UK TV review: True Detective Season 2, Episode 4 (Down Will Come)
James R | On 13, Jul 2015
Already seen Episode 4? Read on for some additional, spoiler-filled comments.
“Is this worth sticking out?” Jordan (Kelly Reilly) asks Frank (Vince Vaughn) in Episode 4 of True Detective Season 2. It seems like it’s no coincidence that such a line should crop up at the halfway point of this troubled season – the point at which everyone will be asking themselves the same question. “If we walk away now,” comes Frank’s sad reply. “What do we walk with?”
Before True Detective returned for its second run, a lot of people had doubts about Vince Vaughn’s casting as the villain of the piece, but the actor has consistently impressed over these first four hours – in spite of Nic Pizzolatto’s dire scripts, which have given him some of the worst lines in a show full of worst lines. It’s testament to Vaughn and Reilly that they’ve emerged as two of the show’s strongest characters, a pleasingly complex couple teetering between crime and (extremely dodgy) legal business, between parenthood and a childless marriage.
Frank, of course, can’t stand the idea of not being a dad – he’s part and parcel of the series’ hyper-macho themes of fatherhood and masculinity. Being a dad gives him a legacy, justifying his assumed status as Vinci’s Mr. Big. For Ray, it represents a chance for redemption; a reason to turn around his life. This week, we discover that Woodrugh is also looking at becoming a papa – despite the fact that he can’t get it up without a couple of blue pills. Woodrugh’s repressed homosexuality, too, puts him at odds with this idea of procreation, just as it does the manly image of a cop riding a bike.
But we’ve already covered these grounds in detail – and, more to the point, unsubtle detail. The detective work that happens here brings us back in touch with Ani’s dad, a conversation that helps to shed some light on the tracking down of Caspere’s killer. It dredges up all the issues of fatherhood (and cult upbringing) that we need to know about Rachel McAdams’ character, without the explicit exposition of Episode 1. Imagine if this were our first meeting with him and you get a sense of how haphazard True Detective’s pacing has been. (Ray, Ani’s father informs him, has “the largest aura” he’s ever seen. Which is either a code for his penis or his moustache.)
If the first three episodes have dragged under the portentous weight of their overblown dialogue and heavy-handed, gloomy back-stories, though, Down Will Come marks the turning point where that might start to change. Our trio’s investigation takes us from the Mayor’s house last week to his daughter and, eventually, to a pawn shop pimp, whose prostitute was attempting to flog the dead city planner’s belongings. So far, so standard, but it all builds to a staggering set piece: a shootout in the streets that goes on for at least 10 minutes.
It’s a big statement from the show: while the first run gave us handguns and trailers, this is a sprawling sequence full of machine guns and explosions. Pizzolatto’s ambitions of creating a Michael Mann-like noir have fallen short at almost every hurdle, but this is a fairly convincing step in the right direction. The only problem is that, following last week’s reveal of Ray’s survival, the shootout is lacking in a much-needed sense of peril: we’ve already seen one cop get shot and survive, so every time we see another get gunned down, we automatically expect him to get back up again. Director Jeremy Podeswa, though, does his best to compensate: after time on Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, he knows how to shoot action, taking time to linger on the bullet holes and, finally, the bodies that pile up.
Is it enough to kickstart Season 2? Not quite. The obstacles facing our main three cops are more than just bullets – Paul has to answer for his military past; Ani’s visit to the Mayor has repercussions; Ray is, well, Ray – but even as the gang begin to draw together to form a more cohesive, appealing unit, the show still feels like it has a long way to go to do the same. But hey, if we all stop watching now, what do we end up with?
True Detective Season 1 and 2 are available on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial.
Where can I buy or rent True Detective online in the UK?
Additional notes (contains spoilers)
– “This wouldn’t happen to a male detective.” While it’s fun to see Rachel McAdam’s cop rail against the clearly made-up accusations of sexual harassment, you hope they do more with the show’s first main female character than simply treat her as just that. Although it’s nice to see her wield a gun and not focus on that knife angle that Nic was trying to run with early on.
– Woodrugh facing questions about “war crimes” from journalists is an interesting twist: could his military past turn out to have relevance upon the current case, rather than just a back-story to establish his macho credentials?
– Ray being offered a job with Frank as his enforcer because “his talents are being wasted” – is that a sign that Frank is getting desperate? Or proof that Ray off the bottle is a much more impressive figure? Hell, even his moustache looks perky when he’s sober.
– Speaking of desperate, Frank’s refusal to adopt (which he calls “doing someone else’s time”) is as on-the-nose as the couple’s struggle to grow something in their garden, but at least we get to see more of Vaughn threatening people for money. This week, Vince even manages to make chatting about his dental work intimidating.