A somewhat uneven “True Detective” tries to find some traction. Three sets of teams begin the investigation into Casper’s murder, we hear about some pretty messed up childhoods, and (SPOILER ALERT) “True Detective” appears to go all “Game of Thrones”-y as a major character may not make it passed the second episode. Find out why after the break!
Plot Stuff: So this week we get a brief history of Vinci and find out, not only is it rotten on the inside, it’s rotten on the surface too. A haven for toxic waste producers and more general pollutants, Vinci seems to be a parable about where small-town America is going. Corrupt and dying.
And colliding in this dying world are officers from three different agencies, each with their own agenda as the murder investigation begins. The flashbacks into the competing debrief sessions may have been the most effective part of the episode, as they reveal the parts our main characters will be playing, and what stakes those players have in the game.
What didn’t work so well was the chemistry between the parties. I’m not seeing the tension nor the sparks those competing agendas should be producing. Instead we get Paul running around on his own, and Ray sleepwalking through the investigation while Ani asks all the questions. I’m not saying this shouldn’t be happening, each character’s actions fits within the arc we set up thus far. But everyone seems so damned exhausted, nothing ever ignites. I hope as the pressure mounts we’ll see some characters flare up, but for now it’s a little too sedate.
Still, “True Detective” is about characters, and individually the characters still did very well.
Frank Semyon: The episode opens with a very tired-looking Vince Vaughn contemplating water-stains and reflecting on his childhood. Seems papa Semyon would take it upon himself to lock the future gangster in the basement whenever he got his drink in, and on at least one occasion forgot him. Vaughn does a great job here, and I loved both the imagery of the rats chewing on his fingertips as well as the great foreshadowing of how he crushed those rats, pounding them to a pulp. I’m thinking there are rats starting to chew on Frank’s fingertips now, and they might find out what happens when our introspective crime-boss gets cornered.
Or will they? For now, it seems Frank is one of the more toothless gangsters in recent memory (with Casper’s apparent betrayal removing yet more teeth), and the fact he gets pushed around by Mayor McSlime (played with eel-like sincerity by British actor Ritchie Coster) doesn’t really bode well for his chances. I guess we’ll see more.
Paul Woodrugh: The episode as a whole did a great job at revealing some backstory. None more subtly than our suicidal CHiP, Paul.
First we get to meet Mama Hot-Mess. I don’t know what’s going on there, but her simpering smile, her comments about his way with women and his muscles, the way she cuddles up to him on the couch and rubs his back, all make me think we’re going to find a bit of history there.
We also get a hint of some deep-dark military style secrets, as now-former girlfriend Emily asks him to talk about some old military operation Paul was part of. I’m a little concerned about the scarred soldier trope they’re rolling out with Paul. If it turns out to be important to the story, fine… but we’ve seen it too many times.
Ani Bezzerides: It’s funny, Ani did more than any character this episode, yet I have virtually no notes about her. Maybe it’s because she spent the whole episode tethered to Ray. Still, she contributes her own ingredients to the troubled childhood pie episode two baked up for us. Turns out kids living on the commune with dad have a high mortality AND a high incarceration rate. Wondering if that includes her sister, since she’s not among the “two suicides… two in jail” and obviously not the one detective. I hope that wasn’t just an oversight on the writers’ part.
We also find out what the deal is with the multiple knives, and it’s nice to know that she has a little bit of kickass in her.
Ray Velcoro: This was Colin Farrell’s episode, and he nearly sets fire to the screen with that barely controlled temper, that slow simmer that marks him as one step away from being on the wrong side of the bars. “You’re a bad person,” his ex-wife tells him. And he is. He knows he is. But he wants to change it. Of all the characters on the show, this need for redemption, this constant battle between his true and idealized self offers the potential for the best story arc. Which makes his apparent death after setting up the episode all the more suprising (and G.R.R. Martin-worthy).
Misc. Thoughts: I still think the writers’ are too concerned about repeating last season’s magic. As effective as Frank’s recollection about his childhood (and the foreshadowing I think it implies) was, and as nice a metaphor as a “Paper Mache” world represents, I don’t think it fits. Vaughn is really a much better actor when he makes things happen, when he’s moving. Trying to McConaughize him simply doesn’t work.
If I never see another example of what a shotgun blast to the groin looks like post-mortem, I’ll be a very happy viewer. Gross.
Is it just me, or do they need to turn up the mic for some of these actors? I couldn’t hear a word of Jordan Semyon’s dialogue in the beginning. I get she’s supposed to be speaking sleepily, but c’mon. Same for mush-mouth golden tooth (or whatever his name is)! And the Russian guy… I literally had to play back his single line half-a-dozen times before I finally figured out he said “next time, we put you in trunk.” I’ve got a blog to write, people! Help me out here!
So is Ray alive or dead? The guy who took him out seems too professional to not finish the job, and pretty much had him dead to rights. But did we ever see the killing shot? Does the fact that (in the preview for next week), Ray’s Commanding Officer states he had a man ‘shot’ (instead of a man ‘killed’) mean anything? How about the fact that Colin Farrell is listed to appear in six more episodes in IMDb? They can’t all be flashbacks, so maybe there’s hope after all.
Or maybe it’s all part of Frank’s Paper Mache world!
I guess we’ll find out next week!