All of our main characters find themselves backed up against a wall in the latest episode of True Detective. Still reeling from the fallout of the sex party mayhem from last week’s episode, everything seems to be in total shambles.
WARNING: This analysis contains some spoilers for Black Maps and Motel Rooms. Scroll down to “Final thoughts” for a brief and spoiler-free summation.
Much of season two of this show has been derided by a great deal of True Detective fans. I’ve found it difficult to watch at some points, so I definitely can empathize. About halfway through, I realized that was silly of me to compare the two on even ground. They’re vastly different seasons, with completely different formulas. I came to terms with the fact that this time around, True Detective was going to be a lot more similar to standard crime dramas, and wouldn’t carry with it the mysterious punch and intrigue of it’s predecessor. That’s not to say this season is bad, necessarily; for what it is, it’s a well made show. It’s just a tad bit unfair comparing it to the season that came before it.
Personally, I don’t think True Detective should have been made into a yearly mini-series at all. It could’ve easily stood alone and been an awesome mini-series that people would remember for quite some time. HBO needed something to fill it’s Sunday evening time slot, though. This is the result.
Thankfully, the show has picked up considerably in the tail end of the season. Some would argue that it’s too little too late, but it is still providing entertaining television with excellent performances from the actors. There are some parts of the show that I am on the edge of my seat, and just nearly come close to the magic that we were given in season one.
Frank Semyon stole the show this time around. Realizing that virtually everyone is in on it against him with the development deal (which kind of cheapens the mystique a little), he decided to take matters into his own hands. First, he unleashed his fury on the traitorous Blake, who had been working with Osip for quite some time. After glassing him in the side of the head, Semyon literally squeezes out important plot points to his former boss. Not only had Blake been the one that killed Stan, but he was also the one who pointed Ray Velcoro down the path of killing the wrong man in his wife’s name. I felt kind of cheated by these bits of information. They were pretty important aspects of the show, but got ultimately relegated to throw away lines to tie up the loose ends. As if sensing my disappointment, Frank took out his frustrations with current events out on Blake, gunning him down right inside his casino office.
Semyon is smart enough not to let Osip be aware that he knows he was pushed out, and plays nice. He uses the opportunity to destroy the casino and escape with whatever money he could muster. It’s tough to say whether he will exact further revenge, or leave things where they may. Frank was at a disadvantage from the start, as he had the entire corrupt populace of Vinci gnawing at his heels. If this is as far as he goes, he still found some small sense of justice, for which I’m thankful. I’ve gotta be honest — I was almost sure that he intentionally led Velcoro astray to benefit from his obedience. Turns out it was just shitty Blake. I’m still trying to decide if I like it more this way or not.
As for everyone else — well, they’re not doing as good. Since the uproar at the sex party they infiltrated, Ani has an APB out for her arrest in connection with the murder of that security guard, Ray is framed for the abrupt murder of Davis (their one string holding them to safety), and Paul’s being blackmailed with lewd pictures with his former army partner.
It sort of cheapens everything a little bit to find out that everyone is behind these machinations. Short of the one murder of Ben Caspere, and the mysterious figure with the raven mask, there is no big mystery. The man in the raven mask is almost certainly one of the orphans from the botched job decades earlier. Anybody else would have killed Ray way back in episode 2. Part of the thrill of a detective show is trying to sleuth things out for yourself. All this season tells you is that everyone is corrupt. Forget all of the names, and all of the silly convoluted twists and turns. That’s all it boils down to. Even our main heroes our corrupt, and it is kind of difficult to root for anybody. I don’t even know why the detectives care anymore about the missing girls, or whatever the hell is missing anymore. Ray had the right of it when he suggested that they all just leave the country and never come back. They’re fighting a losing battle where not even Vera wants to be saved. What exactly do these damaged people have to fight for anymore?
Against all logic or reason, Paul knowingly walks into a trap when he receives an anonymous picture message with him getting it on with another man. He even tells Ray on the phone that he thinks he’s walking into a trap. Ray, somehow being the voice of total reason on the show tells him “then don’t go.” Paul is a really conflicted guy. He wants to be a “good man,” but apparently having sex with other men don’t fall into that equation. He doesn’t seem particularly religious, so I don’t know where all of this shame comes from. True, men in the military that are revealed to be homosexual sometimes face scrutiny, and that may too also be true of the police force. I just think his crippling doubt about who he is sexually is kind of funny when you see shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine that boast a proud and openly gay police chief with nobody batting an eye. Paul’s issues are old-fashioned, and quickly fading out of the norm. His story conflict dates the show considerably. I feel like even within this decade or sooner, all of Paul’s problems won’t even be problems anymore.
Which makes Paul’s decision to confront his blackmailers even more moronic. He is led right into harm’s way by his former friend and lover. Into the subway they go, right in the jaws of the people who want him and his comrades in body bags. When he is surrounded, Police Chief Holloway emerges and implores Woodrugh to offer up the location of Velcoro and Bezzerides, seemingly for nefarious purposes. Paul chooses to fight all of the men directly, causing a massive shootout inside the subway system. The shootout is entertaining and visceral, but ends up being all for nothing, as Paul is gunned down outside the building. Mostly because he was too stupid to check his corners when he was just in a SHOOTOUT.
It was a well-done sequence, but it didn’t feel like the punch it was supposed to be. This was probably due to it not making any sense. Any remotely logical person wouldn’t have willingly walked into that trap. If he was, he could have at least been a little more smart about it and brought Ani and Ray as back up, Paul got all but ONE GUY in the ensuing fight. With Ani and Ray there, they could have gotten much needed information about the case. It felt like the writers included Paul on the show just to have a tragic character. This season had too many characters. Too many names to remember. Way too much exposition. Like I said, at least it was well-done, and admittedly a little thrilling and sad. Ultimately, though…Paul’s death was a cop-out (no pun intended).
This episode culminates in a clumsy “love scene” between two severely depressed, and alcohol soaked people. Out of desperation and fear of uncertainty looming over them, Ray and Ani get down in their secluded hotel room. Even though Ray spurned Ani’s drugged up advances only 40 minutes earlier, this time, they were both down to pound. I don’t know. I was kind of hoping the show wouldn’t have to stoop to that level. Why do the leading man and leading woman always have to COPulate (okay, that pun was a little intentional)? Why is any of this happening?
Intense action sequences, combined with Vince Vaughn pulling no punches keep this episode interesting, and ultimately save it from being awful on account of it making no damn sense. Characters choose to defy all logic and reason just because, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the more entertaining episodes of this season to date. The writers have a lot of cleaning up to do when it comes to bringing this story full circle to it’s conclusion, but it has at least been an interesting ride up until this point. They’ll have a full 90 minutes to wow us next week. Let’s see what they can do.
What’s Good: Vince Vaughn brought his A-game this time, subway shootouts are cool shootouts
What’s Not-so-good: Needless death and mayhem, all logic and reason is flying out the window at this point, that awkward sex scene
How have you enjoyed True Detective this season? Are you excited about the finale, or did you give up on the show long ago? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!