The FBI push their psychological warfare tactics to the brink, in turn pushing Koresh. And this will start the beginning of the end.
HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 8: “Omega Station”
Directed by John Crowley (Boy A; previously directed the episode “Other Lives” this season)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the previous episode, “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” – click here
DISCLAIMER: DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU’VE NOT SEEN IT – FILLED WITH SPOILERS! WHY WOULD YOU BE READING THIS ANYWAYS? EITHER WAY, BE PREPARED.
This final episode of Season 2 starts in bed with Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) and Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) after their steamy night together. Ani recounts what happened to her back in childhood, the abuse she suffered at the hands of the man from her visions in Episode 6 at the weird sex party. It’s clear the two of them bonded; it wasn’t simply two people having sex together, they were trying to forget, at least for awhile, together.
There’s no doubt Ani is a damaged woman. She blames herself for the abuse, saying “I got into a van with a stranger“. She doesn’t understand that feeling proud her abuser thought she was pretty is a symptom of abuse, a symptom of mistreatment at the hands of men. Unfortunately, this didn’t only cloud her when it comes to judging herself, it clouded Ani completely in terms of men; from her father, to her boyfriends, to her partner and all the men in the Vinci P.D.
What’s great about this opening is that Ray also talks, he opens up to her. So it’s not simply Ani pouring her guts out. Ray confesses to her that he killed a man he thought to be his wife’s rapist, and that it made nothing better; it made everything worse. Ani says she doesn’t blame him for any of it, even saying other cultures would understand, it’s a human thing to want revenge. But Ray reveals that it was not him, that he found out who the real rapist was, so we’re seeing this beautiful opening up between the two damaged characters of Ani and Ray. The way it all comes off is wonderful. There’s this peace about the two of them together.
Ani: “Trees. A little place in the rock, in the trees. A cave, is how I remember it. It was like a fairytale.”
Sadly, as they rolled around in bed together, Detective Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) got shot from behind, then had his brain blasted out all over the pavement. Seeing such an incredibly powerful, emotional, beautiful scene, knowing what lays beyond those motel doors – it’s tragic really.
Back to Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) trying to tell his wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly) she doesn’t have any choice but to get out of town. Frank’s trying to drive Jordan away, but it is not because he doesn’t love her. Jordan knows the difference. A great bit of the scene is when they throw their wedding rings away – Jordan is a strong lady, she takes off her big diamond, to Frank’s dismay, and tosses it into the street like he did with his, too. I thought this was excellent. Shows how badass Jordan is because she does not care about the money; she clearly loves Frank. She doesn’t abandon him, no matter what, even after seeing the damage Frank inflicted in the last episode. Some critics have said the relationship between Frank and Jordan has been stale, or whatever; I completely disagree. They’re a trouble couple, and I think each of them plays it well. The chemistry between Reilly and Vaughn works, in my opinion. Vaughn does a good job playing the businessman trying to shake his ‘gangster’ roots while she does a great job portraying a torn woman who loves her husband, wants to get away from the crime, but won’t let him go no matter the price.
Frank: “Wear a white dress”
Jordan: “You wear a white suit with a red rose in your jacket”
Frank: “I’ll wear a red rose in my jacket”
Jordan: “I’ll see you coming out of the crowd, head higher than everyone else.”
Frank: “At first I worry, I can’t see you.”
Jordan: “But then you do.”
Frank: “I see the white dress.”
Ray Velcoro gets the news about Woodrugh straight from the killer’s mouth – Lieutenant Kevin Burris (James Frain). Everything is coming down on Ray’s head, on Ani, on their little investigation. Even worse, there’s the fact the P.D and their players know about Paul and Miguel, so the higher-ups see Woodrugh as an outsider. Naturally, Ray and Ani are devastated about Paul’s death and plan on trying their hardest to expose whatever is left to bring out into the light, and hopefully salvage their careers, or at the very least their lives. Ray says, worst comes to worst, he knows a way for them to get out of the country.
Big things are at play now.
Lt. Burris: “Why do you care? You know the guy was a fag, right?”
Following up on some further leads, Ani and Ray finally come across the lair of the Raven-headed man. The mask, the shotgun and blast rounds, as well as a woman cuffed to a pipe in the living room. We get more revelations about the people involved with Ben Caspere from the handcuffed girl – Laura Osterman. This has to do with her brother, Leonard. They’re the reason Caspere ended up in such a state, because apparently Lenny lost a little control, went extreme. The whole acid bit was meant to scare him. I guess Leonard went further than scaring Caspere.
We met Laura back in Episode 3, very briefly. She was known as Erica – Caspere’s assistant. And so the plot thickens.
Nice poster for Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia in the background of one scene. Good stuff!
For those who aren’t following much of the plot this season one major thing to remember ultimately is: corruption due to the impending build of the new railway.
The company Catalyst are intricately involved with high-ranking members of the Vinci Police Department. This is why Woodrugh was killed, this is why the Caspere murder is being covered up. The murder is being covered because all those high-ranking members of the PD had a hand in the robbery-murder which set off the entire Caspere situation – the murder of Laura and Leonard Osterman’s parents. Plus there’s all the land and everything entailed with the railway deal, yadda yadda. You get the picture.
So Ray, with the information he now has, ends up meeting Police Chief Holloway (Afemo Omilami), hard drive in tow from the care of the Osterman kids. There are only so many plays left for Bezzerides and Velcoro, they’re trying to get as much traction as possible before everything hits the fan.
Then it does hit the fan once Holloway reveals the Osterman girl was illegitimately the child of Caspere. Lenny, who is nearby, hears this and attacks Holloway, prompting Lt. Burris out of his hole to open fire. Luckily, Bezzerides and Velcoro make it out alive.
There’s a TON of tension and suspense in this finale. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Basically the two of the remaining detectives are greenlit, by Vinci P.D, Catalyst, and everyone else who is locked up with them in all the god damn corrupt madness.
What I enjoyed most was how this season of True Detective has brought the detectives together with the criminals.
Amazing scene between Frank Semyon and Ani Bezzerides, the first introduction. Frank is now helping the two of them try and escape with their lives still in tact. They’re all heading down south somewhere.
Also, Ray finally discovers that Blake (Christopher James Baker) was the one who actually set him up, not Frank. In a way there’s honour in Frank, even though things don’t always come out the way they should. Either way, he made up for it by just really brutalizing Blake.
Frank: “We met? You’re a cop, right? Lady cop.”
Ani: “What gave me away – the tits?”
Frank: “I meant you’re a lady, you have dignity. You like Ray? I like Ray.”
Frank (to Ray): “I did not live my life to go out like this… you?”
Ray: “I owe these filth. I owe Woodrugh.”
Ani: “Would you run? Now, if I asked, would you?”
Ray: “I might. I just might.”
One thing I couldn’t get enough of in this episode was the music. I mean, it was just ominous! Really great electronic sounding, deep, dark score. Drove things along with the subtle, quiet action that was happening. I honestly think they pulled out all the stops on this finale. “Omega Station” fired on all cylinders.
There’s more of that under the cover of darkness stuff. Ani is in Dr. Pitlor’s (Rick Springfield) office, looking for whatever information she can, while the doctor is found with his wrists slit. Meanwhile, Ray and Frank are sneaking around in the woods and they make their way in, descending upon Osip Agronov (Timothy V. Murphy).
I loved this bit. Frank and Ray together is like the Dream Team. Each of them with all the right gear, the weapons. Frank is merciless, too. He goes in there probably expecting to death, maybe half hoping to, and he just blows away whoever is in his destructive path.
Osip: “I saved you. You’re like my son.”
A sweet line right before Frank shoots him in the face a couple times.
Incredible. The tension mounted a nice bit up to this point, which felt great, as the action was swift, it wasn’t a massive scene, and it came off so slick. I think True Detective as a series overall has done some great work with action scenes.
Now that everyone is cutting ties and taking off to some southern dreamland, Ray decides to head back and try reaching out one last time to his son, Chad (Trevor Larcom). Seeing that the boy has still held onto the present – Ray’s father’s P.D bage – Velcoro leaves to head on and get going. Back at his car, he notices a leak underneath, so of course he is being followed everywhere, closely. Someone is still watching; there’s a tracking device on his car.
He calls Ani, tells her to go without him, and that he’ll follow along behind.
Again I can’t say this enough times concerning Season 2, Colin Farrell has done a spectacular job. It has been worth the time just watching Ray Velcoro’s character arc play out through the episodes. The way he internalizes everything, making the gestures of Velcoro mean so much, one after the other, building this tension about him and canning it in, until things are ready to explode. Love the performance. It is a television character I hope that will go on to be a classic. I’ve loved Farrell’s acting every step of the way.
Ani: “I’m gonna talk to you again, right? We’re gonna see each other again.”
Ray: “You kidding? You’re gonna need a restraining order.”
Ani: “No. No, I won’t.”
When Ani hands the phone over to Felicia (Yara Martinez), Ray immediately tells her: “I’m not going to make it”
I thought this was so incredibly tense, it blew my mind. I did not expect it, honestly. Even though it looked as if Ray was in hot water, I still did not expect this and it hit my chest with a thud. Excellently suspenseful few minutes in that scene between Ani, Ray, and Felicia.
Ray: “You turn here, you turn there and then it goes on for years.. becomes something else. I’m sorry – for the man I became, for the father I was. I hope you got the strength to learn from that, and I hope you got no doubts how much I love you, son. And you’re better than me. If I’d been stronger, I woulda been more like you. Hell, son.. if everyone was stronger, they’d be more like you.”
The last 20 minutes of this extra long finale, I could not let go of my grip on the couch. Great, tense stuff. I know I keep saying that, but it’s true – this entire episode has ratcheted up the tension. Everything is coming to bear at the end of Season 2, here at the fittingly titled “Omega Station”.
Frank is brought out into the desert and there, things get terribly rough for him. Though, I’ve got to say, Frank Semyon does not go out like any punk. He takes an awful stab in the guts, then his former ‘colleagues’ leave him there next to an open grave dug into the sand. Instead of laying down to die, Frank walks on, bleeding, towards an uncertain future against the vast, open desert in front of him.
At the same time, Ray Velcoro is running for his life through the woods, Lt. Burris and a bunch of armed men on their way after him. It’s so amazingly suspenseful. I couldn’t stop leaning in towards the screen, wanting to just jump right inside the television. Ray is like a scared dog, but he keeps his wits about him, taking down who he can through the trees, running, running. Burris is constantly calling out “Where is Bezzerides?” and before jumping out, only to be cut down viciously, Velcoro mutters to himself: “In a better place”. Just wow. I expected at some point Ray might meet a terrible fate at the hands of his own kind, but this was rough. So close to getting away and making it to that better place with Ani. He just couldn’t go the whole length.
Even worse, his last speech for Chad didn’t go through before he was killed – the final nail in the existential coffin of Ray Velcoro.
A lot of great tension, but also there are great bits such as Frank’s hallucinations in the desert. He’s seeing his father, blaming him for all their problems, calling him everything from faggot to the reason your mother left. Then he has more hallucinations of a bunch of black guys harassing him; no doubt another early memory of his days living in a bad neighbourhood, one of the only white boys around. It’s a wild little moment thrown in there, which I thought worked well. You can see Semyon pushing and pushing, willing himself to move, every inch of his being wanting to go on and keep living another day.
Powerful imagery when Frank sees Jordan out in the desert, white dress on, standing radiant in the middle of nowhere. I loved this, yet at the same time it’s a sad image.
Jordan: “What’s a guy like you doin’ in a place like this?”
Frank: “Just makin’ my way baby.”
Personally, I don’t think there is any way this season could’ve ended better. There’s a totally pessimistic ending where Velcoro turns out to be the actual father of his child Chad, but then the P.D pins everything on him. There was plenty of action, suspense, and tension going on. The final few minutes show all the corruption still going on, further and further, becoming worse with every step.
I really love how Ani has kept on with everything, she is showing the evidence off now after the fact to someone whom I would assume to be a journalist of sorts. This is a great, real life-feeling situation. In the time of Edward Snowden, such a piece of crime fiction is welcome, as we see Bezzerides dealing with the aftermath of a huge scandal. Of course, Pizzolatto did model parts of Season 2 after the real story of corruption in a city called Vernon, which I believe is actually in California. Maybe I’m mistaken on that last part. Either way, this has such true to life tones that I think that’s one of the reasons I ultimately loved the storyline this season, all the subplots and everything.
Ani: “We deserve a better world”
People will hate me, but I do like Season 2 the best of the two. You can read my review of Season 1 – I have nothing bad to say. Simply, it’s a case of enjoying the characters more, their arcs, and how real the investigation felt. I have nothing but love for Season 1, and I will always say it’s one of the best seasons of any show, ever. There’s a special place in my heart for this season. The end was true tragedy, in the best sense of the word.
It’s my belief Nic Pizzolatto made a great, grounded crime drama with this second season and proved that it didn’t have to be all whimsical conversation at the hands of Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle. These characters were incredible and I could not get enough. This season went out beautifully and I hope to the stars Pizzolatto will do another season, at least one more, and give us another few detectives onto which we can latch.
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!
HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 6: “Church in Ruins”
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik (Banshee, Game of Thrones)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the next episode, “Black Maps and Motels Rooms” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Other Lives” – click here
Beginning where we left off, the tense moments between Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) pick up. Frank sits down with some coffee, asking if Ray would like some sugar, anything else. Normally you might laugh, however, the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife.
“I would’ve been different,” says Ray.
“Of all the lies people tell themselves,” Frank replies.
“I sold my soul for nothin’,” Ray says as he bursts at the seams.
“That choice was in you before your wife or any of this other stuff. It was always there, waiting,” Frank tells him.
There is still a solid discussion of morality going here. Essentially, Ray Velcoro has still committed murder; no matter how we cut the cards. Frank Semyon puts it bluntest, and maybe most truthful, when he tells Ray: “Own it.” Because yes – Frank is a dirty dog, he tricked Ray into believing he was doing his wife justice by killing the man who raped her, when truly it was a point of leverage for Frank, to have a cop under his thumb.
But at the same time, Nic Pizzolatto is having his characters basically ask us – is murder ever justified? These are philosophical situations. I think people – some, not all – seem to be pissed because the second season lacks what the first had in the existentialist dialogue of Rust Cohle. When really, you just have to pay attention: it’s all there. Pizzolatto just isn’t spelling it out as blatantly as he was in the first season through Rust. More power to him – his detractors last season were complaining that Rust and his ramblings made things clunky. You can never satisfy everyone. The morality question is constantly in play, most certainly the heaviest theme going on for Ray Velcoro’s arc.
Problem for Ray is, he’s supposed to be helping Dt. Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) and Dt. Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch).
Instead he’s at the prison confronting the actual man who raped his wife, seeing as how the man he’d killed at the word of Frank Semyon was not the actual rapist.
Tense damn scene with Velcoro here. Incredibly tense and cutting acting. The look in Farrell’s eyes always seems to speak more than he ever can with whatever dialogue he’s given – such expression in them, his whole face. I’ve long said Farrell is an excellent actor when given the appropriate material. Much the same as I feel often about Taylor Kitsch; he’s giving a great turn this season, as well.
Even worse again, Ray is having to go to supervised visits with his son. It’s painful to see their relationship because Ray wants to hold on – he doesn’t care whether or not the biological father is the rapist. He needs something other than being a cop, being a vigilante, to make him whole, and that something is being a father. Every little bit that it slips away, I can see the cracks forming in Ray’s outer shell, his ego already crumbled long ago, and the more it falls away there’s no telling where Velcoro is going to end up.
Frank tells the son of his dead ‘colleague’: “This hurt, it can make you a better man. That’s what pain does – it shows you what was on the inside.” Here, for the first time, we can actually see that good side of Frank that does want to be a part of the world. We can see that Frank wants to be a father, and he might be a good one.
Juxtaposed with Frank and this fatherly moment, we see the deterioration of Ray and his son.
“I am your father, you are my son,” says Ray. “I will always love you.” You can see the torture inside him as he grasps onto the last bits of himself. Right afterwards, he heads home and hits the booze, rails a ton of cocaine, and just gets completely obliterated. The stable little bits of Velcoro we saw, those tiny glimpses, are quickly vanishing.
I cannot say it enough – Colin Farrell is fucking knocking this role out of the park and into the lot, smashing the windows, sending everyone home. Anyone who says different is not paying attention. I don’t care what you think of the overall plot, if you can’t admit that Farrell is nailing the character of Ray Velcoro then you’re beyond blind. His drunk and stoned scene, the aftermath, it is complete perfection. There’s no way it could’ve been played any better, it felt like watching an actual man fall apart right before my eyes.
I’m enjoying where Ani Bezzerides’ arc is headed. She’s got to go in to a party where they won’t allow even a purse, so Ani and her knives won’t be headed inside. What interests me is that sexuality is a whole struggle for Ani. It’s because she works in such a macho, predominantly male environment in the police department. She has been railroaded into a sexual harassment therapy group where the men mostly just enjoy hearing Ani talk about sex – it’s a hypocritical and nonsensical punishment from the patriarchal department. To see her headed towards a situation where she’ll need to play up her sexuality, use that against men, it’s not as easy as it may sound – Ani’s sister Athena (Leven Rambin) is telling her that she’ll need to strip even, and you can see the struggle already on her face hearing this news.
Things are getting murky murky here in the sixth episode.
When Ani heads to the party – using her sister Athena’s name – we see how deviant and weird everything surrounding Caspere’s murder, the events following, is truly beginning to get. Ani and a ton of other sexed up women are loaded onto a bus, their purses and cellphones taken, and herded like a sheep of cattle to the slaughter.
Behind the bus, both Woodrugh and Velcoro tail a ways back to try and cover Ani. They even rush in, as Woodrugh chokes a guard outside, both clad in black gear. Loving their little undercover type task force, it’s making things get more exciting especially with this episode.
Frank is still sorting motives out on the Caspere end, trying to track down the hard drive and figure out where things disappeared to after Caspere’s place, as well as who they disappeared with, in what hands. I like how Frank has become a sort of detective in his own right here. Certainly after he and Ray have started butting heads, he has to take some of the burden on himself to figure out what has truly been going on.
Unfortunately for Frank, getting to the bottom of the Mexican side of things is bringing more death and destruction into his life. I keep thinking how Frank seems stuck in that old gangster lifestyle, try and try as he might to get out of that quicksand.
The party. Man, oh, man – what can I say about this party? Weird, wild, maybe wondrous? Sure.
Sex, drugs, booze. And of course: food! When you’re having an orgy with about a hundred or more people, you’ve got to have food on hand. People get hungry. Need to keep the energy up for more orgying.
It’s fucked up. Pizzolatto is proving there’s still enough oddity in Season Two of True Detective to keep some of the first season’s hardcore fans interested.
It’s scary watching Ani essentially walk into the lion’s den. She has no phone, no weapon, and surrounded by so many old perverts. Creepy stuff to endure at times because YOU KNOW bad things happen at these “parties”. Plus, she spots prominent members of society walking through the rooms – Richard Geldof (C.S. Lee), among others. All the girls are given some drugs to help get them in the mood, keep them going, and Ani feels the effects. This whole time I was so worried about poor Ani – she’s such a strong woman but in this situation her power has basically been stripped completely.
We get a huge glimpse into Ani’s past – she has a major flashback during the party. It actually wowed me for a moment or two, so clear and at the same time brief. There’s most definitely a traumatic assault of some sort in Ani’s past which has ultimately guided her uneasiness and uncomfortable nature with men (we see a bearded man with long hair who claims there’s a unicorn in those woods and at one point leads Ani off in a dreamy shot to an old VW van). I felt terrible for her at this party, wandering around; so many people jerking off and watching others have sex, rooms full of orgies. Nasty, rough stuff!
There is a ton of great stuff going on throughout “Church in Ruins”.
I love how the entire way to the party, as Woodrugh and Velcoro sneak up, when Ani slices and dices a few thugs – there is a great piece of classical music playing. Amazing. This was one of my favourite series of scenes since Season Two stared, it was just so perfectly composed and put together in terms of how the camera moved, the scenes changed, the music played over top. It made that whole finale to the episode more exciting than it would’ve been already. Amazing way to amp things up.
At the end of “Church in Ruins”, we see Ani in a rough spot. It’s interesting, but disturbing all the same. Luckily her night of psychological torture brought the detectives some well deserved information.
A lot of plot movement going on here, plus a good deal of character development. I think “Church in Ruins” is the best episode so far in Season Two. I predict a great few revelations, some more excitement and thrill, as well as maybe even a death or two. We’ll see! Such a solid crime drama in my opinion, with plenty of elements to make it a full-on thriller at many times, but I’m sure half the internet would call me an idiot or say I know nothing about television or movies because I like this – whatever.
Tell me what you thought in the comments or hit me up on Twitter: @yernotgoinatdat – we can have a (civil) chat.
Lots of people are disappointed in this season. I am not, whatsoever. It started off a little rocky, and since then it has gotten great, week after week. Despite the naysayers. Let them keep on. The last couple episodes are going to knock my socks off.
Next week’s episode is titled “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”. It’s directed by Daniel Attias. His filmography as director includes episodes of Masters of Sex, Bloodline, The Americans, Ray Donovan, Homeland, The Killing, and even 16 episodes of one of my favourite comedies, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Particularly, I’m excited for Attias to do an episode because I love both Bloodline and Ray Donovan, which are both extremely gritty at times.
Stay tuned and we’ll find out how wild things get.
HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 4: “Down Will Come”
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa (Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the next episode, “Other Lives” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Maybe Tomorrow” – click here
Poor Frank (Vince Vaughn). He not only can’t deliver a child for his wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly), his avocado farm is having a rough go of things. Frank seems to be struggling, though, he hides it well beneath the calm exterior; in a weak moment, he slips into quasi-racism and berates one of his gardeners before Jordan tells him to stop.
One thing with Frank is, starting with Episode Three, we’ve really begun to see the animal side of him come out. The fight with his gangster buddy in the last episode was intense, so were the moments afterward when Frank collected the gold teeth out of the guy’s face. I hope Frank rages on, honestly, because I think he’ll become a force to be reckoned with.
I like the whole idea of dirty and semi-dirty cops versus the character of Frank, who is trying to go legitimate. Jordan argues with Frank about how they’re “back to this”, referring to the old ways of being a street-made man. He tries to instil the concept in her that present situations require serious measures. It’s clear, regardless, that Jordan and Frank have a lot of tension between them, from the hopes of having a baby to Frank’s business dealings. Still, their relationship is strong, yet nothing is ever rosy in the world of True Detective.
I knew right from the beginning Officer Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) was closeted. It could’ve simply been erectile dysfunction for all I knew, but that first scene we saw him in during Episode One where he couldn’t stay hard with his girlfriend spoke volumes. Just in the way the camera closed in on him; he was concentrating, trying his best to stay interested and keep an erection. Now with this episode, Paul wakes up at his old army buddy’s place in bed. They’ve had a passionate night. Paul flees in a cab and then scolds himself on a city sidewalk – the pain of what’s going on inside him rages, and it’s actually painful (in the right way because of Kitsch’s acting) to watch.
Even worse, as Paul yells at himself and seems to fall apart right in front of us, then reporters swarm him asking about allegations against Black Mountain Security, and one reporter actually shouts out at him wondering if he has a history of violence against women. Very, very interesting stuff. I was interested before, but this episode really brought some heat for Paul’s storyline. I think Taylor Kitsch is doing a great job so far, though, I’ve liked him since seeing The Grand Seduction last year.
I thought the scene between Kitsch and Farrell early on in the car was fantastic. Two good actors playing off one another. Especially because Woodrugh reveals so much to Ray Velcoro, in a way. The whole angle of Paul’s sexuality doesn’t come out, so to speak, but Ray can see the pain inside the younger cop. First, Ray offers some hair of the dog for Paul to cure the hangover. Then Ray recognizes that Paul has “seen some shit”, and tries to lend a little support. But Paul is cracking at the edges, he tells Ray: “I’ve been listenin’ to them so long I don’t know who the fuck I am”.
My feeling is that Paul represents a particular generation of young men nowadays, much like any young men from any time. Young men who have been fooled into believing everything the government tells them – be a good student, be a good soldier, be a good cop, be obedient… but most importantly, be obedient and be what we tell you. Young men who’ve been lied to, told they’re fighting for one thing when it’s really another; they are military men, young guys, going overseas fighting for causes to which they have no allegiance, for politicians sitting at home on their asses while real people die everyday in a desert on the other side of the planet. As Paul says, he’s listened so long that he has no real idea who he is, no true sense of identity. He is denying himself every step of the way and there’s maybe something dangerous brewing inside.
Furthermore, Paul and his girlfriend Emily (Adria Arjona) meet. They talk about how things were left between them. Then Emily reveals she is pregnant and is against abortion, so she plans to keep the baby. Paul, denying his true self worse than ever before, abruptly asks her to get married, to keep the child. There’s no telling what repercussions this will have throughout Paul’s storyline the remainder of this season.
We get lots of Detective Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) hovering around her family in this episode. She talks with both her sister Athena and her father Eliot, the enigmatic cult leader. I like the juxtaposition of Ani’s family members; she wants to keep tabs on her sister, but does not like Eliot, they’ve been estranged quite some time. However, the case is bringing her into contact with her crazy dad, as well as with her sister – one simply business, the other personal and business simultaneously.
Now, Ani also faces heat at work for her relationship with the hurt cop. I can see how Ani has become a fighter. She lives in a man’s world, and having to become more like the men around her has lead to becoming more wreckless just like the other lost souls – Velcoro and Woodrugh. If anything, Ani stands to show men and women are no different; we all fuck up, we are all reckless.
One great bit happens while Ani and Ray are visiting her dad. Eliot looks over for a moment and says Ray has the biggest aura he has ever seen, that it “fills the room”. Then he tells Ray: “You must’ve had hundreds of lives.” Ray replies: “Well, I don’t think I can handle another one.”
I won’t go into lengthy details about the main plot’s path. Mostly, I think it’s pretty solid. Another sordid tale of sex and perversion and murder, with a few steady dashes of confusion to spice things up.
The element I enjoy about the main plot, concerning the investigation into the death of Ben Caspere, is how Detective Ray Velcoro truly straddles the middle of the line – he and Frank regularly meet, Ray gives over the information required, and at the same time he is still being bent under the thumb of the police department heads, forcing him to do what he does not want to do. Problem is, Ray is the reason Ray ended up where he is, ultimately. Though, I feel he sees some light at the end of his tunnel.
I still hope to see him break free of the ties which bind and I want to see Ray get some form of redemption. Maybe he’ll have to die by the time it’s all over. I think it’s heading steadily towards that conclusion for ole Detective Velcoro. He certainly doesn’t have much to live for – his own son, possibly the genetic son of his wife’s rapist, is slipping through his fingers. Ray meets with his son, out in the shadows of his ex-wife’s backyard, and gives the kid his own father’s police badge, set in an ornamental case after the old man’s retirement; the sadness in Ray is evident, as he backs off into the shadows while the boy’s mother calls him inside.
I imagine a world where Ray does get what he deserves – I like him, but I think the man has done extremely questionable things along the way believing they are true justice. He knows it, we know it. We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out. Either way, I think Ray might intentionally throw himself into the fire for a good cause in the end simply because he is craving so badly a taste of redemption.
The last ten minutes is a pretty thrilling bit of action. Detectives Bezzerides and Velcoro, along with Officer Woodrugh and other cops, go on a raid which quickly flies south. Gangsters with automatic weapons begin blasting out the windows of mid-sized building; soon, the gunfire makes the building’s top floor explode, sending everyone outside to the ground and no doubt killing everyone inside. More gangsters light the streets up, as Woodrugh, Bezzerides, and Velcoro each try to clear them out. It’s intense, and several cops take bullets – plus a bunch of criminals. As a gangster moves towards an ammo-less Bezzerides, Officer Woodrugh pops a couple rounds into him an takes the guy down.
I really enjoyed the climax of this episode because while the detectives and officer are all on different wavelengths, this massive shootout almost bonds them together. They’re all shocked with the end results, no doubt a departmental investigation will begin to sort out everything that happened, and as the episode fades out there’s nothing but a little awe; the frame freezes, the black crowds in and a song plays over the credits.
Basically, the aftermath of this shooting will cause some things to happen.
Velcoro is going to pressured into making it look like they’ve got their man in the big rampage at the episode’s finale. However, Frank is still going to know better than to believe that line of bullshit. So we’re going to see the criminal really step up and become the lead in the chase towards an answer to who killed Caspere, and who killed Frank’s man in the same way.
Rolling Stone has already criticized the ending’s freeze frame. I dig it, totally. Part of what I love is how Bezzerides, Velcoro, and Woodrugh each stand around baffled at what has happened – then the frame sticks, fades out. It’s perfect, it captures that moment and literally snapshots it, making it stick. Because you know it’s going to stick to each and every one of them. Certainly Woodrugh, no doubt he has seen enough while with Black Mountain Security to last a lifetime. Can’t wait to see the next episode.
There’s also something else Rolling Stone got wrong – keep this in mind. Detective Teague Dixon (W. Earl Brown) took a shot to the head. Now, the Stone would have you believe it doesn’t matter, as if Dixon was totally inconsequential. That is not the case. Do you remember when Woodrugh was first leaving from meeting his army buddy, back in Episode Three? Teague was sniffing around, even making a comment before that, and had been taking pictures clearly from a bridge above where Woodrugh and his army friend/lover were together. Could we perhaps have reason to believe maybe Detective Dixon was following Paul again? Maybe he followed Paul to his old buddy’s house – of course Paul wouldn’t know anyways, even if Dixon weren’t sneaky, because he’d clearly been wasted before heading over to have some secret sex with his friend.
What I’m wondering is: now that Dixon is dead, will someone find his camera, and if someone does will there be incriminating pictures of Officer Woodrugh on there? We shall see. I mean, it’s clear that Dixon looks at Woodrugh with a sense that he can see through that outer mask – he can tell Paul puts on an air of false masculinity, almost trying to overpower his true self, his true sexual orientation, by being foolishly macho and clearly pretending. I can’t believe that Nic Pizzolatto would lazily have Dixon being suspicious, even with his looks, and then doing all that secret detective work on Woodrugh without it leading somewhere.
Don’t forget – in the very First Episode, as Detectives Dixon and Velcoro quietly investigate Ben Caspere and visit his home, Dixon tells his partner that if anything happens to him, to go and clear his stuff out quickly. Right there and then, I’d wondered if that would have any significance. I think now, it really does.
Will Ray Velcoro go to Teague’s place, remove anything possibly damning, and come to find the camera – complete with pictures of Paul, possibly in compromising photographs?
I can’t wait for whatever happens. Next week should be wild with the fallout of the shooting and the deaths therein.
It seems like the title of this episode implies a few things – just like “Down will come baby cradle and all”, down will come everything on top of the heads of criminals, cops, and everyone in the path of the destruction unleashed.
See you next episode!
HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 2: “Night Finds You”
Directed by Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
I thought the opening of “Night Finds You” was a really great little piece. Not because of what Frank and Jordan Semyon [Vince Vaughn & Kelly Reilly] are talking about particularly, but because of the image above. First, Frank sees the water stains in the roof, and he wonders where they came from as it hadn’t rained that much recently. Then, as the second scene crossfades with the one before the images mix and the water stains become the eyes of Ben Caspere, City Manager, who was found dead at the finale of the first episode.
Now what I enjoy is how the water stains come to represent a couple things. The obvious one is how Frank sees them, and yet they’re big blotches, brown and almost rotten, so they must’ve been there awhile. Only now is Frank noticing them. The stains represent the things which are right in front of us, the things growing and festering right under our noses but in a blind spot, somewhere it’s almost too obvious so it gets passed over. This can mean a lot of things. Then the stains also come to mean something else.
The other idea of the water stains and what they represent is how everything eventually bleeds through, like the water through to the inside of the house. For instance, the cops of True Detective, their “other lives” outside the badge blur into the badge, and then the job itself bleeds out into the other parts of their lives as well. Velcoro, obviously, has every part of his life both touched by the law and tainted by the law’s inability to always and effectively dole out justice. Woodrugh represents how the lives people live before the badge come to affect the way they do their jobs because they still have to go on and live a life outside the badge; he also symbolizes the people who cannot come to terms with who they are because they believe they must be a certain type of person to do a certain job, to lead a certain life, et cetera. I think the idea of those stains is what reflects throughout the course of the episode, and likely what might be the rest of the season. Frank has a great quote in the early part of the episode at the beginning when he mentions how everything seems like paper mache, and this is because the paper is wet, things bleed through; everything is mixed, there are no dichotomous distinctions only grey areas, like life is one giant cesspool.
See? Pizzolatto’s philosophical pessimism and ruminations on life are still all there, you just have to dig a little deeper than Rust Cohle’s eloquently lobbed softballs from the first season.
BAM! This season is definitely moving at least a little away, initially anyways, from the violence against females which heavily characterized the first season. Not to say it was an epidemic of scenes including women being beaten or anything – I know the difference – but last season certainly had enough of it packed in there with the storyline and plots surrounding to last a lifetime. Such is life, things can be grim! Regardless, I think that whether or not Pizzolatto is intentionally moving away towards something else or if it’s natural doesn’t matter. The story is great so far, and I think people are worried there are too many characters. I’m not. There’s enough plot to keep us going – with Ben Caspere dead, above with his genitals removed, there are wheels in motion, and Episode Two “Night Finds You” shows us the consequences of what happens to people who get in the way of the big, heavy, moneymaking wheels.
IF YOU’VE NOT SEEN THIS EPISODE – WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? WHY ARE YOU READING THIS? TURN BACK NOW OR FOREVER BE SPOILED.
Really, I shouldn’t bother warning anybody dumb enough to come looking at reviews of an episode they’ve not yet seen. Alas I follow suit to be polite.
Anyways, Ray Velcoro [Colin Farrell] is the man who meets the heaviest of consequences in this second episode. Life for Ray is deteriorating fast as it is because his ex-wife wants to take his son away, after getting wind of the savage beating some unknown man, clearly Ray, laid on a bully’s father [for those who don’t remember Ray beat the dad and told the kid if he ever bullied/hurt anyone ever again Ray was going to come back and buttfuck his father with the mother’s headless corpse on the front lawn in Episode One]. He makes the mistake of telling his buddy/master Frank [Vince Vaughn] there isn’t much reason for him to keep going along with everything that’s going on, et cetera. However, I don’t think the fate Ray meets at the end of the episode is something Frank had anything do with, and here’s why…
In Episode One, there’s a shot of Ben Caspere’s corpse riding in back of a car, and upfront alongside the driver sits a big crow/raven type of mask.
Now, Frank seems to not know anything about what’s happened to Caspere, so when the crow/raven mask shows up again in the episode’s finale it’s hard to believe Frank has anything to do with what’s being done. Then again, we can never count on truly knowing what’s going on in True Detective, and certainly not when we’re only two episodes into the whole mess.
Image above and all, Ray Velcoro is not out for the count just yet.
Not even with this last shot either. Everyone can stop discussing. All you need to do is check it out – Farrell is listed as appearing in all the episodes of this season, so that’s enough right off the bat. Then, there’s the fact that he’s being shot at mid-to-low range here. I would imagine Farrell is wearing a vest. He survives, no doubt. Plus, there are images released, pieces in the trailers/teasers that show him in other scenes not yet aired. At the very least he’s in flashbacks. People need to calm down. Yet, this is what Pizzolatto knows, HBO too, and they play the game quite well.
This event will mostly just serve as paranoia and motivation for Velcoro. He’s probably going to immediately assume that Frank Semyon has done him in, but then again, Ray also realizes the men he works for in the Vinci P.D are not the most honest and uncrooked men there are in existence. So, the rabbit hole begins for ole Ray.
Other than Ray, this episode showed us that Detective Bezzerides knows who she is working with. At one point she flat out asks Velcoro himself to tell her exactly how “compromised” he has become. The distrust in the picture above when she is with the other detectives and officer on the case is evident.
Furthermore, we get a little more evidence as I referenced in my last post [re: Officer Paul Woodrugh] that Paul is definitely having issues with his sexuality. Not only do we see him apparently checking out a corner where what looks like gay prostitutes are getting rides/dropped off with a bit of desire in his eyes, mixed with hatred, mostly for himself, but then he further tells another detective that a “fag” was checking him out and that he almost knocked the guy out – to which the other male detective responds “and why would you do that?” – so it’s more than clear Paul is having a lot of rough times dealing with the sexuality inside him that wants to be free. This should be interesting to see play out. I also want more of his Black Mountain Security past to come out because there’s no doubt neat places to explore in that part of his psyche, mixed with all the homosexual angst he feels so far.
With many believing death looms over Detective Ray Velcoro, I safely tell you – Ray lives. Don’t worry. Either way, this was an excellent second episode, and I think definitely built with strength on the first. Things are beginning to unfold now, and the further we go, the better this ride will get. The events of the second episode are really going to propel the third somewhere else. There are many places to go from here – what will Ray do if/when he survives this attack by the masked birdman? what will Frank do when he finds out about Ray/if Ray comes after him for the attack? is Paul going to continue wrestling with his sexuality, or will it give way to some kind of acting out in lieu of gratification? can we expect Ani to start unravelling some of the dark secrets behind Ben Caspere’s murder and maybe even the men she’s working with? So, so many avenues to go down. Let’s wait and see what happens, I know I’m beyond pumped to watch more True Detective. I’ll see you all next week.
HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 1: “The Western Book of the Dead”
Directed by Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the next episode, “Night Finds You” – click here
To start, this is NOT a repeat of True Detective True Detective Season 1 – the show is trying to do a new story, new characters, the whole shebang. Of course the whole thing is still very existential, regardless if Rust Cohle is not spouting out Nietzsche rehashes and what not [which I loved but come on – they weren’t anything groundbreakingly new outside of philosophical circles]. I mean, Colin Farrell’s low-down-and-dirty Ray Velcoro already gave the beauty line “We get the world we deserve” in the second episode of this season, so there is definitely still an existential element kicking around inside of Nic Pizzolatto’s second season. However, this time around there’s much of a demon-within type of vibe going. Whereas the police detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart were truly trying to serve justice for the sake of the victims, all those poor young girls taken and killed by vicious, hateful men, the second season of True Detective seems to be focusing on how some of those same police get lost along the way, how they bend the law to work for them, and even though they’re ultimately trying to do good, they end up doing a lot of bad along the way.
Starting off, we get to see Ray Velcoro [Farrell]. His tale is a rough one – his wife was raped, they never found the attacker, and neither she nor her now ex-husband Ray know if their boy is his or not. Certainly Ray does the true blood thing to do: he raises the kid as his own. He doesn’t want to know anything about DNA, he just wants his son to be his son. Problem is ole Ray has vices – the drink and the drugs – and his temper is fierce. Like anyone, Ray wanted revenge for what happened to his wife, and as an officer of the law, he naturally felt stuck when even the law let him down. In comes Frank Semyon [Vaughn] who facilitates the revenge Velcoro needs by tracking down the man responsible, which coincides with Ray’s wife and her statement. This puts Ray deep in with Semyon, who uses him as a man on the inside, and as Ray climbs the ranks to detective, of course Frank reaps the benefits.
I think Ray is going to be one of the most interesting of the bunch in this season. There’s a scene involving Ray and a kid who bullies his son at school, plus the boy’s father, which really takes you from “Okay, Ray is a normal guy in a bad situation” to “Wow, Ray is a bad dude”. Even while you side with him, he takes things much too far. Not hard to see the booze and the cocaine, and the more booze, doesn’t help his natural temperament. At the end of the tunnel, for Ray I see a bit of redemption. Now, whether or not Ray will have to die for this, it is way too soon to tell [even in light of Episode Two’s events]. We will see.
Next is Rachel McAdams as Detective Ani [Antigone] Bezzerides who has more than her fair share of issues, as well. First, her estranged father Eliot [David Morse] is a New Age guru-type who runs a sort of 1960s style institute or commune, and clearly is a narcissist. Then her sister, Athena, is a webcam girl doing porn who is off her medication and living free. Not to mention the fact their father named both her and her sister Antigone and Athena. So, Ani drinks, gambles, and raids houses to find out where her sister is when she feels like it. Also, her boyfriend is not exactly the sexually adventurous type when Ani clearly surprises him with something in the bedroom he couldn’t handle straight away. She is a dominant woman; she carries knives all over her, making clear in the next episode this is because she has no illusions about certain female-male situations where she will be physically smaller than a larger man in which the knives will come more than in handy. There is no doubt the years living in the cult with daddy brought on issues, most likely from some kind of abuse, but we can never be sure. Perhaps she’s just a smart, cautious woman who has seen too much. Either way, I’m excited this season has a lead female character and one who is also in the police. Offers a great new perspective for the show.
Officer Paul Woodrugh [Taylor Kitsch] is another interesting character. Clearly Paul is a troubled man. He worked for Black Mountain Security in Iraq, obviously mimicking a similarly named military contractor, and has issues from what he calls “the desert”. It isn’t hard to see Woodrugh has issues with his sexuality; he sneaks a blue pill while claiming to be showering and taking far longer than necessary before trying to have sex with his girlfriend, then when she is going down on him Paul looks off into space as if troubled, maybe trying to concentrate so that he’s able to get an erection. This becomes even more clear in the second episode with a comment he makes to another detective. Furthermore, Paul obviously has deeper issues – he speeds out on the highway on his motorcycle, flicking off the headlight and rushing through the darkness, almost daring death to come and get him. I can’t wait to see more of him. Kitsch is a talent, and I don’t care what anyone says. Given the right material with this character I can see Kitsch doing excellent work this season.
Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon spit out the worst line by far of the entire show since the first series began, along the lines of “don’t do anything out of hunger – not even eating”. Now I’ll give it to you – some of Rust Cohle’s lines, which personally I loved, were equally batty, but Matthew McConaughey was able to let them roll off his tongue and out of his mouth like they were natural to that character. Vaughn is good, I dig him, even as Semyon. I just didn’t dig that line. I can buy Vaughn as that character, totally, because he isn’t an outright psychotic gangster type like something out of Goodfellas with Henry Hill’s outbursts or the violence of Joe Pesci – I buy Vaughn as a collected, calm business sort of crook, and sure, he’s a big guy, I bet he can lay hands. Mainly, I think his attitude suits the part. However, that line in his mouth sounded like garbage. Moving past that point, Vaughn was great, and he does the dark/brooding thing well. Given more time the character of Frank will grow on people, I believe.
Mainly people need to lay off this season, and forget about the first, in the sense that this is an anthologized show. There is no continuity other than it involves police work; that’s it. Once again, there are existential themes at play here, heavily. We just need to keep in mind – existential doesn’t mean that people have to constantly spout philosophical musings. That was a character Pizzolatto used, and it worked. This season is different. Existentialism has to do with human beings, the experience of existence and reality, and the touch of humans on existence. So we’re going to see how human beings deal with their terrible inner demons, and this season we’re going to see more about the abuse of power from the perspective of those abusing it mainly instead of solely from the perspective of those outside and looking in. The police here are good police, but they toe a dangerous lines, more so than anything Rust Cohle did in Season One. I can’t wait for the next episode.