HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 5: “Other Lives”
Directed by John Crowley (Boy A, Closed Circuit)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the next episode, “Church in Ruins” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Down Will Come” – click here
The aftermath of the shooting at the end of Episode Four has begun to fall over everyone like the ashy snow of an atomic blast.
Ray’s had enough of being a cop, or at least he thought so anyways. Ani is stuck in departmentally mandated therapy and thrown in the basement looking after evidence. Paul faces scrutiny about the Vinci shootout and his time in Afghanistan due to the microscope over him concerning his trouble from the First Episode: the actress who accused him of soliciting oral sex in order to forego a moving vehicle citation. So, the shooting has spread out, touching them all in different ways, even Frank is affected.
This week’s episode begins a little ways down the road after the climactic shootout during the final minutes of “Down Will Come“. In the first scene, Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) looks jaded, frustrated, as if he doesn’t have the words anymore; not for himself, not for his wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly).
Frank is beginning to be severely disrespected by Mayor Chessani (Ritchie Coster). Great scene where Frank leaves the Mayor’s office while the charismatic comedy of Vaugh comes out of Frank’s personality.
One good thing for Frank is that it seems he and Jordan do have things under control. For now. They’re almost as much like competitors, adversaries, as they are lovers, husband and wife. Either way, they seem to be on level ground for the time being. It’s clear they’re in love, but the stress of Frank’s old life keeps pressing on the new one they want to have, the new life they want to give. Though, Jordan is settled for now with the idea of maybe not being parents.
There are a couple real good Frank lines this week:
“The enemy won’t reveal itself, Raymond[…] it’s like, blue balls in your heart.”
(to his wife Jordan) “I was born on the wrong side of a class war, so fuck that gangster shit.”
Meanwhile, Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) has quit the Vinci Police Department; he’s working security for Frank full-time now. He looks clean cut, shaved, and even sober – though the last, not so much. Unfortunately, he’s getting booted out of the house he lives in because it’s reserved for municipal employees, which Ray is no longer.
Turns out Ray’s doing more than just “security” – he’s collecting money from slum apartment complexes for Frank. So, though he finds himself out of the grip of his masters in the P.D, Ray is clearly under the thumb of Frank; forever, and ever. Or is he?
Frank is peeling back the layers of the onion which is Ben Caspere’s murder. He asks Ray specifically if the Mexicans did Caspere, to which Ray replies in a wishy-washy way that there’s all kinds of wrong about what had happened, a messy situation.
Ray tails one of Frank’s men to try and tie up loose ends. He watches as there are some girls picked up from who looks like Dr. Irving Pitlor (Rick Springfield), they are then delivered to Osip Agronov (Timothy V. Murphy).
Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) is being forced to undergo sexual harassment therapy, or some other such program. She clearly has no time for it, making a mockery of the group meeting talking about how she loves big dicks: not simply length but the girth, and says “I really wanna have trouble handcuffin’ the thing”.
But it’s also bullshit why she’s there – and clearly it shows how much of a male problem the harassment is within those few moments (not to mention the fact Ani is being blackballed by the whole department in the first place). We see more of Ani and her sister, which is good because it feels like they’re coming together. Perhaps it’s Ani’s own current life situation that makes her feel more sympathy for her sister than we saw in Episode One.
I just love Ani Bezzerides. Nic Pizzolatto writes her well – she’s tough and takes no shit, but also has her flaws. In closing: she is a human being. She’s allowed to cover the entire spectrum of humanity, from good to bad, not relegated to the land of character stereotypes. This episode went well for Ani in terms of character because I found her more interesting; keeps me on my toes, never knowing what type of attitude she will bring into a scene. Good stuff on the part of Rachel McAdams, she’s a great talent.
Detective, formerly Officer, Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) is in the legal hotseat over the woman from the First Episode who tried bribing her way out of a ticket by offering him a blow job. Her lawyers bring up Woodrugh’s past: the days in Black Mountain Security, how many people he did/did not kill in the big Vinci shootout awhile ago from the previous episode. I can just feel Paul fraying at the edges in almost each scene.
We see more of Paul and his mother, clearly a dysfunctional relationship. There’s no telling what the history truly is between mama and Paul. Although, it’s clear she has her own issues, aside from those which plague Paul, but I’m not exactly positive what those might be.
At his mother’s place, Paul looks for $20,000 he brought back from Afghanistan. His mom tells him “I thought it was something you left for me.” Paul is torn apart that it’s gone. But money is the least of Paul’s worries in life. It’s not hard to see she resents him; she tells Paul he ruined her life. Furthermore, she knows that Paul is gay and is denying it – she talks about all his “good friends”, “the boys”, she says “I know about you, Pauly!” So there’s tension galore.
I’m starting to wonder if maybe Paul does have some sort of history of violence towards women, judging by the torn relationship with his mother and how aggressive they both are with one another, verbally and physically. But who knows, he could just hate her guts for the way she has obviously treated him, like a burden. Another reason I find Paul Woodrugh so interesting. I think Pizzolatto does a fantastic job at juggling so many characters. Last season, there was so much centred focus on the two main detectives – this time with three, plus the addition of Frank and his wife, there is a ton going on. Yet Pizzolatto does well, I think, in fleshing them all out. Just so happens, for me Woodrugh is one of the most interesting. Hard to choose, though, when they’re all rich characters.
Ray meets with Ani in the little bar where he usually met with Frank. They’re both damaged from the shootout. Ani clearly knows there’s more to the Ben Caspere case than the P.D determined; she says “a bunch of people got shot to shit and nobody cares.” Obviously, Ray knows what the deal is, at least partly, and he was forced to keep with a certain version of events. His best advice to Ani is: “I try to limit the people I can disappoint and I make sure to know the difference between my obligations and somebody else’s”.
Bezzerides, Velcoro, and Woodrugh are being recruited to go deep and figure out what really went on behind the Ben Caspere case, what truly happened. Essentially, they want Velcoro to be a man on the outside, as he is now no longer a member of Vinci P.D. yet he knows how the greasy guys at the top operate.
District Attorney Katherine Davis (Michael Hyatt) offers Velcoro a deal – help her to uncover everything, she makes sure Ray is able to keep his son around. Also, she reveals that the man who raped Ray’s wife is not dead, he was recently picked up on a string of unsolved rapes – this leads Ray into a frenzy, looking for answers. Not only did Ray’s relationship with his ex-wife become a ruin due to her believing Ray had the man killed, he was also lead to believe the man was dead – now we know, Frank had him kill an innocent man just to keep Ray in his service. This ignites a fire in him that flames high; all directed towards Frank.
A couple awesome scenes happen in this week’s “Other Lives”.
– We watch Ray devolve a little after initially it seems he might be turning over (some kind of) a new leaf. He falls into that fugue of anger he began in at the start of the season. Ray goes back to see Dr. Pitlor and beats some information out of the man, donning leather gloves and a heavy blackjack with which to menace the doctor, and while it’s thrilling, you can see how quickly Ray slips between the two men existing within him: the man he wishes to be and the man who he is, the one he cannot escape.
– The scene with Paul and his mother worked excellently and Kitsch was fantastic. I’ll keep saying it, over and over, I think he is a great actor when given the right material. Plays the character of Woodrugh very well.
– Ani and Paul find a creepy little shack in the woods with a chair at the middle and arterial blood spray across one of the inner walls. Brief, not too much, but added some tension. Plus, I really like how Ani and Paul are together. Good dynamic. Then again, I also think Ani and Ray are a good team. Mainly I think that’s because the character of Ani is such a no bullshit, no nonsense type of woman, she basically calls the men in her life out on their shit whenever she can, quick as possible. So she almost corrals these male detectives, not in a motherly way just simply the way a leader needs to in order to get the job done.
My favourite scene of this episode is at the end when Ray goes to see Frank. It is just – WOW! There’s not much to it at all. A banging on the door, again, again – Frank gets pissed and tells them to shut the fuck up. He looks through the peephole and relaxes: it’s Ray. But it’s the look on Ray’s face, the eyes gently quivering, a subtle force bottled up inside him – just blew me away. He tells Frank they’ve got to talk and then… cut to black.
So again, I keep telling people: Teague Dixon. We already have a scene in this episode, a couple actually, referring to Dixon. Woodrugh goes to a pawn shop for some information, only to find Teague had been there weeks before. In fact, he’d been there before the others had officially know about evidence which would’ve brought them there.
I guarantee there’s more to Dixon’s character, and I still know there will be some sort of plot involving those pictures he took of Woodrugh a couple episodes ago.
The biggest thing going is that Frank knows there’s something not right about the official word on Caspere’s murder, he needs Ray to fill in the blanks. But now Ray knows that Frank set him up from the get-go. Ray’s life is in absolute shambles and Frank is responsible for so much of that. That ending really promises a confrontation between Frank and Ray that could lead to tremendous consequences.
Next week we’ll see what happens. I think there are going to be some big revelations in the next episode. This was a great one, in my opinion. They’ve all been a lot of fun. The small time jump from the last episode to this one worked, and it also helps to add a little depth to the story. Only about six or eight weeks, but just enough time. It seemed like everything was starting to smooth out, except now the chaos is creeping back further into Ray’s life, Paul too, and Ani has never been free of it for a second. With Ray at his door, I think Frank is about to understand the meaning of chaotic.
Next episode is titled “Church in Ruins”. After that, only two episodes left: “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” & “Omega Station”.
The detractors, I’m sure, will still compare this second season of True Detective to the first season. They are highly different. I do prefer the first, absolutely. However, I’m still a big fan of this second season. Can’t wait to see how these last three episodes play out! Stay tuned. I’ll see you next Sunday.