WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SEASON 2 EP 4: ‘DOWN WILL COME’
The first forty minutes or so of this week’s True Detective had me wondering if I would be able to make it to episode five and the last twenty minutes or so made me giddy for it. It’s amazing what a little action can do for a show that features so much talking.
We open up with the requisite scene of two people standing motionless in a room. Detective Ani Bezzerides and Detective Ray Velcoro stare at the burnt out husk of the vehicle used to transport Frank Caspere’s body. Both coping with different levels of ‘we don’t want this actually solved’ from their respective departments, you can see the frustration in their posture: We had him. We actually almost had him.
I have to say, I’m finding myself very tethered to Ray Velcoro’s quest for salvation. His story, and what I imagine heartbreaking death are what’s keeping me afloat right now. Also, this thing that’s developing with him and Rachel McAdams’ detective Bezzerides is pretty great. They both know the other has strings pulling on them, but somehow, in the trenches where only soldiers can feel it, they’re building the kind of trust and mutual respect that actually matters.
We jump from there to another scene with two people talking. A put-upon Frank Seymon finds that his avocado trees aren’t bearing fruit, and he picks the perfect time to tell his barren wife that as far as the baby stuff goes, he doesn’t want to talk about it.
Then he walks out of frame. So, that’s that. Note: There’s a lot of exiting and entering in this series, which is commonly thought of as play behavior, rather than TV or film behavior. Seymon exits stage left We’ve seen Seymon do this before, when Ray was sitting in the booth at the dive bar and we actually watch Frank come in and sit down. The prevailing reason for this has been money. Film costs, yo. But in this new era of DV, that’s less of an issue. The secondary concern is that you have precious little screen time to waste, so why use it to show anyone coming or going? Director Jeremy Podeswa is making a pretty clear choice to slow the pace down through this tactic, as well as the repeated use of transitional dissolves between scenes, something that was almost squashed out of existence from about 1970-2000 but has made a bit of a comeback recently.
Anyway, Frank leaves his wife and we cut to maybe thirty seconds later where he peeks over his shoulder to see his wife pursuing him into the house for a talk about exactly what he didn’t want to talk about. She turns her back on him, Lambada style, and he says the sexiest thing any man can say:
Ahhh, c’est l’amour.
After that we bounce over to a waking Officer Woodrugh, who finds himself confused to be only clad in his Tommy Johns. He exits the bedroom and walks slowly down a hallway where he finds his war buddy. Hola, Cabron! We set some fires last night, huh?
No, no he doesn’t. Woodrugh flees to a taxi where he cries about his drunken choice and then finds that his bike has been stolen. Remember the ‘Bein’ on the Bike’ stuff? Yeaaaaahhh. That’s gone now. The gay sex really rocked Woodrugh’s world, but losing his bike completely altered his existence.
He huffs it on foot back to his hotel - I guess- where the press is camped out as if he’s Lady Gaga. I don’t really get this part. It seems to be fallout from the actress blowjob that led to his suspension, but I guess it never felt big enough or important enough to warrant his own paparazzi. They yell things about his abuse of women and certain specific war atrocities he was presumably involved with. He does what all innocent men do, he bolts.
Back at the garage, Ray and Ani are still standing, but this time we start to get a look at their budding partnership. Velcoro is tasked with informing on her activities to his Vinci bosses and Ani is supposed to be making a case against Velcoro to turn him, but something breaks through and he levels with her. His spiel about a century of corruption in Vinci is dead-on and sobering. “You think this is about stopping Vinci from doing what it’s been doing for a century? Nobody wants to stop it.”
He’s actually looking out for her and she knows it, even though she can guess how well his superiors would F him for that. It’s a good moment for the two of them, even if she shrugs his warnings off.
That ends up being fateful, as her pigeons come home to roost later in the episode when that patrolman she was banging files a formal complaint against her and she’s summarily kind of suspended? I don’t think I recall this type of punishment on any other police procedural. You’re out! Don’t come in the building, but you can still work on the case you’re on. Weird, but okay.
Frank spends the rest of the episode hooking himself up with a drug source and shaking down people he had been fairly paid by. It’s like he’s playing all his biggest hits! Poker room! Drug dealing! Mexican Apartment complex rent shakedowns. Heavy equipment depos! It all screams for the thing we’re all yearning for most…the thing that makes us tune in every week: aerial shots of freeways.
And on that count, this episode truly delivered. But I want to focus on a couple of things that worked and some that didn’t.
Ani and Velcoro in general: works swimmingly.
Woodrugh proposing to his now preggers ex with the faint whiff of war buddy still lingering on his chin whiskers: no.
Vince’s performances in general: improving.
Dodge Charger product placement: jarringly wedged in.
The Bezzerides traipse down alternative lifestyle memory lane: Meh. It’s some pretty coinkidink season one Lawnmower dude stuff. Actually, it kind of reminded me of Inherent Vice a bit. One hopes the series creator isn’t ‘borrowing’ again.
Frank and Mrs. Seymon thinking this guy is the problem?
I don’t buy it for a second. A guy like Frank doesn’t get where he got by demoting people in his inner circle. The only reason for this scene is to show that his wife is inside of his decision making bubble, the true inner circle, and I don’t trust her a bit. She has to throw shade on someone else while she still can. Maybe it’s how Osip kissed her hand in that second episode. Maybe it’s those ginger bangs. Maybe it’s her inability to ever stand straight. But she feels somehow “off” to me. Maybe only based on this shot.
As we move forward, I expect to find out she’s a cobra, and somehow in cahoots with Cromwell from The Tudors.
Let’s talk James Frain, after all, and the scene that got the juices flowing again. We all know this investigation stinks to high heaven and all of the main detectives have been given some form of mandate to either foil or corrupt it. But they move forward. Enter the pawn shop, where after all of the conjecture, they get a straight hit. A fairly obvious connection to a mid to low level Mexican pimp. And thanks to a sketchiest of unknown CI intel, they know where he is! How grand. The various mounties suit up and make for the brick building to run his idiot ass in.
No, Gutless Johnson. Look at all this meat! We’re going in!
Uh, yeah. What’s his problem? Sheesh. Better to not take any chances. And then this shit happens.
At the end of this 10 minute shootout, which was an absolute bloodbath, the only people (barely) standing are Ani, Ray and Paul. And they share a similar look with each other to the one when they first triangulated around the sitting corpse of Ben Caspere.
So what do we know? It seems that these three are in a bigger world of hurt than they thought. It seems that they were sent into a kill box to specifically be murdered. Probably by Chessani, the Vinci mayor. It seems that the possible Mexican problem that Frank told his new drug suppliers he’s handle may have been handled. Maybe? It seems like next week may warp ahead like True Detective season one did. It seems like the assumption, which is a grim one, is that there isn’t a single person of character or conscience in any direction up any food chain. This is a simple grift by the state attorney general and the cops’ goldfish lives are just the cost of swimming around in the same fishbowl with more predatory fish. Sometimes it can feel a little difficult to care when season one was about solving the murder of an innocent and this season is about solving the murder of a dirtbag that knew exactly what he was into. That being said, the action sequence to end this episode kicked ass and felt season-finale-ish in scope.
It’s safe to say that there’s still a ton of questions to be answered. No one still has any idea who Stan is/was. We don’t know who killed Ben Caspere. We don’t know where Frank Seymon’s money is or where he learned to jab. We don’t know what Osip knows or what his involvement was in the Caspere murder. We don’t know who was making a play at the poker room. We don’t know where the birdperson is or when the birdperson will strike again. We don’t know if Rick Springfield had Chessani’s wife fake-hanged. We don’t know if Frank’s avocado problem is caused by the arsenic and shit in the region that Caspere’s GPS had him visiting. We don’t know who taught Nic Pizzolatto how sisters talk because I promise, it’s not like this:
And we don’t ultimately know if Velcoro’s non-biological son is actually the pussy his dad calls him or if he’s just being raised to be a pacifist. For what it’s worth, I’m almost certain that his dad is Seymon’s bearded ginger muscle, and that we’ll see more on that as the season shakes out.
But for now, that’s enough to keep me interested. Make us proud, Ray. Make us proud.
This week’s bingo score: