Watching the last two episodes of True Detective felt like watching five hundred hours of television. Am I the only one who started to lose focus these last couple weeks? Am I the only person whose mind repeatedly drifted away while watching the show, and I had to rewind constantly to catch what I had missed? If you were like me, it’s probably because the plot is slow and the dialogue uninspiring as we are consistently led back and forth and into dead ends the longer the series drags on. Let’s begin by summarizing what the hell happened these past two weeks.
Frank attempts to rebuild his empire by taking on new deals with drug dealers to push money into his clubs. His wife is fed up with his detachment and uncommunicative behavior, especially because they are trying to have a baby. Velcoro and Bezzerides uncover that Chessani, Caspere, and the psychiatrist Dr. Pitlor go way back and are into some high-level “hooker party” operation with “affluent” men around town. This explains why the State is so eager to investigate Caspere’s murder. Because she was snooping about Chessani’s home, Bezzerides is suspended for sexual harassment for sleeping with her coworkers, although it’s obvious that Chessani is just trying to get her fired and it’s all a huge overblown set up. She has to attend special group therapy sessions and is demoted for a few months to working in the Sheriff’s evidence room and wearing an ugly uniform. Paul Woodrugh wakes up one morning hungover at his war buddy’s apartment and finds out that they slept together. Another self-hating homophobic break down ensues on Paul’s part, and later he and Velcoro have a little heart to heart about how shitty everything is (basically). In desperation, Paul proposes to his girlfriend after she tells him that she is pregnant. Paul and Dixon find out that a prostitute named Irina has Capere’s watch, and they are pressured by Vinci PD to lead a raid against her pimp, Ledo Amarilla. At the end of episode 4, a ridiculously bloody and botched shoot-out occurs after they unknowingly raid a meth lab, and during protest demonstrations against the railway project, the Mexican gangsters flee the lab toting automatic weapons and crash their SUV into a bus and a bunch of cops and civilians are shot and killed. At the end of the episode Bezzerides, Woodrugh, and Velcoro are visibly distressed that their operation literally went as terribly as possibly. In Episode 5, it’s two months since the shoot-out, and the investigation has been dropped since State attorney Geldof is happy to assume Amarilla was to blame. Velcoro has quit the police and now works as a PI for Frank while still trying hard to win custody of his son. Woodrugh has been promoted to Detective so he gets to wear a suit. He seems proud of it. Frank approaches the owner of Catalyst, the company with the holdings for the rail project, and we find out that Catalyst destroyed the land around the rail project to lower its value, and Frank now uses this information as blackmail to buy himself back into the project. The owner tells Frank that he can buy his way back in if he can provide Caspere’s hard drive that was stolen from the apartment when Velcoro was shot by the bird-head guy. Frank has Velcoro snoop on Blake, his right-hand man, because he no longer trusts him, and Velcoro sees him and Chessani escort young women from Dr. Pitlor’s office to a clandestine mansion where Frank’s rival, Osip, resides. Bezzerides continues investigating the missing girls and uncovers pictures of blue diamonds found in Caspere’s safe and this prompts Katherine Davis to re-open the investigation and bring the three detectives back together. Velcoro says, “hell nah” but Katherine promises that she will help him get his son back if he agrees to work for her. Then she reveals that Velcoro’s ex-wife’s rapist was caught, which makes Velcoro think, “Then who the hell did I kill all those years ago?” (my paraphrasing). Velcoro becomes convinced that Frank set him up to kill someone he wanted dead, and he confronts him at the end. Before he does this, however, he beats the shit out of Dr. Pitlor and Pitlor confesses that he, Chessani, and Caspere had hooker parties and filmed affluent clients in order to blackmail them, such as the Catalyst owner. Also in the end, Bezzerides and Paul come across a shed in the woods with blood everywhere.
Did I miss anything? Good. Let’s get started.
If you think about, nothing exciting has happened with Frank since Caspere died. So he lost his business partnership with Osip, all of his assets, had to move into a smaller house, and his wife was mad at him for awhile. But now he’s coming back on top, except for the fact that he’s letting drug dealers filter drugs and pimps filter prostitutes through his clubs. Which his wife calls him out for, but they make up in the end because she also calls him out for refusing to adopt a kid because of his own hang-ups about having once been a little orphan boy. Must we even talk about Frank? His character hasn’t done anything noteworthy in the last three weeks except pull some guy’s teeth out and insult another man’s coffee. The most interesting thing that has happened is that Velcoro knows Frank screwed him over by leading him to kill some other random guy, and now we want to know what Velcoro’s going to do about it. Moving on.
It’s fun seeing Colin Farrell dive deeply into character, as he’s always been a fine actor at emotional intensity brought on by dredging up the past (see, In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths). I’m totally on team Ray here, and I love the idea that his lust for revenge against the man who severely hurt his wife has most likely led to his downfall. Plot-wise, it’s refreshing to see that his character wants absolutely nothing to do with this stupid murder investigation anymore, but of course he’s willing to jump back into the game if it means seeing his son again. Ray’s confrontation and torture of Dr. Pitlor reminds us that this guy is extremely dangerous and not to be f-ed with. I’m tempted to say: If it wasn’t for Ray Velcoro, would I still be watching the show?
I have to wonder if something’s going to happen to Antigone that will allude to her namesake from the Greek tragedy. I’m not saying that she will eventually hang herself, but it’s clear that the show writers believe they are writing some deep and philosophical rumination on human violence and error, so it’s conceivable that they named her deliberately. Rachel McAdams’s character will go down as one of the most badass female heroes on television. She’s the central point of view during the shoot-out, and her border-line crumbling composure and adrenaline fueled composure stole the show at the end of Ep. 4. Sure, she made a mistake sleeping with her coworkers, but she’s not apologizing for it. She recognizes that many men have affairs in their department and that she’s only being targeting because Chessani wants her fired. None of this deters her, however, not even attending mandatory group-therapy sessions or working in the windowless evidence room. Instead she only becomes more determined than ever to continue her investigation. Now that she’s back in good form and has switched to smoking regular cigarettes, let’s hope the plot can pick up and raise the stakes for Bezzerides.
I can’t tell anymore if Taylor Kitsch’s acting is very good, or very terrible. I’m getting a bit tired of seeing him whine and sulk and punch things after every person’s tiny suggestion that he’s gay. The subplot is beginning to come off forced and unrealistic. One of the best Paul scenes was when he confronts his alcoholic mother about stealing his money from Iraq (presumably some sort of pay-out from a contractor), because it was refreshing to see him interact with someone vivacious and not completely dead-pan. I also think there’s a lot of potential in the relationship between Paul and his mother, as well as between Paul and Velcoro, and I think it’s safe to say that wherever this show is going in regards to Paul, it’s not going to end well.
Guys, I’m torn. So many times while watching this season I emphatically rolled my eyes, or looked to my best friend and grumbled “Eh?” after an inane and convoluted line of dialogue was awkwardly uttered. But I can’t stop watching, and I’m still impressed by the amount of twists and thrills TD throws at us. I found the shoot-out scene utterly outrageous and pretty offensive towards Mexican-Americans (in fact, on more than one occasion Frank Semyon has referred to Mexicans as beaners and spicks), but sensational gun violence and racial insensitivity are the least of the show’s problems. Nothing seems to be happening. Every plot turn comes back ’round again. Ray is almost shot and killed but is alive and well. Ray quits working for the State but now he’s back. Paul breaks up with his girlfriend and has gay sex and now he’s getting married to her. Antigone is demoted and shamed but now she’s back working as an investigator. Frank becomes broke and fights with his wife but now he’s buying back into his old businesses and he and his wife are doing fine. Give us something permanent, please! Even the most recent revelation isn’t that surprising: so Caspere, Chessani, and Dr. Pitlor have rich-people sex parties with hookers and powerful men and then blackmail them. Shocking! You realize how formulaic TV writing is while watching a bad show like True Detective. But I’m going to keep watching anyway. How about you?
Episode Score: 6