2013, Vernon had a handful more residents—114—but it definitely had tens of thousands of workers commuting into the city each day, at least in part because there is basically no housing in the city. ("Nearly all" of the residential units there are city-owned. And "nearly all" of the housing amounted to just about 25 units.)
And let's not forget corruption! True Detective's fictional Vinci "has attracted enough industry to make it a gold mine for its corrupt officials and the gangsters who support them," entertainment site HitFix says. Who knows about the gangsters, but Vernon's corruption is now legendary—it's the kind of place where a city administrator might illegally reimburse himself for $60,000 worth of golfing trips, meals, "massages," and other random crap; where that same administrator would make $911,000 in his final year of employment with the city; where councilmembers were appointed, not voted for, and received $70,000 a year (and healthcare!) for the part-time job. All of that shady behavior got so bad in the pre-teens that the California legislature attempted to forcibly disincorporate the city; in the end, Vernon agreed to pay $60 million to help out surrounding communities and to clean up its act.
The connection is real. True Detective creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto told a Vanity Fair writer that if he wanted to know more about the upcoming season, he should look into Vernon and its history. Apparently, the city has been aware of the similarities, but is totally cool with it, even allowing the show to film within Vernon's borders, the LA Times says.
The second season of True Detective premieres this Sunday. Until then, there's this most recent trailer:
· Vernon [Curbed LA]
· Is Vince Vaughn a Shady Developer in True Detective Season 2? [Curbed LA]
· 'True Detective' Season 2: New cast, setting, same grim self-seriousness [WP]
· Can Nic Pizzolatto, True Detective's Uncompromising Auteur, Do It All Again? [VF]