Pope helps defuse a problem at Bible study, linked to his own guilt. Deran settles into life outside the closet. And Baz feels the law circling.
When Kevin reaches the hospital, he runs into his older brother Mike, who's injured. Flashbacks show us the strain of their relationship.
Deran finally talks to Smurf about the bar, among other things. Meanwhile, she's pulling J in closer to the inner workings of the family business.
Season 1, Episode 2: “Figure Four”
Directed by Greg Yaitanes
Written by Michael D. Fuller & Graham Gordy
* For a review of the premiere, “You Don’t Miss Your Water” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “A Mouthful of Splinters” – click here
Mac ‘Quarry’ Conway (Logan Marshall-Green) is probably feeling sort of lost. He’s sitting by the pool listening to tapes Joni (Jodi Balfour) sent him while he was serving in the Vietnam War. Back when they were in love, before he found out about her affair. Before he killed the man who was sleeping with her. This opening sequence is great, watching the paperboy, Joni in her room, Mac by the pool, as the tapes play over top. All the while her lover lies dead in his garage. That’s where paperboy comes in: he finds the man crushed under his previously jacked up car.
The couple are barely hanging on. Not sure how long that’ll last, either. Detective Tommy Olsen (Josh Randall) is looking into the death of Arthur, the one-legged man. His partner Detective Verne Ratliff (Happy Anderson) doesn’t seem as dead set on it all, but time will tell. Meanwhile, Mac meets the ever strange Buddy (Damon Herriman) and they head for a drink. Although it’s not a friendly one really. Mac’s tense about where the deal with the Broker (Peter Mullan) goes next. “There‘s no good news in this world,” Buddy tells him. Either pay the money, or, well… we all know how these stories go, and Mac does, too. At the same time, Joni and her friend Andrea (Heighlen Boyd) discover the former’s lover dead, his house a crime scene.
Ruth (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and her family try to get on after Arthur’s death. Things weren’t perfect before, so they definitely aren’t doing any better now. Mac shows up to pay a visit, though, and Ruth appreciates it. He isn’t there just to check up. He’s poking around trying to find out where Arthur hid the money from the Broker. He cares for his friend, Ruth, but right at the moment it’s only fear and self-preservation that drives him. When he leaves Ruth’s place somebody watches him not far away.
Mac looks more flustered by the minute. He heads over to his father’s place. He isn’t there, only his wife. The one who doesn’t want Mac around. He barges his way in there, drinking up liquor and acting fairly passive aggressive. After leaving abruptly he doesn’t look any better, though he at least makes it home to fall in bed. Except it’s the bed where his wife cheated on him. He drunkenly, sadly, hilariously tries to get the mattress out before giving up and punching the shit out of it.
Detectives Ratliff and Olsen sit in a bar drinking. Turns out Olsen knew the deceased, Joni’s lover. He wants to keep the case, just finds it “weird” to have known the victim. Naturally. I can see that he’ll be a bigger part of the show moving forward, at least that’s what I imagine. Knowing the guy, plus being police, naturally he’s going to want to find out who murdered him.
At home, Joni finds the vinyl rocking, Mac on the floor, a torn up and bloody mattress in the hallway. He is absolutely wild. Scaring her slightly. I can see that. All the same I totally understand Mac. He went to serve his country, now he’s home and his wife cheated on him, his country doesn’t want to take care of him, the one guy who knew exactly what he’d gone through died on a dirty apartment floor. Life for Mac Conway is absolute fucking shit. But now, after seeing the crime scene briefly from outside, Joni worries what he’s capable of when pushed too far. Murder; that’s what.
Buddy meets with a connect named Joe Don (Owen Harn) to get some guns. He’s a haggler. Trying to knock things down a few notches. After awhile this doesn’t make Joe too happy. What we see here is the intimidation factor of Buddy. He’s not a big man. Commanding, though. And in a split second – “No cussin‘” – he stops Joe in his tracks. Then brokers a proper deal. We already know that Buddy’s likely gay, or at least a bit feminine. Joe almost offends him by offering up a gift: a gun with a nice pink handle. Buddy takes the piece and does not look pleased.
Working at the newspaper, Joni gets called in by Detectives Ratliff and Olsen because of her connection to the dead man under his car. Of course Quan Thang comes up briefly. Mostly, we can see that her affair is probably going to come out eventually. She knows it. The worry is barely containable, she starts having a panic attack at the thought of what could happen. And paranoia’s setting in, as well. She winds up stealing evidence, one of the tapes.
Mac goes out for a night of Dixie Wrestling with the Broker. They chat. Well, the Broker does, and Mac resents their even being there together, not wanting to deal with what’s to come. What’s noticeable in this scene is the Southern racism – Confederate flag flying, a Mandingo wrestler in the ring being booed as he inches towards victory. The Broker has a line on what’s happening in the investigation, assuring Mac nothing’s coming of it just yet. Mac starts to think Joni’s in danger, but the mysterious Broker only wants him to do more work, and in turn to provide more money for him.
A man named Moses (Mustafa Shakir) dines where Ruth works, he befriends her while she takes his order. He keeps a watchful eye on her. There’s something more in it. He slips back into her house, knowing she’s at work. He looks through the place. But soon the family comes home and he has to make a quick getaway.
Out at the gun meet, Buddy brings Quarry to do his deal with Joe Don. All of a sudden things get sketchy. Guns are drawn on the boys. When shit gets real, Buddy proves he’s not some “cocky little faggot” like Joe taunts with vicious bigotry: he chops big Joe in the throat, starting a gunfight. You know with a guy like Quarry on his side things manage to come out well for them. After a bit of messing around, anyways. Great acting all around from Logan Marshall-Green and Damion Herriman, plus a spectacular showing of practical special effects that will really wow even a horror fan. Intense. The car chase is fun, too.
Karl (Edoardo Ballerini) and the Broker catch up with the banged up pair. Yet through all the violence there’s just as much sense in what’s happening at home as what happened in Vietnam, for Quarry. Or, now he’s transitioned back to Mac after the dirty deeds are done. He already had to become someone else over there during the war. Now, that someone else is hard to define because he’s becoming a monster at home just like he was as a soldier.
The episode ends with Joni listening to a tape from Mac. Full circle to the episode opening in the opposite way. After she listens to a tape of her and her lover, that is. While she does that, Mac tries to find a bit of love elsewhere; a bit of physical love. They’re certainly drifting apart.
And the man following Mac, he heads up to the house, knocking on the door. Before Joni gets to answer, the credits roll.
Until next time. Following episode is titled “A Mouthful of Splinters” and there’s no telling what kind of mess Mac and his criminal alter ego Quarry will get into next. No telling what’ll happen at all. So much exciting development here. So much pain and suffering, so much paranoia, all kinds of ways the plot(s) can go.
TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 2: “We Don’t Hurt People”
Directed by John Wells
Written by Jonathan Lisco
* For a review of the pilot episode, click here.
* For a review of the next episode, “Stay Close, Stick Together” – click here
After a wild pilot, things continue on for the Cody Gang.
Well they’re certainly a good lot for hedonism. Smurf Cody (Ellen Barkin) hangs poolside with her boys, Andrew a.k.a Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson), Deran (Jake Weary), the new addition Josh (Finn Cole), and their close man Baz (Scott Speedman). Pope gets a bit too heavy, not playing nice with their nephew Josh. At the same time, he’s not exactly playing nice with anyone else either. Inside Smurf asks J’s girl Nicky (Molly Gordon) if she were shipwrecked and could only pick one Cody, aside from Josh, who would it be? She replies Baz is “pretty cool” and it’s easy to see that Mama Smurf is testing this young woman to see if she’s got what it takes to hang with the rough crew. Even Josh is finding it hard keeping up with his uncles and big Baz.
Speaking of Baz, his significant other Catherine (Daniella Alonso) is pissed. Rightfully so. There’s a casualty from the job the Cody Gang pulled recently. Furthermore, we see how Baz considers Smurf’s place “home” as opposed to their own place. I can see all types of trouble from a mile away.
When Smurf gets wind of the death due to the robbery you can be sure nothing’s going to go too smooth. In other news, Craig’s wound is festering and he is getting pretty hooked on painkillers. He says it’s because he’s a big dude, but you can clearly tell he is falling down the rabbit hole. Not a good thing with the dead cop on their hands.
Smurf lets Josh know there’s a bit of serious business about to come up. He’s being slowly brought into the fold. “There are no secrets in this family. Not from one another. Especially not from me,” says Grandma Smurf. We also see the strange, quasi-incestuous relationship she has with her men, making Josh strip down his dirty clothes right in front of her. Awkward, and telling.
Then Josh witnesses an incredible moment that nobody can know about – his uncle Deran is getting a blowjob from another man. When he sees his nephew, Deran beats the man down claiming he was trying to steal a wallet. Whoa. Just… whoa. No family secrets? Yeah, okay, Smurf. Deran has his nephew join in on the beating, though you can see the young guy is apprehensive. Poor Josh, he just gets deeper and deeper in every way. And worst of all it’s as if there’s danger from some of his uncles at every corner. First Pope and his machismo, now Deran and his closeted secret. There’s a lot of danger being a Cody.
Smurf and the boys are having a meeting about what to do next. Of course Pope is not happy with any of them. Baz tries to quell Smurf’s worries about any witnesses. Then she finds out the boys took off their masks when dealing with the tweakers for the robbery. Uh oh. Well, that’s not too big of a deal, seeing as how those were addicts and they probably don’t remember much. Not well enough to rat. Meanwhile, everything else is going to shit – their vehicle is still out there, cop’s bullets in it along with Craig’s blood. Moreover, there’s dissent between Smurf and her boys. She doesn’t blame Baz, but rather her own blood, and they don’t like that. Also you have the fact Deran is now quietly pissed with nephew J for finding out his secret, so he tries to pile the grunt work on him. Afterwards, J reveals to Baz what Pope lied to Smurf about, and they start forming a subtle bond. Because let’s face it, the uncles are aggressive with their nephew, whereas Baz is more welcoming and gentle despite being a hardened criminal himself. Still, Baz lies about what “kind of family” the Cody Gang is truly.
We see how everybody is weary of Pope and exactly how his mental health is doing. Particularly Baz and Smurf, as they have a little conference together on his well-being. It’ll be interesting to watch this play out further.
Deran and Craig start tearing apart the vehicle from their robbery. The former rages against his mother and how the split goes for them economically. Craig agrees, mostly. Neither of them are too happy with Baz or Pope, either. But what’s most intriguing is seeing how Craig hides his pill intake from even Deran, as he doesn’t want anybody questioning his state of mind. None of these guys are open in the family. Secrets are everywhere.
When Josh finds his room torn apart he also finds Pope. Looking for the watch he gave his nephew. They’ve got to clean up loose ends. The uncle is convinced his nephew is hiding things; secrets, who knows what else. Then he goes on a brief nostalgia train about his days, hiding things from Smurf. Not much has changed. I like the relationship between Pope and Josh in the series. In the film, it was great, as well. Here, we’re able to get more of a look at the antagonistic behaviour of Pope towards his nephew and that is more fleshed out with an extended series, as opposed to a film under two hours.
Even worse, there’s Pope influencing Nicky. I’m afraid for her. Those who’ve seen the movie know there’s danger for her involved with the family. So it’s only a matter of time before there’s a serious threat to her safety. The more we see of Pope, the more I worry about what he’ll soon do.
Baz and Smurf are so much like actual mother and son. We hear more talk about Pope, that he’s off medication and that it might be worth trying to get him back on some soon. Although neither of them are too optimistic about that. And then they burn up the watches, so that’s a loose end cauterised, literally in fire. More worry about Pope when he shows up suddenly at Catherine’s, playing with her daughter, and no sign of Baz. Yikes. He’s a creepy bastard.
Now we start to hear about Pope sending letters to Catherine. There’s a love for her that Pope has held since they were young. She apparently got drunk and something happened between them. Baz knows nothing of it, and Pope wonders if maybe he should tell him about it. Oh, man. There are so many nasty things going on within the walls of the Cody Gang and the family itself. Only so much can build up before it breaks. Is Catherine’s little girl of Baz, or of Pope? That’s one to think about.
Mama Smurf is up to a few tricks. She smashes a heel of her shoes, scratches up her hand until it’s bloody. She lies to a guy so she can get into an apartment, then into a bathroom. She steals pills. Are those for Pope? We get a quick flash of what looks like Smurf as a little girl, doing the same thing with her own mother. A very great moment. In the meantime, Craig is strung out on pills and not getting any work done. Deran notices. He notices the wound in Craig’s shoulder is getting hideous. Then they decide just to burn the rest of the vehicle. Bad move? Sure is, at least for the fact Smurf won’t be too happy about it. Josh arrives just as they’re doing the dirty. More secrets for him to keep.
Baz is cleaning up after someone, an older man. Likely his father. For a moment, he contemplates shooting him in the head. There’s lots more to why Baz is a member of the Cody Gang, and the family as it stands. I want to see more about that, so I look forward to exploring his backstory throughout the series. I was always curious about that in the film, as he seemed like such an integral part of the gang. He is even more so here. Later we see Mama Smurf is crushing up pills to sneak into Pope’s food. Real good idea there. Also, we hear more about Baz being taken into the house. Smurf talks about when he first came to them. He hid food, not sure he’d be fed there. Terrible parents at home. “I don‘t know how you survived,” Smurf laments.
When Baz goes home he finds Catherine not herself. She worries about the dead cop, all the commotion on television. Baz assures her nothing will come of it for them. Everything’s taken care of, as he says. Don’t be so sure of that. Mostly, Catherine worries for her daughter, and what could happen if the SWAT team bursts in. He promises to lay himself down if that’s the case. Then he discovers the doll Pope brought her and Catherine lies, saying it came from a store somewhere. Ah, the lies are EVERYWHERE!
And Craig, he keeps chopping lines and pushing back the pain. That’s because he’s preparing to do some homemade surgery. Smurf, she’s upstairs watching her insane son Pope outside, naked, staring into the moon. When she hears a bunch of noise downstairs she finds Craig, mutilating himself. So it’s off to Mexico for a bit of low-key surgery. But what else? Baz has a woman down south of the border. Jesus. The lies are seeping out from every crack.
A great follow-up of a second episode. Next up is “Stay Close, Stick Together” and it promises plenty. This is an excellent series in addition to the film. I know many, like myself, were wary. But this is proving, with each chapter, that Animal Kingdom has power as a television show. All the acting is so spectacular, loving Ellen Barkin, Shawn Hatosy, and Scott Speedman, but everyone else is just as good, too.
HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 7: “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”
Directed by Daniel Attias (Ray Donovan, Bloodline, Masters of Sex, Homeland, The Killing)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS SPOILER FILLED! BIG TIME! HUGE EVENTS GET SPOILED AT THE END SO IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS DON’T READ IT ALL OR ELSE YOU’LL BE RUINED!
In the penultimate episode True Detective‘s polarizing second season, Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) is coming down off the Molly she was given at the weird sex party last episode. She’s in a motel room with Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), as Detective Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) is in another with the missing girl they retrieved from the fucked up white rich guy orgy.
Ray: “Want me to roll a joint?”
Ani says she might have even went looking for it – killing that man with her knife – that she’d been waiting her whole life for something like that.
While trying to shake the buzz off, Ani relapses back to the trauma when she was young. She mentions that ‘they’ found her as she came out of the woods. Ray is confused. Then Ani gets in his lap and starts kissing him, rubbing him up, but Ray tries to be a big man.
Ray: “You’re too far out of my league anyway”
I love it because even in the most serious of moments, Ray tries to tone things down with humour. Juxtaposed with the scenes between him and Ani later, this is Ray making a good decision not to pursue things any further; not only is it a bad idea, to make matters worse Ani is still under the influence of the drugs.
Things get going pretty damn quick. No letting up from the last episode and its tense action sequence at the end.
Now Woodrugh is receiving texts with pictures of him and his old army buddy, the one he’s sort of sweet on but won’t admit. He’s clearly shaken out of the blue, Ray knows there’s something not quite right. I’ve been waiting for pictures of Paul’s extracurricular denial to start coming out – ever since Detective Teague Dixon (W. Earl Brown) was snapping with his camera when the whole subplot with Paul/his friend began.
Paul’s pregnant, soon-to-be wife Emily (Adria Arjona) received a call saying “Ask Paul about the pictures“.
Emily: “Why did you get with me? Why did you ask me out?”
All Paul can muster up to say is: “I was just tryin’ to be a good man”
Emily: “Well you don’t try right”
He’s got his mother and his pregnant fiancee in a motel room, pretending that it’s all got to do with beef over an undercover job he’d been working. There is a scary feeling to all of this with Paul. He is frenzied, cracking up like the masks he keeps putting on, so many of them, are all getting bound up, twisted, and ready to fall to pieces.
All the while, Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) is playing cards with himself. Of course he’s the dealer, all the invisible people being dealt hands are just being controlled by him. It’s a perfect metaphor for how Frank’s life is, or at least how he would like it to be/seem. His wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly) makes an obvious poker assertion that pertains to their life: “We could just walk away from the table“. The two of them are still rocky, but she is always there for him; loyal as ever, though, every bit stern.
Then Ray shows up: “I, uh… had a bit of a strange night.”
Of course, Ani used her sister Athena’s (Leven Rambin) name at the party, so the people there might possibly come for her. I knew this would happen as soon as Ani gave the name Athena before she got on the bus last episode.
Ani: “Maybe – and this is just a thought – maybe you were put on this Earth for more than fucking”
Vera: “Everything is fucking”
Though Ani wants to help her, the previously missing girl that she found at the party Vera (Miranda Rae Mayo) seems to not want any help at all. She says she has a good life, and doesn’t need anybody talking to her condescending-like, acting as if she needs to be saved. Ani struggles against it, but yet there seems to be a glimmer in her eyes, or a dulling more like it, that believes what Vera says.
Frank and his once main man Blake Churchman (Christopher James Baker) – the one Ray followed to find he was helping Dr. Pitlor (Rick Springfield) pimp girls out over to Osip Agronov (Timothy V. Murphy) – have a real rough confrontation. It’s clear, though, that Frank is a much tougher piece of work than meek little Blake. A bit of blood and skin later, Frank has a few answers. Only a few, though. Frank needs, wants, answers about Caspere, but nobody seems to know who did him. Outside of that, Frank discovers that people are trying to take everything away from him essentially. He’s just about been a lone wolf the whole time, outside of a couple helping hands; those are few and far between.
At first, Blake is allowed to live for the time being at the mention of money. That doesn’t last long: Frank gives Blake the ole Reservoir Dogs gutshot and lets him bleed out on the carpet. Pretty vicious on his part, but as he said he wanted to watch Blake’s lights go out.
Modern medicine man, or 1960s Encino Man, Eliot Bezzerides (David Morse) shows up again.
He and Ani have a serious chat about who took her away – Eliot says he wandered the forest four days after what happened to her. We get some tiny bits of background about Eliot, little pieces. Nice to fill in at least small cracks here. We don’t need a huge amount of exposition. I think Nic Pizzolatto really does well with these sorts of things; wet the beak, don’t give us too much but enough we can chew on.
Eliot: “God damn everything”
Ani: “That’s what I say”
Because of the last episode and the events at the party – as well as Ray finding the contact for their little off the books investigation District Attorney Katherine Davis (Michael Hyatt) murdered in her car – Ani and the rest are going into protective mode. Everyone in Ani’s family is going into hiding. There’s an epic sense to things, as if the air is electric, and the tension has really started to mount. I predict the last episode will be highly explosive and thoroughly satisfying. That’s just me, who knows.
She, Ray, and Paul close in more on the diamonds in the pictures they found, from the pawn shop, the ones tied with Dixon somehow. They start to sew up some things involving Ben Caspere and Mayor Chessani, the whole lot.
Paul meets his friend from the army Miguel (Gabriel Luna), the one from those torrid night(s) together, and it turns out things with Black Mountain, or a bigger group, are the reason they’ve run into one another again and gotten back in touch. He leads Woodrugh to a stairwell, down into the darkness, then they’re gone for the moment. The tension gets thick.
Once Paul is brought downstairs, out comes Police Chief Holloway (Afemo Omilami) who explains they found pictures in Dixon’s apartment after he died, and they know Paul has documents they need. Incredibly sinister moment, I found. Perfectly executed. I didn’t see this scene coming, though, loved every last second.
Paul begins to try and get himself out, giving up Ani and Ray saying he couldn’t give a shit about them. That’s disappointing to say the least. Only he grabs Holloway, wrestles away his gun and puts it to the man’s head. Woodrugh manages to get away through the underground tunnels, darkness covering all in sight. The military men that were with Holloway and Miguel follow him, trying to make sure he does not escape.
Frank: “Here we are – under the bright lights”
There’s no doubt, after this scene between Frank and Jordan as she witnesses the dead body of Blake on the floor in her husband’s office, that the two of them are as close as they can possibly get. She affirms “I love you” and asks what she can do. Frank, like Ani, is sending those he loves into hiding.
He is preparing himself – for fight, or flight?
Frank – apparently – is setting fire to the casino. Because why not? he’s got some ideas about what to do now that he knows everyone is out to get him. He looks calm, collected as he walks away from the smoking building. Slick, badass stuff from Frank.
Turns out, he’s setting fire to it all. Everything. As far as Frank is concerned, his whole life is going up in smoke anyways. Might as well set fire to the lot of it.
My favourite scene of this episode is just about at ten minutes left, when Ray and Ani are talking with one another at the motel. They’re both trying to talk anyways, but not every little thing comes out. Though, Ray does acknowledge he knows that something happened to Ani, somewhere along the line, whatever it was – she replies that she doesn’t like to talk about it. He tells her it’s what he admires most about her. There’s just such an incredible exchange between two gifted actors. So much ability going on that it blows my mind. Such subtly passionate, quiet moments without any real physical contact outside of the touch of their hands; I was just WOW’d by the scene. Powerful stuff, in my opinion. Both Farrell and McAdams have been doing spot-on jobs this season with their characters. I hope, regardless of how others feel about the story/plot, people recognize how great the acting has been all around.
These are two broken souls trying to find someone as broken as themselves to whom they can reach out.
Ray: “Do you miss it?”
SPOILER ALERT! HERE THERE BY SPOILERS!
Paul ends up blasting his way out of the tunnels, his friend and gay lover Miguel is shot in the process. This was an awesome action scene, with a lot of suspense. Finally, we get to see Woodrugh climb up out of the tunnel and away from the gunfire, back to some semblance of safety. For awhile there I honestly did not see him coming out of that sticky situation. He has some true guts. I was sure, even when I first saw Miguel waiting for him, there was about to be something nasty happen to Detective Woodrugh. Glad that I was wrong on that part.
A great piece of music from the score in Season One comes back here, as we see brief images of Ray and Ani together (nothing gratuitous – tasteful stuff I must say), Paul running away from the scene behind him.
Then the kicker….
MORE SPOILERS! HUGE HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD!
Heroic Paul Woodrugh is gunned down, from behind no less, then shot dead by Lieutenant Kevin Burris (James Frain) who runs off into a car, speeding away.
Unlike Ray Velcoro’s apparent death at the end of “Night Finds You”, this one is not like that at all. Paul is completely finished. Done for. Goodbye, Woodrugh. Even though he was so knotted up as a person, I cannot say I wanted to see him go. Especially not like that. It’s so sad that he was on the phone with Ray before Miguel brought him down to that basement. Right on the cusp of telling Velcoro everything, maybe to get some help with it all. True tragedy.
Not only that, we glimpse how deep the law enforcement rabbit hole truly goes with the murder of Paul Woodrugh.
What a hard hitting episode. Solid writing, lots of tragedy, heart, and just tons of movement in the plot. Dig it – hard.
Next week, we’re going to see “Omega Station”, and this will truly be the beginning of the end.
I can’t wait to see what will happen after the fallout from Detective Woodrugh’s death, where Ani and Ray will go as professionals after their night together plus how they’ll punish themselves no doubt for not being there for Paul, and how Frank is going to react/what he’ll do to those who have been taking his lifeblood away from him.
Stay tuned and we’ll see how everything goes down in the finale of True Detective Season 2!