“True Detective” continues its messy second season with an ‘everything AND the kitchen sink’ episode six. Clues start to fall into place, Ray and Frank take turns trying to channel Mike Brady, and the crew participates in the strangest, most far-fetched party infiltration since Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks had to save the virgin Connie Swail from the clutches of P.A.G.A.N. An episode that was three parts tension tempered by two parts silliness, nonetheless, it got the job done and set us up for the final quarter of the season. Find out more after the break.
In an episode loaded with themes, the standoff, the concept that both sides have too much to lose for one to back down, was perhaps the most prevalent. After all, we open with Ray and Frank pointing guns at each other’s naughty bits under the breakfast table. Their confrontation was riveting, and to the show’s credit, the threat that one or both of these characters could take an early exit was real and palpable. Colin Farrell continues to walk the edge, and you really got a feel that Ray is capable of anything as his life continues to unravel. I’ve grown comfortable with Vince Vaughn’s depiction of a ‘reasonable’ gangster, who is willing to give up the high ground, think his way out of situations, and still show strength.
It’s interesting, though, that his other standoff didn’t bear as much fruit. The confrontation with the Mexican gang seemed like it was going Frank’s way. He once again dropped his hands first, made attractive offers, and got the call from Irina Rulfo, but apparently he was too eager. I fully expected several times for Frank to take a bullet this episode, first by Ray, and then once he discovered Irina’s body. The levels that Frank has let his guard down are extraordinary, but I guess this simply goes towards how desperate he wants to get his house back in order. It doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime soon.
Frank and Ray’s parallel fatherhood arc featured heavily on this episode. Frank and Jordan’s visit to the grieving family of Stan was a bit of a mystery, with no reveals aside for letting us see how fatherly Frank could be. While his advice to Mikey was sound, and pretty much sums up the theme of the entire season (we are who we are made to be); I just couldn’t figure out why we were there, why it was important the show or the characters. Perhaps I missed something.
In contrast, Ray’s supervised visit with Chad was nearly as tense as his standoff with Frank to open the episode, as Ray glared at the state worker, growing more angry with each passing moment. His final advice to Chad was heartbreaking, made even more so by his son’s nervous, awkward indifference. The fallout from the visit, Ray’s descent back into alcohol and drugs, his decision to not fight custody, are equally wrenching. Still, I feel we’ve been here before, and while I understand it’s important to give a character depth, and to show what ultimately leads Ray to backslide, I fail to see how this arc supports the central story. If this were a typical story, with twenty episodes of character development to get through, it would work. Here, it’s just one more thing weighing down an over-plotted season.
Ani’s Big Reveal
First, can I say that I have no clue what exactly our little team hoped to accomplish with operation Hooker Bus. The fact that it became a vehicle to reveal that Ani was apparently raped by some VW bus driving, Charles Manson looking dirtbag while living in her father’s commune made me want to toss my iPad across the room. Seriously? You’re introducing this fact, which should have no bearing on the plot, to do what? Give insights into Ani’s character? It’s borderline insulting, and delivered using the worst, television movie-of-the-week methodology ever.
I really found nothing redeeming in this part of the story. From the continued over-reliance on coincidence (oh look, the missing girl we thought was torture-killed turns up here), to the legal naivety that anything Paul and Ray found in their warrant-less B&E session that could be used in court, to the complete improbability that a fake Russian accent and a nice dress would fool anyone into not recognizing Ani as the cop in charge when the Vinci shootout happened less than two months earlier.
Perhaps the only saving grace came after their escape, watching Ray’s face as he contemplated how to get the new material and Maria to Frank. Though why he still plans on helping Frank, I can’t quite figure out.
Okay, so we’ve figured out the big, blue diamonds were stolen during the 1992 LA riots, the robbery and assassination of the previous holders was an organized job, and there were two children left as witnesses. The scene’s focus on the children has me wondering if they will be something factored into the last two episodes. The children’s age in 1992 has me doing math and wondering how old Mayor McSlime’s son and daughter are.
As much as I railed against the whole party infiltration scene, I confess to taking some joy in watching Paul suddenly become Ninja-Cop. I guess that was the special-forces training at work.
Are jailhouse conversations recorded? I sure hope not because Ray has once again left enough verbal evidence to put him away for a good while. Once again, I’m struggling with the point of scenes, and his visit to Gena’s real rapist is one of those suspension of disbelief moments that just didn’t work for me.
Glad to see that all that knife training paid off for Ani, though I have no idea when she stuck the Russian with the pointy end. Maybe Arya Stark was hiding in the shadows somewhere.
So, two episodes left. Will Frank find the hard-drive before the Mexicans take over all of his businesses? Will Ani learn to stick a pill into her cheek next time she goes undercover? Will we wrap up all of these plotlines before we start adding new ones. We’ll find out next week, in episode seven, when we visit “Black Maps and Motel Rooms.”