True Detective Season 2 finale recap/ review
A story told with facts and lies…are there really spoilers?
Following last week’s sudden, tragic murder of Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh at the end of a pulse-pounding firefight in a dark tunnel in “Black Maps and Motel Rooms,” the ninety minute season finale “Omega Station” opens in the motel room a while after Ray and Ani hooked up with the two of them sitting up in bed, smoking cigarettes now that Ani’s given up on e-cigs. They’ve reached comfort in themselves with they are and each shares their deep, dark secret with the other. Ani talks about her abduction at a very young age and Ray talks about killing the innocent man he thought raped his ex-wife over a decade ago. These two really needed somebody understanding to share their story with and found that in the other. Ray also admits it’s been years since the last time he sexually expressed himself, something Ani picked up on as she confesses she could tell he was “making up for lost time.” This scene has quick shots of them dressing even later in the future to the point where the sun rises and they’re left waiting for a man who’ll never come.
We then cut to the Semyons at a bus stop where Frank at first confesses he wishes they had ten years together and that they should have met sooner. She really doesn’t want to leave Frank alone. He feigns that he doesn’t want her around anymore to get her to move on in some sort of Harry and the Hendersons ending-attempt, even throwing his wedding ring to prompt her departure. She doesn’t buy it, knowing he still loves her and they finally agree that he will join up with her and Nails in two weeks or less. Many, myself included, expected her to bail on Frank, but she stayed true to him throughout the crumbling of his empire and beyond. “Baby, you made it all mean something,” Frank reminds her. “…If you love me, I cannot do the things I have to do unless I know you’re safe.” She’s headed to Oregon and Venezuela from there. They agree to meet in a park where she’ll wear a white dress and he’ll wear a white suit with a red rose in his jacket. This sounds more like fantasy than what they expect to happen. We stay with Frank for the next scene as Nails briefly describes their history together and his undying loyalty to Frank. Jordan’s in good company for her travels. Frank looks back at Jordan in a car window as Nails drives away.
The next shot closes up on Woodrugh’s body in a bag, getting zipped up in a crime scene that his killer, Lieutenant Burris, conveniently leads. Burris answers Woodrugh’s phone to speak with Ray and deliver the soul-crushing news of Paul’s death. Ray spills what he knows prompting Burris to set up a meeting. Ray doesn’t believe they want to pay him off, knowing he’ll end up like Woodrugh and Davis if he bites. Velcoro hangs up and breaks the news to Ani, who points out that “Erica” is their only play left but that she’s “in the wind.” It occurs to Ray that there were two children orphaned from the robbery, recalling Erica spoke with the set photographer, Lenny Tyler, when he and Bezzerides investigated the sci-fi movie set in “Maybe Tomorrow.” Remember the opening title song “Nevermind” by Leonard Cohen— I live among you/ Well-disguised. The murder of Caspere and the hard drive then make a lot more sense as Ani exclaims, “We were set up!” Frank, too, for that matter. They get Len’s information from his union gig, but not before Velcoro asks Bezzerides if she’d rather just bail and let the dead bury their own. She’s not ready to run just yet, and Ray’s never been one to run away.
Director John W. Crowley (“Other Lives” episode earlier this season, Brooklyn) then turns the camera to Frank arriving at the Chessani house. All signs point to some sort of altercation with the mayor’s car door ajar and broken, busted plant pots. He follows the trail to the back pool where the mayor’s corpse floats. Poolside, an empty bottle of rum and spilled pills indicate suicide, but Frank knows that the mayor never had the initiative to kill himself. He enters the house with his gun drawn, whistles for anybody, and notices a box full of invitations to Tony Chessani’s “parties” on the coffee table before the mayor’s wife appears. She’s strung out on drugs to the point where she doesn’t know what day it is, only remembering some shouting about Tony’s parties. This immediately piques Frank’s interest, prompting him to ask how Mrs. Chessani met the mayor. She confirms that Tony introduced them, a conclusion most were able to draw from her think Eastern Block accent. “But you were Tony’s friend first?” Frank manhandles her outside to the pool where she shrieks at the sight of her dead husband. He wants to know where the mayor’s daughter is, but Mrs. Chessani doesn’t know—she only remembers the girl was part of the yelling and is sick “like her mother.” Frank then has to explain that the mayor didn’t kill himself because his grief-stricken wife is “dense.” He knows Tony’s behind it and that Mrs. Chessani was only ever introduced to the mayor so that she’d inevitably take the fall for his murder later on down the line. “I hope you saved some of that ‘Miss Ukraine’ money,” the gangster leaves on dark, sardonic words.
Crowley shows us Ray and Ani approaching the address they got from Lenny’s union credentials. They draw their weapons and inspect the house before moving inside after noticing the raven mask on a shelf from the window. Ray found his shooter from “Night Finds You,” we also know this confirms Lenny as the driver who ferried Caspere from his house to the park bench where Woodrugh originally found him at the end of “The Western Book of the Dead.” Here’s Pizzolatto showing us that Lenny killed Ben Caspere, but the case hardly feels cracked. Early on in season two, it became obvious that the murder of Ben Caspere was never too big of a concern—it was mostly the collusion of the greater evil that Katharine Davis was desperate to end. Deeper in the house, the shotgun used to pop Ray appears with “less lethal” shells. Photos of Burris and Holloway hang clothes-pinned to a string. A shout of “LEN!” interrupts their search, prompting them to step into the living room and find Erica handcuffed to the hearth. “They split us up after—I had a foster family,” Erica records her story in the next scene on a smart phone. Her brother went in through a group home, and she ran away at age 16 to work the streets. Tasha introduced to her to Caspere through Tony’s parties and told her about the diamonds, which she suspected to be the ones robbed from her parents all those years ago. When Erica first saw Caspere, she knew him as the man who used to meet her mother. She dyed her hair (he didn’t recognize her from the parties) and went to work as his assistant where she started digging up dirt. Somewhere down the line, she reconnected with her brother Lenny and got him hired on the movie set. It turns out she drugged Caspere and left the door to his Hollywood place open so Lenny could enter and interrogate him for more names, hence the acid for torture purposes. Despite Caspere’s confession of everything, Lenny killed him because he couldn’t regulate his temper.
Erica suspects her brother ditched the body as he had in “The Western Book of the Dead” because he thought it was “funny.” Lenny left her tied to the hearth so she couldn’t interfere in his meeting up with Chief Holloway at the new train station, where her brother would kill the Chief under the guise of exchanging the hard drive for the diamonds. Ray immediately leaves for the station to stop Lenny as Ani stays with Erica to keep her safe. An aerial transition of the highway shows Frank driving while on an unwanted call with Osip. Frank wants to punch his ticket, which would be the real reason he answered the call. He hangs up only to get a call from Ray. “Ray? I was just thinking about you.” Crowley then shows Ani dropping Erica off at a bus station with a ticket headed for Seattle. Ani comforts her so far as saying that she doesn’t deserve to be punished for the murder of Caspere, but can’t make the same promise for her brother. “Lay him to rest—sounds like you lost him years ago.” Ani leaves and Erica boards a bus as the camera turns to the Black Rose cocktail lounge where the bartender opens a series of secret doors to allow Frank and two heavy duffle bags through. The bags contain weapons and ammo. He tells her that he’s signing the bar over to her now that he’s skipping town. He catches her up on everything that’s gone down so she can expect two more guests later. Frank looks over as Lera Lynn starts playing on stage to an empty room. Her song takes over the audio as the camera transitions to Ray Velcoro arriving at the terminal wearing a ten-gallon hat and aviator sunglasses, looking like he arrived straight out of a Clint Eastwood movie. Riding an escalator, Ray sees his face on the news. He’s a wanted man, and when the ride stops, Velcoro spots Lenny leaning against some lockers with a paper bag in his hands.
Ray silently surprises Lenny from behind at knifepoint, warning him to chill. “I am the blade, I am the bullet,” Lenny reminds us. He wants revenge for executing his father and “turning my sister into a whore.” Ray directs him to “listen carefully” as Crowley shows Holloway entering the station to join the party. Holloway looks across the open area and spots his man Burris incognito, reading the paper. The corrupt police chief hardly believes his eyes when Velcoro whistles him to come over and take a seat with their backs to Lenny. Ray holds the bag presumably carrying the defunct hard drive, wiped of all data after tampering. Ray tells him “one of the Osterman kids” from the ’92 robbery killed Caspere and now lies in a landfill (which we know is a bluff to get Holloway talking). Velcoro wants the diamonds, but Holloway only has plastic ones because he didn’t know he’d eventually meet with Ray. Velcoro explains the entire story aloud for the benefit of the running digital recorder taping the conversation; Holloway confirms it more or less. Ray asks him if he knows Mayor Chessani is dead. “Not the Chessani I work for,” Holloway replies. The chief tells him to implicate Bezzerides just as Ray spots Burris across the way. Ray asks about the robberies again to which Holloway confirms that Mrs. Osterman was having an affair with Caspere for a long time and was pregnant. “She knew things.” Erica was Ben’s illegitimate daughter and he wanted Mrs. Osterman dead before she could birth another of his children. Lenny cannot stand to hear this and leaps over the chair to attack Holloway, drawing Burris out of cover. He aims at Ray while Lenny tries to finish Holloway with a knife. Ani steps out of cover and saves Ray’s bacon, shooting Burris. Ani and Ray duck out one way as Burris escapes with a wound. Security arrives and shoots up both Lenny and Holloway as Ray’s digital recorder gets stomped and destroyed in the panic. Ouch. We’ve seen so much irony this season in true Greek tragedy form.
Some aerial desert shots and industrial Vinci shots land on Lera Lynn in the Black Rose, finishing her song as a few people now populate the bar room. In the hidden room, the bartender picks glass out of Ray while Frank and Ani meet, culminating to an interesting introduction making me wish these characters had more scenes earlier in the season. Vaughn and McAdams have great chemistry still after starring in Wedding Crashers together a decade ago in summer 2005. He then charges her with meeting Jordan in Venezuela and delivering a message in a few weeks because it’s become obvious he holds no intentions of surviving whatever business he needs to finish. He gives her Jordan’s photo as Ray and the bartender enter to find a small weapons cache spread out on a cot. A jump time shows that Frank has offered Ray the same way out to Venezuela. The catch? They rob Osip and Catalyst with the weapons Frank has for a daring heist. They’ll need capitol on the run and those bad guys surely don’t deserve all that dirty money. Frank then confesses it was Blake who set Ray up with the wrong name and that “…he did not go nicely. Maybe I spared you that one.” Frank asks Ray if we wants to avenge his “buddy” that the news says he killed. “Actually, I don’t think I knew him that well, but yeah, he was my friend.” Frank then describes this endeavor as “revenge, justice, a retirement package.”
In another hidden room, the bartender describes the journey to Venezuela to Ani, admitting she’s tried to get Ray to see San Miguel for a long time after he avenged her by taking care of the people who gave her the scars. The bartender asks Ani how she knows Ray. “We saved each other’s lives.” The camera then shows Lera Lynn leaving the bar room with her guitar case as we glide to Ani and Ray talking about getting confessions from the surviving Chessanis and anybody else. “I’ve heard enough confessions today,” Ray says. He justifies his part in this heist to her. “I owe this filth…I owe Woodrugh.” She asks him if he’d run right then if she asked him, and he replies that he “just might.” They share a cigarette and hold hands as highway transitions show Frank and Ray on the road at night on the way to the cash exchange. At the Pitlor Clinic, Ani draws her gun and walks about the premises until she finds Pitlor dead in his chair in what looks like a staged suicide with his wrists slit open and his patient files emptied. At the exchange, Osip and McCandless smoke stogies and grin widely until Frank and Ray come at them with everything in a full-out assault with smoke grenades and high-caliber weaponry. They pick off every goon, kill McCandless, Frank even executes Osip like he promised earlier, and they make off with the cash. At a parking lot, each man takes a bag of money and a new car as Frank torches the SUV they just used. Frank asks Ray if he’s going to Venezuela and picks up hesitation, knowing it’s related to his son. They come to an understanding and shake hands. Neither of these men expects to survive the coming day. They head different ways as the sun rises on southern California.
Ani tells Ray that Pitlor was a dead end over the phone, but Ray suggests that they can tell the press later or even that journalist he beat up in “The Western Book of the Dead.” Ray tells her he’s on the way, but something’s troubling him. He clearly wants to see Chad one final time. In a motel room, Frank packs a suitcase with money and clothes. He trades the money for diamonds with the Orthodox Jewish jeweler he spoke with in “Black Maps and Motel Rooms.” Crowley jumps back to Ray on the road, admiring an old photo of Chad. Returning to Frank, he finishes business with the Armenians who run the bakery as they give him a new passport and vehicle. Ray sees Chad at school and watches him from afar, behind a fence. Ray spots his father’s badge with his son as the boy finally seems to have made some friends. Chad looks a lot happier than he has in any previous episode despite the fact that his father’s a wanted man. The boy looks up, sees his dad, and they salute each other before Ray leaves to find a tracker stuck under his car. Lighting a cigarette, he contemplates his next move before he inevitably gets in the vehicle anyway to drive away. A black SUV peels out and follows Velcoro.
In Vinci, Frank gets stuck between vehicles. The Mexican gangsters stick many weapons in his face as a few get in the car with him. “Why?” he asks, now from the passenger seat. The men stay silent as the caravan drives out to the desert. Notice the raven on the passing billboard. Back at the secret Black Rose room, Ani finishes dyeing her hair as Ray calls her to say he’s being tracked because he visited Chad. “I’m gonna be late. Get on that boat.” He comes up with all manner of excuses to not ditch the car and assures her he’ll “be right on your heels.” Ray says she’s “going to need a restraining order” to keep him away from her before speaking with the bartender, Felicia, on the phone. He tells Felicia that he won’t make it, she owes him, and to get Ani on that boat. Out in the desert, Frank meets the leader of the Mexican gangsters who ordered the death of Irina Rulfo earlier this year. They’re upset he went back on their deal by burning his businesses. This gets cut in with Ray driving and recording a final message for Chad. It’s a heartfelt apology and he says everything he’s wanted to say to Chad. “You’re better than me. If I had been stronger, I would’ve been more like you…If everyone was stronger, they’d be more like you.” Crowley also gives us a quick glance of Ani and Felicia at the boat docks before returning to Frank in the desert where he offers his suitcase as a square trade. In a wooded, winding park, Ray races to get reception so Chad can get his last voice message. He parks, grabs a weapon, and spills the millions of dollars in the duffle bag in the scramble to run away. Ditching the cash, Velcoro heads for higher ground. Woodrugh’s skill set would prove most helpful about here. Felicia and Ani board the boat as we return to Frank in the desert. He wants a ride back into town, but the price—surrendering his nice suit—is too high of a rate. Frank assaults the man who wants his suit and ends up stabbed in the scuffle. The gangsters depart and leave Frank for dead.
When the cars leave, Frank rises and starts his struggle to walk toward civilization as Velcoro struggles to evade Burris and a few Black Mountain mercenaries in the forest. The boat ferrying Ani and Felicia leaves from shore while the camera returns to Frank struggling in the desert. He begins to hallucinate all the bullies he ever faced in his life, beginning with his abusive, alcoholic father. Vaughn presents a revelatory performance here, an angry, dying man talking back to his enemies that made him what he is. Expect him in the Golden Globes talk around December and January. In the forest, Burris asks for Ani and the Catalyst papers before Ray manages to kill a few of his pursuers. A quick shot of Bezzerides reveals the boat’s name to be “Grand Escape.” Frank continues his penance walk through the desert as carrion birds begin following his trail of blood. A gang confronts him, and he brushes them off. “…I never lie down.” In the forest, Ray has a moment of clarity hiding behind a Redwood tree before stepping out to shoot and getting shot up by the remaining pursuers. As we watch him die, the camera transitions to Ani on the ocean. Sensing Ray’s death, she breaks down as the camera turns to Burris approaching Ray’s corpse. By the tree, we see on Ray’s phone that his final message for Chad failed to upload in a soul-crushing blow from Pizzolatto. Frank walks by a man from his past, begging him to help save him from what seems to be some sort of execution. “I didn’t put you here.” He hears Jordan say “Hey there, handsome,” and sees her standing before him in a white dress. “I’m coming. Hold on,” he tells her. He shares lovely, heart-breaking, parting words with the hallucination of his wife before realizing he’s already dead.
A small whirlwind blows through the desert as the camera turns to the forest, the trees, and the mountain. Burris and the mercenaries examine Ray as Crowley shows Ray’s father watching the news. Ray died like his father predicted in the dream at the opening of “Maybe Tomorrow.” A quick shot of Ray’s ex-wife, Gena, shows her opening the paternity result letter and learning that Ray is, in fact, Chad’s biological father. The next shot shows Woodrugh’s mother, girlfriend, and son (baby wears the symbolic blue) at a dedication for the CHP Officer Paul C. Woodrugh Memorial Highway—presumably the highway that Catalyst, Semyon, Caspere, and everybody else wanted a piece of all along. Wow—a bunch of ironic gotchas in Greek Tragedy style. Ani begins narrating as we see Tony Chessani take oath of office as mayor of Vinci with his father’s old assistant, his sister, the Mexican gangsters, and Burris. Geldof shakes hands with Catalyst before Crowley finally settles on a Venezuelan city (note the Chavez art) in the middle of a festival. In a motel room overlooking the festivities, Ani tells a journalist the entire story with all the evidence she gathered sitting out on a bed. He wants her to take the story “to the Times” with him, but Bezzerides insists it’s his story to tell now and directs him to wait an hour before leaving the room after she does. In another room, Jordan plays with a baby. It seems like hers until Ani enters and picks it up. While on the run, Jordan finally got a child. It isn’t hers, but we’re led to assume she’s a major player in the baby’s life so far as she and Ani presumably met under Frank’s instructions. Ani gathers her child, sticks a knife in her boot, and leaves with Jordan as the Lera Lynn song from earlier starts up again. Nails waits outside and joins them as they all leave together like a weird family unit, weaving the enormous crowd.
That was the second season of “True Detective.” While not the pop phenomenon that stirred up a craze last year, Pizzolatto again presented a thick mystery with dense layers like some sort of James Ellroy and Greek Tragedy pastiche. The oedipal complex factored heavily with fathers, sons, and the cyclical nature of fathers and sons. We also had victims with their eyes removed and an overt reference to Panticapaeum. Like the first season, the “killer” originally popped in for the third episode, and the parallels of Lenny Osterman to Errol Childress don’t end there. All of the male protagonists died to provide a getaway for their romantic partner, even if Ray dug himself into his own grave by visiting Chad one final time. While Ray and Paul live on through their sons, what are we to make of Frank’s arc? Was he just the gangster born to lose despite his many victories? Despite critical and audience backlash circulating the web, I can honestly say I don’t stand in that camp. This season kept me hooked from the moment Lera Lynn started singing “My Least Favorite Life” as Paul drove into the darkness without fear and fell upon Caspere’s body. No complaints here as I appreciate Pizzolatto daring to trying something different from the first season. Nobody wants a rehash of something they’ve seen before, and the writer/ creator delivered. Perhaps the only thing I would’ve kept from the first season would be to hire one director for all eight episodes as none of the directors were able to match the artistry Cary Fukunaga put out there with Rust, Marty, and the Carcosa conspiracy. Will there be a third season? Nothing’s confirmed, so…nevermind.