True Detective 204 recap/ review
Down Will Come
Picking up from the most sensible point of last week’s episode, “Maybe Tomorrow,” director Jeremy Podeswa (“Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire”) opens on a quick shot at the Vinci police garage of Ray and Ani looking at the charred remains of her vehicle after the car-bombing. Frank says some distasteful words to his gardener in the next scene because the avocado trees haven’t produced any fruit. He steps away to talk to Jordan about rescheduling with their fertility doctor after he takes care of more urgent matters. Inside the home, Jordan continues the conversation, suggesting they adopt a child. Frank, however, has his own opinion of adoption and is staunchly opposed. Keeping in the same taste all of our detectives, Frank enjoys some hard liquor to start his day. His wife says it may be more difficult for them to conceive due to an abortion she had a long time ago. He tells her to “get more tests” before excusing himself to work. Podeswa then checks in on another waking character as Paul Woodrugh rises confused in an unfamiliar bed. He wanders out to find his friend Miguel. “Hola cabron! We put out some fires last night, huh?” But Paul doesn’t seem to remember any of what happened. It would seem they met at “Lux,” Danny Santos’ club where Paul met an informant in last week’s episode, and went back to Miguel’s after they left. Woodrugh abruptly leaves, keeping in denial, and takes a taxi to pick up his motorcycle. On the taxi ride, Paul cries sorrowfully.
It only gets worse for Paul when he arrives to find his bike gone/ stolen/ towed/ what-have-you. After a small meltdown in front of Lux, he hops another cab only to face an ambush from the paparazzi when he steps out of the vehicle. Back in the police garage, Ani and Ray talk the case. He warns that visiting the mayor’s mansion last week will probably come back to bite her. He calls the state investigation “a shakedown” with the state attorney general cramming his hands into Vinci’s pockets. None of the Chessanis have ever gone to prison despite their dirty misdoings. She asserts she’s merely solving a murder, but Ray predicts that she’ll be the state’s scapegoat after the money changes hands with nothing to show for the Caspere investigation. Ani asks about Paul’s whereabouts just as Ray receives a call. Teague trudges in for a lovely chat with Ani. We’re then taken to a bakery where Frank meets some old acquaintances. We learn the gangster assumed control of Lux after he maimed Danny, and that he wants these men at the bakery to supply the drugs for sale in his nightclub. They come to an uneasy agreement before the camera returns to Woodrugh, waiting on a bench as Ray picks him up for work. Ray directs the haggard Paul to glove box to pick his “cure” among several vices, and he goes with vodka. His bike was stolen. Ray explains that he’s familiar with Paul’s troubled past, and that anything going forward from his time in Iraq to be “a cake walk.” We haven’t really gotten to see these two characters share a Rust-and-Marty-type conversation in the vehicle, but it played well as we learned Ray’s opinion of Paul: a war hero who just had a rough night that isn’t any of the paparazzi’s business anyway. Paul’s still coping on coming to grips with his sexuality, however, and sees this as his greatest struggle so far in life (or so it would seem). Paul’s existential crisis in Ray’s car sends Ray into “dad mode,” comforting Woodrugh as if he was Chad. Velcoro then turns on his flashing lights to circumvent traffic before Podeswa cuts to his first aerial exteriors of the highway.
The camera settles on Frank and his men entering a housing project in Vinci, where he leans on the building supervisor—telling the man he needs to pay for security. He forces the man into an arrangement that seems to benefit everybody except this super. Frank’s even looking out for the kids by using his first order of business to have the lawn mown. After this, we see Ray and Ani staking out Mayor Chessani’s mansion as his daughter, Betty, pulls up and they follow her to some sort of marijuana/ hookah establishment where they ask her a few questions about Ben Caspere as she partakes. She doesn’t know if her father or brother dealt primarily with Caspere. We learn a little Chessani family history as well. The mayor’s first wife suffered schizophrenia before committing suicide by hanging in a Nevada mental health ward. Ani offers that her own mother died when she was 12. Betty names Pitler from “Night Finds You” as her mother’s doctor and confirms her father “is a bad person.” The girl abruptly walks out, leaving Ani a little emotionally exposed. More aerial shots pass the time and Podeswa settles on Ani again, now she examines an antique figurine. She’s at her sister’s, Athena’s, house. They talk about their mother before Ani asks her sister to quit her cam girl job. Athena says she’s clean, however, and isn’t even getting into the scary stuff—like attending “those parties… up north.” We heard in previous episodes about how Chessani’s son arranges events and that Caspere frequented several parties in Northern California. Her sister is simply saving up money to pay for school.
In a dive diner, Woodrugh meets with his (ex?) girlfriend to talk about the way they left things between them. He admits some character flaws before she blurts out that she’s pregnant. She’s keeping it, and Paul thinks they should get married. I suppose that’s one horrible way to bottle up something deep inside one’s self, but what else can he do? He’s enthusiastic to declare his love for her, but she’s not even remotely excited in her return. Paul kisses her and says, “This is the best thing that could’ve happened.” But is it? Podeswa shows aerial exteriors again before landing on Panticapaeum where Ray and Ani meet with her father. Her father, Eliot, remembers Pitler from the early eighties, mentioning “Chessani’s lodge” in the same breath. Does Ani’s father know all the bad guys? Ray hands her father a photo of Caspere—another man he recognizes from attending a seminar. Eliot shows them an old photo of Pitler with several other people, including the presumed future mayor of Vinci. “A lot of spiritual moments cross-pollenated in these parts,” Eliot offers. Is that what he calls it? Eliot stops talking about the past, distracted because Ray “has one of the largest auras he’s ever seen—green and black. It’s been taking up this whole room. I had to say something. You must have had hundreds of lives.” We know why he’d have a black aura with all the negative remnants of his past, but why green? Is it because he’s a hard worker—even working after getting popped on an investigation? And don’t forget the song “My Least Favorite Life” by Lera Lynn that the artist played at the end of “The Western Book of the Dead.” This must be Ray’s least favorite life. “I don’t think I can handle another one,” Ray says. The detectives finally leave, but Ani also doesn’t know what green and black spells out for Ray.
An aerial shot of the Pacific coast (a nice change-up to traffic) settles on Ray and Ani driving to Fresno to check out the area where Chessani had samples taken and where Caspere’s car GPS indicated it had visited many times. They arrive at the exact field from the very first shot of the season that had several wooden stakes with red flags tied on to them. Ray jokingly hypothesizes that all the bodies are buried here. A representative from the California EPA arrives to explain how troublesome the land has been with runoff and abandoned mines. Pieces of land around the area have different kinds of contaminations, forcing many to sell their family farms and move. She notices something about the map before Podeswa checks in on Frank staring at a pattern in a table cloth that resembles the water damage stain on his bedroom ceiling. He covers it with his cup of coffee, directing his attention to Malkin, the man he’s chosen to make Lux look legitimate. Malkin has some kind of history with Jordan, which seems to upset Frank, but not to a boiling point. It seems like Frank also wants Malkin, a producer, in on the land deal, but the potential business partner isn’t in a hurry. “Trust takes time,” he says before leaving the Semyons. Jordan isn’t pleased that Frank has to resort to taking over the Lux, but he explains that he hasn’t a choice. Their arguing again yields no fruit. We’re then treated to a street-level shot of traffic in front of a pawn shop before the camera takes us in to see Paul and Teague talking to the proprietor. Paul matches a wristwatch to a photo of one of Caspere’s. We then jump to Ani turning over some of her findings before her superior tells her that charges of sexual misconduct are headed her way for a relationship with the officer, Steve, from a few previous episodes. Also coming out is the revelation of a one night stand with her partner, Detective Ilinca. It looks like the I.A. investigation could’ve been prompted by the vengeful Chessani. She can’t enter that building until the investigation into her is complete, but she can continue on the Caspere case. Her superior warns that rumors of Ani’s gambling debt could mean an investigation into her finances. He ends on, “You know no grown woman in her right mind would date a cop.”
The camera stays with Ani as she exits the building and Ilinca catches up to her, admitting a little jealousy of Steve. He thinks there was “a chance” between them, but she feels rightfully betrayed by him because he admitted to sleeping with her to superiors. Some grungy exteriors take Ani into Paul briefing a room about a new suspect, Ledo Amarilla. They have video of a woman, a prostitute named Irina Ruflo, pawning some of Caspere’s stuff. The items they took from the pawn shop have the fingerprints of: Ben Caspere, the woman who pawned it, and the suspect who allegedly had the woman pawn the items. Teague supposes Ruflo turned tricks for Caspere, saw a taste of the good life, told Ledo, and he killed Caspere for money/ valuables. It should be mentioned that the crooked Teague Dixon tipped everybody off to Ledo, following a “lead” from an “informant.” Gah, I don’t trust him. The room clears and Ani is caught up to speed on Paul’s investigations. It looks like Sasha/ Tasha was a prostitute who went to the same parties as Caspere, but hasn’t turned up in a while. More aerial exteriors of California highway at night take us to the old dive bar where Lera Lynn plays guitar and sings her sad song as Ray avoids strong liquor. He hands Frank a photo of Ledo, but the gangster’s certain that the suspect doesn’t have his money. Frank wants to know what it has to do with Stan’s death in the last episode before declaring that he’s getting back into the club business. He wants to use Ray “in a fuller capacity” for the events to come, stating that the cop life doesn’t suit him well anymore. “Black rage goes a long way,” Frank adds, bringing the black aura reference earlier in the episode to fruition. “Sometimes your worst self is your best self.” We stay with Ray in the next scene for a heartfelt moment where he passes on his father’s badge to his son in some act of goodbye. Father and son stand at the edge of a residential property at night. Chad doesn’t seem to understand what’s happening, but feels the weight of his father’s action regardless. “Where you come from—that’ll mean something to you some day.” Chad’s parents call out to him, checking up, but when he looks back, his father disappeared.
At the Vinci Casino, Frank tells his people about the lead on Ledo Amarillo. He gives the order to find him. Blake stays behind to hear some thinly-veiled suspicions from the Semyons about an arrangement with Osip. Frank punishes Blake, making him pit boss for the night. The Semyons drift into silence worrying about the future, holding hands. The next morning, laborers enter a Vinci factory as picketers begin to protest in front of a warehouse while Dixon watches through binoculars. Podeswa quickly cuts away to Ani briefing her team about Amarilla as they don their bulletproof vests. The mayor sardonically cautions everyone as they file out, Ray is the last—keeping eye contact with his shady superior officers. Outside the warehouse, the protestors get television publicity as Ani prepares her squad to take the suspect. The team strolls out to take positions, but get blindsided by gunfire originating from a higher floor in the warehouse. Amarillo’s guys begin the firefight, killing several officers right off the bat by surprise. They eventually find cover and return fire, and an enormous explosion goes off on the warehouse’s third floor in the middle of the shooting. A few blocks away, the Semyons can see a little of the action, prompting Frank to send Jordan inside and away from danger. As Paul moves to new cover, Teague follows him and pays dearly with a round entering his skull. Paul then affords Ray some cover before finally popping the second story shooter with a headshot. Ani finds them in a vehicle, escaping up an alley and chases them into the protestors where the getaway car collides with a public transportation bus.
Paul and Ray finally catch up to help her surround the suspects who spill out of the getaway vehicle with guns blazing. The suspects shoot several protestors as they come out shooting. Ledo’s men make a last stand around their vehicle, shooting anything in proximity. After more and more bodies drop, Ledo turns and opens fire on the bus for no apparent reason beyond terror and evil. Ani runs out of magazines as a cop near her gets shot and killed, she then removes one of her knives to fight her approaching attacker before Paul shoots the man from behind to save her. Ledo steps off the bus with a hostage as Velcoro and Woodrugh take aim. He then shoots the hostage which leaves himself open to several shots from the two detectives with guns pointed at him. Only our main three detectives prevail in the hail of gunfire. Ani and Ray are beside themselves, to say the least, but Paul stays calm. We’re sure he’s seen this kind of action before during his tour of duty. Podeswa gives us a cheesy freeze-frame ending, but it fortunately doesn’t suck the exhilaration out of the moment. While the midseason/ fourth episode didn’t have the jaw-dropping six-minute shot that Cary Fukunaga employed in last year’s midseason episode “Who Goes There?,” the surprise shots that erupted into all-out firefight to the last man is certainly the most exciting sequence in this season of “True Detective” to date. The only problem now is that Ledo died, and dead men tell no tales.