UK TV review: True Detective Season 2, Episode 7
Ivan Radford | On 04, Aug 2015
Already seen Episode 7? Read on for spoilers.
“Maybe you were put on Earth for more than fucking,” says Ani (Rachel McAdams), after emerging, bleary-eyed, from a drug-fuelled orgy with Vinci’s richest men. She’s talking to Vera, the missing girl she rescued from the sex palace. “Everything is fucking,” comes the reply.
What else did you expect from True Detective? An upbeat message of empowerment? But as Nic Pizzolatto’s crime drama nears its close, it’s tempting to read into those kind of lines as knowing statements about the world he’s created. After all, we’re now at the business end of Season 2 and things are coming together. In fact, this is the best episode of the show’s muddled second season so far.
Sex has always been a key driving force of Vinci’s vice-laden society. For Ray (Colin Farrell), an assault on his wife drove his life of the rails, while for Ani (Rachel McAdams), abuse in her past, thanks to her father’s dubious cult, has turned her into the woman she is today – it remains a bit of a shame that McAdams’ excellent performance has been explained away with such a familiar back-story. Off her head on molly, she comes on to Ray in one of the show’s most awkward and unconvincing romantic pairings – only for Velcoro to ward her off. Sex will not make things better, he tells her. “It normally does,” she retorts.
That’s the kind of attitude you can imagine being widespread in this corrupt corner of California. Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) banked on that being the case when he shacked up with his current partner, a heterosexual relationship to cover up his homosexual past. Frank (Vince Vaughn), meanwhile, has failed to produce a son through procreation. In fact, he’s the least sexual lead character in the programme; we see him in bed talking through problems with Jordan, not making the beast with two backs. That non-sexual nature leaves him more able to cut and run from his current life, as things continue to go down the toilet. “There is no getting out,” he’s told by scowling gangster Osip, who, we discover, is one of the people who screwed Frank out of the land he bought from Caspere. Osip is now the one in charge of Frank’s casino. Frank? He’s just an employee.
Paul, just to emphasise the contrast, finds his hook-ups coming back to haunt him, as old Miguel from his black ops days resurfaces with some blackmail threats. It’s a naughty rabbit hole that burrows all the way down to a superbly shot night-time encounter, which features guns, torches and almost total silence. It climaxes in a showdown with a sinister gangster type. Except, once the heated exchange gets underway, we realise that he’s actually a police officer. Who? That’s a bit trickier.
It’s a reminder in the middle of a cracking hour that True Detective Season 2 is a long way from the relatively elegant tension of the first run: in its efforts to depict a Raymond Chandler-esque world of twists and red herrings, Pizzolatto’s script relies too much on our ability to remember background characters whom we only glimpse once. As a tactic, it’s not a bad one, but when coupled with the show’s alienating penchant for ripe dialogue and unsubtle themes, it’s a difficult one to pull off; much like the emotional clout of an unexpected death, the series has distanced its audience so much by now that it’s hard for us to care.
The cast, though, are firing on all cylinders, selling the screenplay with all they’ve got. Vaughn, now given a real drive to act (instead of monologuing passively while looking at the ceiling), is superb, pretending to be downtrodden to his enemies while plotting fiery retribution and safety for Jordan behind his glinting eyes. (One sequence between him and his dodgy sidekick, Blake, is brutally good.) Kitsch, meanwhile, stares out of the window of his car, as his partner confronts him – a look that says he’s longing to be back on his solitary bike. It’s Farrell and McAdams who impress most of all, though, as Pizzolatto lets them bond with just meaningful glances, a union that is as cliched as it is oddly satisfying. After all, they’re both wanted police outcasts now, framed for murders they didn’t commit.
And then, amid the build-up of unspoken chemistry, one of them opens their mouth. “Do you miss it?” Ray asks. “What?” “Anything,” he offers. Suddenly, we’re back into the heavy-handed speech territory of old – a shift of gear that clashes with Season 2’s new-found momentum. Everything is fucking, you remember. Sometimes, though, a deep-sounding line is exactly that.
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.
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Spoilers and further consideration
– Of course, Blake is a bad guy – and, of course, Frank gives him a glass to the face. The soft fade between Vince’s angry, stoic face and Ray driving to meet DA Davis really lets the violence of that scene simmer.
– As soon as Ray arrives, he realises she’s been killed – and with his gun, no less. Combined with Ani now being hunted for the death of the security guard at last night’s orgy, they’re a right pair. So no wonder they end up bonking each other. (Kudos to Nic for having him turn her down when she’s off her face: that could have been a very horrible scene.)
– And so, to Paul. Poor, poor Paul. Blackmailed by Miguel, Paul agrees to meet him, only to end up chatting to Holloway, who wants the file that Paul stole. Because while you’re busy having a sex party, it’s important to leave incriminating documents lying around.
– Holloway, it turns out, is linked to a stolen diamond case from years back, on which Caspere was the chief accountant. This reveal is meant to be shocking: a demonstration of how rife corrupt is in Vinci. But the fact that the revelation is so empty is a sign of just how much True Detective has misplayed its hand this season. Even as it comes together to become a more coherent, and coherently paced, thriller, those problems in the past are still lingering.
– After taking out Miguel, Paul’s tracked through some wonderfully atmospheric tunnels, from which he eventually escapes… only to get shot anyway. It’s another surprising moment – but again, how much do you care that Paul is out of the game? And how much of that is because you’ve already seen Colin Farrell get shot and survive earlier in the season? Good endings are great, but you need good beginnings and middles to set them up.
– Speaking of which, what’s going on with Caspere’s death, the mystery that started this whole thing? Before Ani and Ray get into bed, our detective duo do some detecting, unearthing some photos of a former assistant of Caspere and Laura – who saw her parents killed years ago during that diamond robbery we mentioned. In other words, we have a connection to someone who could well have a motivation for bumping off everyone’s favourite former city planner. It’s telling, though, that the most intriguing question is this: with Frank burning his casinos to the ground, can he get together enough money to escape to Jordan? Vaughn has been much maligned by some this season, but Semyon’s emerged as the show’s strongest character come the final chapters. Imagine if he reached this point in his narrative in the second or third episode and he was the lead.
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