True Detective 202 recap/ review
Night Finds You
All recaps contain spoilers as they recapture the events of “True Detective.”
After the three lead investigators met up at the end of “The Western Book of the Dead,” director Justin Lin opened his second consecutive and final episode of “True Detective” this season on the Semyon house where Frank (Vince Vaughn) begins speaking while his wife (Kelly Reilly) still sleeps next to him. If any classic film noir examples teach us one thing, it’s that bad guys live in nice So-Cal homes. Semyon is no different from these classic gangsters and considers if his entire house is “papier mache” because there’s a stain in the ceiling after only two instances of rain all year. Jordan interrupts the monologue, “Stop thinking…Nobody gets rich on their own money.” He then grows philosophical, talking about money, land, and leaving it all to children they don’t have. “You can’t take it with you.” Frank then remembers his childhood in Chicago where his father locked him in their basement for a night each time the man went on a bender. One time as a six-year-old, however, his father didn’t come back the next morning (“I guess he got arrested.”) and shamefully abandoned his son for several days behind the locked door without food as the house lights went out and rats emerged in the darkness. A rat began nibbling at his fingers, but he grabbed it in the darkness and “kept smashing it ‘til there was nothing but goo in my hands.” Frank retreats to a dark memory from his past and isn’t sure if he’s still waiting in the darkness of that basement. “Something’s telling me it’s all papier mache. Something’s telling me to wake up! Like I’m not real. Like I’m only dreaming.” Frank clearly didn’t intend to get that dark, but it seems like he triggered it himself when he mentioned the prospect of a legacy and leaving that legacy for children to inherit from Jordan and him. Perhaps Frank’s terrible experience with his father creates some valid concerns about his own parenting ability. The scene ends with the camera resting on the water damage. As the camera zooms in, the two spots on the ceiling form the burned eyes of the deceased Ben Caspere on an autopsy table. (Talk about Oedipus Rex and Greek mythology theme.)
A medical examiner briefs Ray (Colin Farrell), Ani (Rachel McAdams), and Paul (Taylor Kitsch) with intercut scenes of disputing authority between the various law enforcement entities involved with the case and individual assignments. We find out that among other things, Caspere had gonorrhea. No faction wants to remove a horse from the race so Velcoro, Bezzerides, and Woodrugh are thrown together to cooperatively investigate the murder. The state wants Woodrugh in there, if not for his own benefit of covering up the scandal brought on by arresting the actress in last week’s episode. If it all shakes out, he could earn his detective badge and clear his name. The M.E. reveals Caspere was bound, and probably upside down, at some point. Bezzerides hears that she’ll be in charge of detail and that Ray is a “bent” cop. She then hears a brief, corrupt history of Vinci to learn just what kind of case this will shape up to be. In Ray’s briefing with the mayor of Vinci (Richie Coster—The Dark Knight, American Gangster)and a few others, Ray learns that the state will use Caspere’s homicide as an avenue to investigate the greater corruption in Vinci. These corrupt bureaucrats want him to control the flow of information. He wants to know if he’s supposed to solve this or not, and the mayor just doesn’t want “any surprises.” Finally, the M.E. pulls back a cover from the corpse to show the investigators that Caspere’s entire pelvic region was blasted off by a 12-gauge shotgun. The body spent a few hours in “an upright position,” which explains the nature in which Woodrugh found him. Ultimately, however, no trace of struggle.
The next scene features Frank and Velcoro. The bit about Caspere’s eyes getting doused with hydrochloric acid bugs Frank. Ray quickly surmises that Frank and Caspere knew each other and learns about a deal Frank had going on with the departed. The gangster doesn’t care for Ray’s questions, but the crooked detective merely points out that the more Frank can give him, the more of a lead he’ll get. It would seem Ray is now solving the crime for both the authorities and the criminal underworld. Caspere must’ve been a key player somewhere. After Semyon leaves, Ray shouts at some people kicking a soccer ball around pipe drainage containing some dirty, chemical-filled water. However, these athletes only want to flip off some authority and elect not to listen to the detective’s warning. Lin then cuts away to aerial shots of California highway in the evening before resting on Paul as he visits his mom (Lolita Davidovich—The Longest Ride, “The L Word”) for dinner at her trailer. They share a weak relationship and he doesn’t visit often enough. She tries hard at conversation, but Paul doesn’t communicate well with others, perhaps because of an old rift with his mother that we haven’t learned about yet. She asks him to stay (more than once) in his old room and he tells her that he’ll be gone for a while because of his new case before asking her about work. She hasn’t worked because it will affect her disability check and doesn’t bother waitressing off the books because of some disagreement with a presumably disgusting man named “Bill.” Lin jumps ahead a little bit in time, but stays in the trailer to show Woodrugh smoking a joint in his old room at his mother’s trailer. Paul’s mother kept touching him and sat right next to him as she begged him to spend the night. More references of Oedipus Rex, then?
Lin then takes us to the morning in a sunny exterior shot of a train on a railroad in Vinci. We see Velcoro enter Caspere’s home again, this time with Ani. The walls are still covered in erotic art. The interesting aspect of the murder victim’s character is that all we know about him is job and that he was obsessed with sex. The detectives know less about this man than they do most victims because people think about sex anyway (see Freud) and Caspere doesn’t really have any other family, talents, or hobbies that seem to have otherwise occupied his time around sex. One investigator takes photos while another explains that they should have a list coming in covering all the missing items in the house. Ani notes Caspere’s obvious preoccupation, but will it tie in with her sister involved in the California sex cam industry? In Ani’s car, Ray has the victim’s planner open and discovers a shrink among the appointments. She vapes next to him, stating they need to cross-reference Caspere’s appointments with the addresses in his GPS. She wants to know how so many workers are present in a town with a population as small as Vinci’s, but Ray can’t get over her e-cig and makes an immature analogy. The camera then shifts to a factory setting where Semyon speaks with the man who was making deals with the city manager before his untimely demise. It would happen that Frank gave Caspere millions of dollars to give to the Catalyst Group before his death which is now up in limbo because the city manager never documented that Frank bought the land. His name isn’t on the corporate charter. The business man can’t do anything for Frank regarding Caspere, but he will give him the same deal he gave Caspere to buy land. Unfortunately, Frank also finds out that Caspere was ripping him off/ gouging him/ overpricing on the land deal when the business man quotes Frank a price at $3,000,000 fewer per unit than what the city manager charged him (7 mil over 10). Frank’s only problem after securing the money, is securing his reputation if word gets out that his business partner got away with ripping him off on the deal—as Frank points out in his vehicle in a following scene. “Am I diminished?” I’d say that Caspere didn’t get away—he just met justice at another outlet. This gangster has no remaining assets. “I’ll get it back—every dime.”
Ray and Ani meet with the mayor about Caspere. He says the last time they met was at a party, talking about the city manager’s involvement in bringing a Hollywood movie to shoot in Vinci. Ani asks if Caspere had a date, prompting the mayor to share shifty eyes with Ray. “A woman, I think. I can’t quite recall her name.” “Miss Tasha,” the mayor’s assistant points out. The mayor doesn’t know much more as he only met the city manager in professional settings. As the detectives leave, the mayor tosses a passive-aggressive hint in Ray’s direction. Lin then switches to Paul and Teague (W. Earl Brown) inside a warehouse which seems to be their base on the case, for all intents and purposes. Paul keeps talking about the case and makes a homophobic epithet about one encounter at the bank, but Teague sits and questions him until Ray and Ani arrive. Woodrugh presents evidence that Caspere’s last withdrawal was five days ago, and that the victim made a monthly withdrawal to the amount of $4,000. Ray relates the blank planner dates to the same dates as the monthly withdrawals. His GPS shows that he wasn’t driving his vehicle to the ATM on those dates, causing them to surmise the Catalyst Group must’ve loaned a vehicle to Caspere. “Maybe somebody should call ‘em?” Teague asks rudely before finally standing and exiting. None of them are tight with Teague. Paul leaves shortly after the rude cop, followed by Ray. Before he can leave, however, Ani looks at the GPS coordinates on a map—they’re all “up north.” Despite the four detectives taking things a step further in this scene, what stands out is Paul’s story about a gay man at the bank where he got Caspere’s records. He told Teague he wanted to hit the man for hitting on him. Teague couldn’t understand why you’d just beat somebody for merely feeling attraction. Between the Viagra last week and his unnecessary anecdote, is it possible that Paul is repressing some homosexuality?
Lin then takes us to a large shopping complex where Ray meets his ex-wife, Alicia, instead of picking Chad up like he expected. He won’t be meeting Chad anymore after the police found out that a man named “Whit Conroy” was beaten within a centimeter of his life regarding a “schoolyard altercation.” Ray denies doing it, but isn’t necessarily shocked or appalled by what happened. She relates the beating to another beating from their shared past—presumably when he killed the man who raped her. “You’re a bad person and you’re bad for my son,” Alicia says. “My”son, maybe Ray isn’t the father and isn’t as willing to accept these terms as much as he should. He then claims a “natural right” for his actions all those years ago. Perhaps this is part of the judgment he said he “welcomed” last week. This was merely a meeting so she could tell him that she’s petitioning for sole custody of Chad. He threatens to burn the whole city down until she threatens to get a paternity test. Alicia leaves him standing with Chad’s gifts before Lin returns to aerial exteriors of California highway at night. This motif is ruining what Fukunaga did in the first season with exteriors. The shots transition to a sunnier time the next day. A man gets rear-ended under an overpass. As he speaks on the phone, two men from the other vehicle emerge, shoot pepper spray in his face, and then beat him to a pulp before leaving. Another man emerges from the shadows to help the man. It is Frank Semyon and he has a message for the man: don’t write books about corruption in Vinci. Frank warns the man to “Take more care.”
Ani parks her car at a large compound where she and Ray are led to Caspere’s shrink, Dr. Pitlor (80s icon Rick Springfield), who’s “quite” shocked by the news of the dead city manager. The doctor states he must remain confidential, but Ani reminds us that Caspere has no family and is dead. Pitlor treated Caspere for “neuroses, anxiety, a painful past…and guilt….He was sexually obsessed.” Caspere based his guilt on a weakness for young prostitutes and didn’t behave violent or aggressive like Ani asks, but more “passive” as Pitlor puts it. This doctor is no dummy and asks Ani if she’s the daughter of Eliot Bezzerides—the proprietor of a holistic healing institute (Panticapaeum from last week, named after the Greek city). She confirms this, but also points out that most children who grew up around that institute did not turn out for the better. Lin then returns to Frank entering City Hall as a press conference held by the state attorney general (C.S. Lee—“Dexter”) plays on the television display. There will be a probe into Caspere’s death, officially. Frank drops off some money for the mayor, despite the fact that it’s “ten short.” The mayor casually mentions letting an “outside interest” take the Polka Room off Frank’s hands if the gangster can’t gangster anymore. The photo of the mayor with the second President Bush just tied the whole theme of the scene together. Frank doesn’t care for the mayor leaning on him and lists the many times he’s helped the mayor over the years—including getting his coke-sniffing son out of serious trouble involving an automobile accident. The mayor also lets slip that “Catalyst is taking over his action” in regards to Caspere. The mayor seems more interested in drinking and threatening Frank until the gangster reminds him that he’ll start tearing down walls if he has to. Semyon points out that the people who killed Caspere may not be finished, but the mayor suggests the city manager died regarding a personal matter. If they close the case, Frank requests some time with the perpetrator. The gangster wants to know who wants in on the Polka Room, but the mayor merely schedules and stipulates the next payments and says he has to protect his interests.
More aerial shots of SoCal highway. Ray and Ani talk in her car (more highway/ road motif) about their rendezvous with the doctor, assuming that the victim’s monthly withdrawal was intended for vices. Ray tries to steer the conversation toward some unnamed pimp (like a good corrupt cop would), but Ani thinks they’ve only scratched the surface of all things involving Caspere. They talk about the unfortunate history and present of Vinci. Ani doesn’t understand what’s all happening in this city while Ray seems to accept it. “We get the world we deserve.” She asks how he ended up in Vinci and he offers his employment history as well as his former family situation, however, he’s on to the fact that she may have heard some rumblings about him being crooked. He goes over the rumors circulating about him and his bad habits—admitting the bad habits part is at least true. He asks why she carries knives and gets the answer in a back-and-forth reminiscent of Marty and Rust in the first season. This turns into conversation about Ani growing up in a “hippie commune.” When she drops him off, he gets out and asks her if they’re even supposed to succeed as he’s suspicious about the lack of bodies the state has sent to investigate the case. But if he “wants honest” from her, then he’ll have to admit how “compromised” he is. They stare at each other, and as if the question glossed right over him, Ray closes the door and says, “Anyways.”
Ani leaves to prompt yet more of the same aerial transitions. Woodrugh packs his bags in a bedroom to prepare for the investigation and his girlfriend walks in with her tablet displaying a tabloid headline about Woodrugh’s controversial arrest. He doesn’t want to talk about because it’s all lies, but she’s really more interested in an event deeper from his past that surfaces in the tabloid about “Black Mountain Security.” Paul, however, reminds her that he doesn’t talk about “the desert.” He continues trying to reassure that he’ll only be gone temporarily. She then complains of him smelling “like a bar rack, just like my uncle.” They can’t get past this argument because she thinks more and more about how little she knows about Paul. It erupts into a small shouting match before Paul returns to “I’m fine” and promises to call her over the weekend. She tells him that he won’t be returning at all because they’re done. He keeps walking for an exit but reminds her that “you’re doing this, not me.” Lin cuts to Frank and his crew entering a nightclub. He shares an audience with the owner and they briefly discuss owning the club as Frank used to years ago but relinquished it over to his present company, Danny. Frank wants to know if one of Danny’s girls knew Caspere. It happens that one does and she remembers the city manager taking her to a small apartment in Hollywood. She doesn’t recall Caspere as creepy, just weak. Danny wants Frank to remember this gesture. “Everybody needs friends,” Danny says before showing his grills that read: F*** YOU. What a theme for this season, isn’t it?
Lin cuts to Ani drinking and talking on the phone while sitting before a laptop in her house. She tries leaving a message with a Los Angeles County vice detective before perusing California call girls online—perhaps searching for her sister? This quickly turns into a porn search and she’s viewing online pornography before we know it. She’s interrupted just as quickly by her partner, Elvis (Michael Irby—“Almost Human”), who has an update on the missing girl from last week. Her (the missing girl) roommate received one phone call after she left and Elvis tracked the call’s source to the same town as Panticapaeum. When they end the call, she resumes her viewing before Lin cuts to more exterior aerial traffic and finally settles on Woodrugh. He’s alone on a balcony this time, presumably at his apartment, and watching traffic (that was his job) while smoking another joint. This is either a stressful week or a bedtime habit. He looks at women running in costumes as they approach men in costumes, prompting him to turn his gaze. Paul notices a car drop a young man off at a street corner as the young man counts some money before Paul takes another drink of beer (everybody’s drinking).
Much like the end of last week’s episode, Lin starts the climax in Frank’s dive bar where Lera Lynn performs on stage. She contributed many songs to the second season soundtrack. Frank and Ray meet up here again as the gangster hands his crooked cop the Hollywood address he got from the girl at Danny’s club. He wants Ray to check it as a cop and retrieve anything that might have to do with Catalyst. Ray isn’t pleased with the drive to Hollywood, but Frank takes it a step further and suggests that if everything “shakes out” like it’s supposed to for him, then he’ll promote Ray to Chief of Police in Vinci. Ray rejects this idea, but the gangster lets him know that it’s not his decision. Ray, after hearing about Chad, reminds Frank of the nature of their original arrangement and says that he no longer has the reasons or motivation that put them in contact. Simply put, Ray doesn’t feel the need to go crooked because he doesn’t feel like he has a family to defend anymore. Frank threatens with life in prison, but the detective again reminds Frank that everybody has another option beside prison if they “want it bad enough.” Does Ray have a death wish? Frank puts money on the table and tells Ray he doesn’t want to hear him “talk like that again.” The kind waitress from last week takes a seat with Ray and advises him to take a vacation. He says can’t take a vacation without dying and he’s too old to find another job. He gets up to leave, but she reminds him to grab his money. “That’s not mine.”
After another transitional exterior shot, we settle on Ray investigating his lead in Hollywood. He enters to a faucet dripping in a filled kitchen as “I Pity the Fool” by Bobby Bland plays loudly through the apartment. He turns on a light and discovers a pool of blood in the main room. Behind a sex swing, Velcoro finds a mirrored door and opens it find a recording camera on the other side. As Ray steps back to continue looking around, Lin gives a brief glimpse of another body looming inside the apartment. Ray senses this, too, and turns to shoot the figure all too late as a masked gunman pops him. The gunman wears the head of the raven from “The Western Book of the Dead” that was shown next to the driver of the car that dumped Caspere’s body. He stands over Ray’s body and shoots at the center mass. Outside, however, it’s just another quiet night in the neighborhood.
Holy smokes! Ray just got shot twice, very definitively. Is he the first victim of Pizzolatto’s Greek tragedy? Killing the main character (not anymore) two episodes in is a very gutsy move and makes the multiple director selection more sensible. Justin Lin pretty much made a two hour movie about a corrupt cop who was killed investigating a murder. It’s up to the other directors to find and make stories of the remaining protagonists. We saw Marty and Rust make it to the end last year, but Ray Velcoro doesn’t make it out of the second episode. “True Detective” certainly has no intentions of telling the same story twice.