True Detective 203 recap/ review
All recaps contain spoilers as they recapture a given episode’s plot.
With Justin Lin stepping down for the rest of the season, Danish director Janus Metz steps forward to continue the second season of “True Detective” this week. Metz’s background lies primarily in documentaries, which lends to the seedy, uncertain world that Lin developed in the first two episodes this year. Metz begins his first episode of the popular HBO series in a metaphysical sequence. A Conway Twitty impersonator performs “The Rose” in a black room with blue lighting which turns into the stage of the bar where Detective Velcoro and Frank Semyon usually meet up at night. Ray, alive in this dream state, sits in his normal spot and speaks with a version of his father, Eddie (special guest Fred Ward—Tremors, 30 Minutes or Less), wearing an officer uniform, sitting across from Ray. Eddie tells him that he “sees” some men are chasing Ray and that they kill him. Sound like last week? Not so fast. Ray asks where they are, but his father doesn’t know, causing the detective to look down at his torso and see a bleeding wound in the center. Conway keeps performing on the mystical stage as the camera fades to Ben Caspere’s Hollywood apartment where “The Rose” plays on the Crosley. The camera finds Velcoro’s body lying motionless where we last saw it in a puddle of his own urine, but the sun has risen. When the song finishes, he wakes up gasping for breath as if prompted the end of the song. Not dead—a live shotgun shell wasn’t shot at him in “Night Finds You.” He looks around and notices a few things missing: the camera, hard drive, and one of the animal busts. Does Ray view his father like Chad views him? This is more father and son material to really turn this into a postmodern Greek tragedy.
Ani Bezzerides arrives on scene as we experience a slight time jump. She’s upset Ray didn’t call her to investigate with him, but he explains that he didn’t have a chance to notify anybody once he found out it was the murder scene of Ben Caspere. He explains that the shooter must’ve popped him with riot shells/ rubber buckshot to spare his life. He says he’s only mildly injured, and tells her he found out about the place from a prostitute’s tip, but leaves off the fact that Frank was the middle man. Metz cuts inside as Ani enters the crime scene to speak with Ray’s even more corrupt lieutenant, who decided to appear in person after hearing one of his detectives got shot investigating a lead. He leaves as she approaches the foam covering the walls, upset over its soundproof quality. He briefly check back on Ray nervously smoking (visible shakes) before visiting Frank, also nervous and preoccupied, in a sperm bank with Jordan. He’s having difficulties during an intimate moment as they try to produce a sample. He stands, upset, saying that this never happened before in his life. She offers to accommodate him in any way he needs, but he doesn’t have the time. He’d prefer to conceive naturally as he points out that the doctors cleared him of sterility. This creates conflict between the two as she throws the plastic cup and leaves alone. Her mind is on building a family where he’s still concerned about all of his land deals and Ben Caspere.
Metz then “treats” viewers to his first establishing shots of aerial California highway before settling on Caspere’s Hollywood apartment where Paul Woodrugh catches Ani and Teague up on some more background information regarding Caspere. He gives Ani the phone records, and in her car, she instructs him to spend the day to see if there’s anything more among the local “working girls.” She then asks if the exposure from his recent controversial arrest will hurt their case (he doubts it) before suggesting her comrade countersue when the dust settles. Then, like Ray, Paul notices Ani smoking an e-cig. (This season brought to you by big
tobacco vapor.) Metz then returns to the dive bar, but the real one this time, where Frank meets Ray to chat. The detective is too paranoid to speak on the phone and wants to know who else knew about Caspere’s apartment. “You walked me into something, Frank.” Frank has a drink, and Ray some water (staying angry to keep the edge) as the detective explains possible scenarios and multiple motives/ suspects. Frank finally tells Ray that Caspere had his money in play for a big real estate bid. Ray sulks off and the kind bartender who has a soft spot for him asks Frank if Ray’s hurt. “Somebody murdered him,” Frank replies, putting money on the table.
The camera returns to Ani and Paul as they visit the mayor of Vinci’s mansion in Bel Air? What’s wrong with Vinci? They’re greeted at the door by the mayor’s newest wife, who looks drunk, high, and all other sorts of altered mind states. She’s young, and despite her disheveled appearance, wears an expensive dress. She doesn’t remember Caspere well. Mrs. Chessani takes an instant liking to Paul, and Ani excuses herself out to the adjacent room to let her partner draw out all the answers he possible can from the drugged woman. She has no memory of Caspere despite the frequent phone calls, citing that she has no role in her husband’s “business stuff.” As Paul stays with Mrs. Chessani, Ani wanders deeper into the compound and meets a few more Chessanis. She finds land surveys all over the mayor’s desk before hearing a loud sound. In one room, a girl studies road atlases before rudely shutting the door in Ani’s face. A jumpcut downstairs shows Paul and Mrs. Chessani talking as a body falls into a pool outside, behind them in the background. Mrs. Chessani runs outside and shouts at her stepson for inviting his preferred company (the kind one pays for) into the house. The mayor’s son doesn’t pay his step-mother any mind, noticing Ani behind him. This must be the guy Frank referenced when talking to Mayor Chessani about his son’s car accident. On the staircase, the mayor’s son says he only knew Caspere from “workin’ with my pops.” Ani asks where this guy got his accent and he gives up the fact that he plays “different roles for different jobs” in his life planning “all kinds” of “specialty events.” He then snaps back into his tough guy/ GTL persona and kicks them out of the house. This father’s son, unlike Ray, Ani, Frank, and Chad, doesn’t seem to fear or hate his father.
We check in with Ray at the hospital. Despite the wound, he’s unhealthy due to his lifestyle choices of drinking, drugs, and bad diet. The doctor clears the detective before asking, “Do you want to live?” Metz fades to Frank entering the construction site of a future “vertical mall.” Frank leans on an old business associate who thought he was finished making payments. Unfortunately, as Semyon puts it, “Things change.” Frank demands 25 % of the man’s monthly business delivered to him on the first of every month, wanting the poor, scared man to think he’s holding on to a friend and business associate. This slides into Ani and Paul checking Caspere’s safe deposit box and then turning over their findings to Ani’s superiors. Ani’s boss suggests that Velcoro’s shooting was staged and that Velcoro was in on it, but the detective doesn’t know why he would. She makes special mention of blue diamonds in the safe deposit box. The brass asks about Ray, but all Ani can say is that Ray’s “a burn out” before the camera turns to Ray in Mayor Chessani’s office. The mayor raises hell, chewing Ray out for Ani and Paul snooping around his place. Velcoro gives his version of the shooting to the other corrupt Vinci cops. This scene then intercuts with Bezzerides as we see her get questioned about how corrupt Ray may be while Ray gets questioned about how suspicious Ani is of government corruption in Vinci. State police want Ani to look into Ray while she also investigates the murder of Ben Caspere. Ray is told to work the prostitute angle and “get it wrapped” so they’re no longer on the state’s radar. He makes a case to get taken off the investigation, but these corrupt cats want him right where he is.
Metz then takes us to Ani’s cubicle where she’s greeted by Elvis, her partner. Her paramour from the first episode appears in his uniform to talk to her as she hasn’t returned any of his phone calls. She essentially tells him to take a hint and dumps him on the spot. As the dumped cop walks by, Elvis calls him a “mama’s boy” and incites some dander before Ani diffuses the situation. After this, we meet the real Eddie Velcoro—a retired cop so feeble that his son has to help him hold the glass of booze to his lips. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Ray’s there to drop his father’s marijuana prescription and tells his father he had a dream about him without mentioning the shooting beforehand. He finds his father’s badge in the trash and explains that no matter what bugged him originally, he’ll miss it. To ensure the badge’s survival, Ray suggests he’ll give it to Chad. We learn Eddie was an old school type of cop in Southern California during the OJ Simpson trial and the L.A. riots. Ray lifts the badge as the subject changes to Frank and the setting changes to the casino. Frank views his wife at her own table in the gambling room. He meets with Osip and finds out that their deal isn’t as “done” as he expected. He speculates that Osip “prefigures” Caspere in this scenario and then wonders to one of his men if Osip killed Caspere. The henchman notes Osip “…looks half anaconda and half great white.”
The setting changes completely as Metz catches up with Paul at a motorcycle race, enjoying a beer with an old friend, Miguel. Paul’s friend heard about the recent controversial arrest and reached out to him to make sure Paul is doing okay. We learn a lot about Paul here than we did with his girlfriend or mother. His friend certainly doesn’t think he’s guilty, and asks if Paul’s “been going to meetings?” After the first year, Paul quit attending these meetings (presumably for combat survivors) on the grounds that he didn’t want to relive every day what he was trying to put behind him. Miguel suggests the meetings make sense—that it’s about not denying the past and letting it “be a part of you.” A small time jump takes us outside of the races where they talk more freely. Paul graduates from his cup of beer to a pocket flask. They talk about work, missing the military, and finally when they were stuck in some sort of village in a valley while serving overseas. Paul grows more uncomfortable as Miguel steers the conversation toward this village. Miguel wonders if he’d just stayed there, saying it was the most his life ever felt right, before finally admitting he’s not talking about combat but hinting at some sort of intimate (probably homosexual) relationship the two men shared while stuck in this village together. It becomes unmistakably clear to Paul that this is why Miguel really wanted to talk and causes a short, violent burst—shoving Miguel. Paul storms away, stifling tears, as Miguel follows, desperately apologizing to his old friend. The plot thickens, however, as Metz reveals that Teague photographed the entire altercation. The Viagra, the drinking, staring away from the men with wings, and the homophobic comments from last week have all converged to confirm what we already thought—Paul Woodrugh is a repressed homosexual.
Interestingly enough, Metz then takes the viewer to a meeting of Ani, Paul and Teague at the warehouse where the lead detective prints out a traffic cam photo of the car used to ferry Caspere’s corpse to where Paul originally found it. It’s registered to a film transportation department. Ray then enters before the camera cuts to a movie set where a sci-fi b-movie is well into production. Caspere arranged tax incentives on the movie and received a producer’s credit, and the car used to drop the body was reported stolen of the lot. One crew member/ grip doesn’t know a whole lot, but Ani’s suspicious of him. Ray chats with the set photographer, who recognizes Caspere as a man who shared some wild parties with the director. The director, Pizzolatto’s blatant representation of producer/ first season director Cary Fukunaga, makes the parties seem more formal. The two detectives run into Caspere’s old administrative assistant picking up tax agreements on set for the state’s inquiry into her old boss. At the Vinci casino, Frank’s top dog, Blake, shows up late as his phone is dead. Blake shares that another one of Frank’s men, Stan, has been found dead. The next scene is at the factory from “The Western Book of the Dead,” where we see Stan, like Ben Caspere, had his eyes removed. Semyon suffers a minor meltdown: shoving Blake, shouting at all of his men, and demanding all parties associated with his “property” meet at Danny Santos’ club later that evening.
A montage shows Paul yielding no results as he shows many prostitutes a photo of Ben Caspere. Finally, a young man smoking a cigarette steps forward. His name is Tyler. He recalls Caspere, but never “dated him.” Tyler flirtatiously answers Paul’s questions and convinces the cop to let him tag along to the club as Woodrugh probably wouldn’t get in because he looks too much like a cop. Over in Ray’s place, Ani notices all the models he built with Chad (and by himself). They’re interrupted by a knock on the door. Ray excuses himself to speak with his ex-wife outside. Her current husband stays in their vehicle, scared. She explains that state police showed up at her house and asked questions regarding extralegal and/ or corrupt activity involving Ray. She offers him $10,000 to not contest Chad’s custody. He refuses this, which she expected. “It’s to just go, Ray.” This sounds like the vacation the waitress suggested last week. “The way those investigators sounded, it’s just a matter of time.” She leaves with the envelope and Ray returns to Ani indoors. “We should get back to work.” He opens the door for her and they leave before Metz cuts over to Paul walking through a busy club with Tyler. Androgynous men and women eyeball Paul as he passes them, but he doesn’t notice anything until a man’s shoulder bumps into his. This is Frank Semyon bumping into Paul Woodrugh at Danny Santos’ club. The two stare at each other suspiciously for a moment before each man moves on in the opposite direction of the other toward his respective objective.
Tyler’s friend recognizes Caspere as a shy man who used to frequent the joint. Tyler’s friend also reveals that Caspere paid him and a girl, Tasha (not like the “Sasha” we heard last week), to copulate in front of him. Paul can’t believe this punk sleeps with girls in addition to men, but he explains he can “in a pinch—with the right medication.” Remind you of Paul a few weeks ago when he popped the blue pill at his girlfriend’s place? She hasn’t been around of late, maybe she’s been partying or found a sugar daddy. All the references to parties must amount to something right? I hope this will not culminate into a disappointing, anticlimactic orgy as we’re being led to expect. HBO has played the sex-shock value card far too much for it to be an effective plot device anymore. Paul, still drinking, orders double shots.
Metz finally takes us to a back room where Frank has all of his business associates lined up for an announcement. He passes out photos of Caspere, telling them to report to him if they find out anything. Danny grows the courage to spout off, challenging Frank’s authority. This turns into a fisticuffs bout which Frank handedly wins before he then takes pliers to Danny’s grill. “What kind of a way is that to greet the world?” Another exterior shot of aerial highway (commend Metz for downplaying this compared to Lin) settles on Ani and Ray questioning a mother and her son at their home. The son is the driver who quit working on the movie; and as he explains, he had to care for his mother. The guy notices how suspicious Ani is and reveals a lumbar problem as the reason he quit, showing his back brace. This all gets interrupted by the sudden, unexpected boom coming from Ani’s vehicle. They sprint to the car (Ray struggling behind with his injury) and find a figure in a white mask fleeing the scene. After a long chase through the seedy Vinci homeless district, they bear no fruit and have no mode of transportation. Ray snags Ani away from an oncoming semi-truck about to flatten her as they let the perpetrator get away. He wants to know what the state has on him, but she doesn’t know.
At Frank’s place, he arrives as Jordan waits by the fire. Frank pours a drink, reaches into his pocket, and examines the contents: Danny’s golden teeth, of which he disposes. She wants to make up, staying up to talk with him if he would like, however, she doesn’t know what just went down at the club. “Maybe tomorrow,” Frank says, leaving her alone again and slipping into a different room by himself. And that’s how “Maybe Tomorrow” ends—with Jordan Semyon unable to connect with her damaged, gangster husband. Unfortunately, she may hear “maybe tomorrow” a few more times if her husband can’t straighten out all of his problems. While Pizzolatto didn’t offer Metz as much exciting material as he gave Lin, several improvements were made in this episode—the most outstanding being that Metz wasn’t constantly relying on exterior, aerial shots of fast-forwarded California highways. This certainly isn’t the kind of story viewers expected on “True Detective” this season, as reflected by a large public outcry, but doesn’t the best kind of mystery come in the unexpected variety? I’m down for the next five episodes and I’m sure I’m not the only one.