In case you couldn’t tell from my premiere analysis last week, it seems that True Detective’s second season is off to a rocky start. The show is on a disturbing trend of trying to make the damaged characters as damaged as possible, without focusing on the force driving the plot forward — or even clearly making the main plot known to us.
WARNING: This is where the spoilers begin. Scroll down to “final thoughts” for a brief summation, or check out the episode and come back!
Last night’s episode progressed much in the same way as the first. We get more backstory on these sorrowful characters: Frank Semyon reveals that he was locked away in the dark by his abusive father, and he had to murder a rat so it wouldn’t eat him alive essentially. Paul speaks to his mother, who seems to be interested in more than the mother/son dynamic. Think of Jimmy and his mother in Boardwalk Empire and all of their weird stuff — and add in a dash of self-deprecating homophobia, and you have Paul Woodrugh. I’m guessing he is a closet homosexual by his indifference to his now ex-girlfriend. Antigone goes on about her blades, and we note that she has a pretty colorful internet history (hopefully she’s using incognito mode). Ray struggles with the news that his ex-wife is pursuing full custody of their son, even threatening him with a paternity test. It seemed like this new would damage him more, but this instills somewhat of a brief defiance in him later on.
Most of what we’re subjected to is difficult to stomach. Not because it’s gratuitous or raunchy, but because it’s been two episodes in and I don’t remotely care about any of the characters. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is dirty and a little crooked, and they have sob story pasts to back it all up. Why do we need to know about Semyon’s dark childhood? Is it going to pertain to the story later? I’m not so sure. Beauty is in simplicity, and the shows recent trend of unnecessary exposition is making it stumble. A lot of this could be due to the fact that we have to focus on so many “main” characters, and they have to squeeze all of these people into eight episodes and still try and tell a cohesive tale. Unfortunately, it seems like the important stuff is getting overshadowed by rubbing our faces in these damaged souls’ lives.
I want to believe that the main conflict isn’t simply retaliation for a development deal gone wrong, and that the writers have something more on their sleeves. Again, I’m not so sure. I’m finding Caspar’s story difficult to follow, and am unsure of his importance in the whole plot. From what I understand, Caspar was a part of this deal, and somebody torture-killed him for some unknown reason. It doesn’t seem to be because of Semyon, as he appears to be inconvenienced by Caspar’s death, but that could all just be to keep the audience’s attention from him.
Semyon does a little bit of research and detective work of his own, and discovers that Caspar had another secret residence for some reason, and he implores Ray to give it a thorough search. This is when Velcoro surprises a little bit by saying he wasn’t really interested in being a goon anymore. Not necessarily because he wanted to be a better person, but because he sort of didn’t really see the point in anything anymore. This man feels like he has truly lost everything, including the one thing keeping him going. This is when Frank resorts to using veiled threats to get his way. It’s clear that the threads holding their relationship are beginning to fray. Eventually, Velcoro relents, leaving the money Semyon offered on the table as he leaves the bar.
I’m not going into heavy detail with the first 50 or so minutes for a reason. Most of it just doesn’t feel that crucial to the story. The pacing is awkward, and we aren’t given enough necessary plot information to remain fully invested. I have no shame in fully admitting that I tuned out a handful of times. There were too many people talking about how the main characters were bad people, or too many of the main characters confirming it. Add to that some of the weird and colorful philosophical phrasing some of the characters spew. It’s just needlessly complicated.
I was swiftly brought back in the final moments, though. I actually had to do a double take and rewind the scene because it jumps at you out of nowhere. Ray breaks into Caspar’s second home. I found it interesting that he decided to investigate right after going to the bar, as Semyon suggested he go in with the cops, and pick up necessary information then. From the looks of the home, this seems like the place where Caspar’s torture and murder took place. Ray finds some disturbing things in the brief time he is there, including mounted animal heads, some type of weird harness, and dark liquid scattered about the floor. That’s when Velcoro is taken by surprise and gunned down by a mysterious crow-headed stranger wielding a shotgun. Ray is shot once from a small distance and once more at point blank in the torso. Things aren’t looking good for Ray.
Finally! Something interesting happened! It’s possible that Ray may have survived, but I’m assuming he’s dead. I have to praise the writers for this. They full on Game of Thrones’d us and made us believe that Ray may have been one of the central characters. To have him murdered this early on increases the stakes for the other detectives and adds more potential depth of the story. His story arc was abrupt, but it already seemed to reach it’s conclusion. It is unfortunate, because the rest of the cast doesn’t seem very interesting. Now they’ll have some work to do with these characters to make me personally want to root for them after this.
This is the kind of thing I was looking for, though. Up until this moment, season 2 of True Detective felt almost like a tragic parody of every other crime drama on TV. If they continue with pushing boundaries and expectations though, they may just win me over.
Night Finds You does little to move the story forward — that is until the shocking conclusion. Hopefully, we’ve suffered through enough of these flawed characters’ backstories, and we can finally sink our teeth into the nitty gritty of this evolving plot. The pacing is awkward, and there are plenty of eye-rolling moments, but try and hold it through to the end. You may just get yourself sucked in.
What are your thoughts about last night’s episode? Who do you think is hiding behind the mask? Were you expecting that conclusion, or were you taken off guard? Weigh in with your opinion in the comments below!
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