After the disappointing season premiere , I was hoping that the second episode of ‘True Detective’ this year would engage me in a way the first episode didn’t. The bad news is that a big chunk of Episode 2 is just more of the same, a lot of exposition and not much of it very interesting. However, there’s some characterization here too, and the episode at least wraps up with a hook that has me wondering what will happen next week.
While this second entry ends strong, it starts off with an annoying scene that has Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) lying in bed with his wife and staring at a water stain on the ceiling. This prompts Frank to go into a long, pathetic diatribe about how his father used to lock him in the basement and how, one time, he got locked down there for days and had to smash a rat that chewed on his finger. Yeah, there’s suppose do be some kind of insight into Frank’s character here, but this is just badly written television.
One of the big debates early in Episode 2 is the question of who will be assigned to the investigation of city manager Ben Caspar’s death. It’s decided that Ani (Rachel McAdams) will be the lead on the case, with Ray (Colin Farrell) backing her up. Paul (Taylor Kitsch) is also offered the chance to be part of the investigation with the promise that if things go well, he’ll be given a detective badge when things wrap up. However, all Paul really wants is to return to his bike patrol as a CHP officer. Later on, Ray suggests to Ani that the only reason they’ve been assigned to this investigation is because the powers-that-be want it to go badly.
As I mentioned at the onset of this recap, there’s a whole lot of exposition in this episode, and most of it revolves around Ben Caspar’s background and how his death has left Frank responsible for payments that he now can’t make. We already know from last week that Caspar was into kinky sex, and this week we learn he was into younger girls – maybe not underage, but certainly young prostitutes and escorts. The fact that Caspar’s corpse not only had his eyes burned out, but his genitals gruesomely removed probably means that his demise had something to do with his sexual proclivities.
‘True Detective’ gets most interesting when the show ignores the primary investigation in favor of the main characters’ personal lives. We learn this week that Paul has a mother, Nancy (Lolita Davidovich), who lives in a trailer park and loves Clint Eastwood movies. Mom seems just a little too enamored with her son, if you know what I mean. This may have a lot to do with Paul’s own relationship problems with his girlfriend – who, by the way, tells Paul not to come back when he leaves their place toward the end of this week’s episode.
Meanwhile, Ray goes to the pick-up location for his weekly visitation with his son, only to find his ex-wife (Abigail Spencer) waiting for him. She’s heard about Ray beating up the father of one of their son’s classmates and she tells Ray she’s going to file for sole custody. Ray isn’t happy, to say the least, and his ex (like most exes) spends a few minutes telling Ray what an awful person he’s become.
Knowing that Ray is part of the investigation into Caspar’s death, Frank tries to help him out by getting information. Frank discovers and relays to Ray that Caspar had a second, smaller home in Hollywood. He also tells Ray that he has him lined up to become the next Chief of Police in Vinci. Ray, however, having just learned that he’ll most likely lose the right to see his son, tells Frank that the reason he’s been helping him out all these years may no longer exist anymore. Frank tells Ray that he never wants to hear him talk like that again, and leaves Ray a few bucks on the table – although Ray refuses to pick up the money.
This episode wraps up with Ray visiting Caspar’s other house in Hollywood. After getting inside, Ray sees what looks to be a large pool of blood on the floor. Animal heads line the walls, and Ray finds a hidden room with what looks like video recording equipment in it. Ray senses someone behind him and turns to shoot, but it’s too late as the darkened figure blasts Ray with a shotgun. The mysterious man is wearing a large crow’s (or maybe that’s a raven) mask over his head, and he walks over to Ray’s body and shoots him a second time.
While I wasn’t that impressed with most of this week’s episode, I have to confess that’s one heck of an ending. Has ‘True Detective’ really just killed off the season’s headlining actor, or will this turn into another one of those television tropes where a character gets seriously injured in one episode but is walking around fine just a couple of episodes later? Given recent series’ trend of killing off main characters (often for no good reason) to shock viewers, I suppose it’s quite possible that Colin Farrell only signed up for the series knowing his time would be limited. It’s also possible that the remaining episodes will just feature him in flashbacks. My guess, though, is that we’ll see Ray out of the hospital and back on the case in a few weeks.
Because of the nifty ending, Episode 2 is more entertaining than the premiere, but I’m still not very excited about this season. While I’m curious to find out what those large crow masks are all about (a secret society, perhaps?), most of the talk (and there’s a huge chunk of it) about the high-speed rail system that’s being built and the financial windfall that may be a result of it is boring me to tears.