TV Review: Solving Latest 2 Episodes of 'True Detective'

Episode 2: “Night Finds You” |
Opening with a monologue from Vince Vaughn’s Frank, the second episode of HBO’s anthological series got off to a meditative start, filling in some of the backstories for the reformed crime boss with a tragic tale of neglect he endured during his terrible childhood. Speaking of childhoods, viewers also got a glimpse into the sordid relationship between Paul and his mother. To say their dynamic was awkward would be putting it mildly.

Meanwhile, Ray’s ex-wife showed up, demanding he stay away from their son. Her rebuke of him as a “bad man” was excessively harsh. The man has been trying to be a father to a child that is clearly not biologically his and for a very cruel reason. Stepping up to the plate in light of a very difficult circumstance speaks to him not being an entirely bad person. Is he an alcoholic needing counseling for the trauma of his dissolved marriage and the reason behind it? Absolutely and a little compassion would go a long way. Ray’s ex-wife’s behavior just seemed callous.

Understandably, she’s upset about his outburst with the bully and his drinking, but she needs to be working on getting him to help, not cutting him off from the boy he regards as his son. Not to mention all of this concern comes from a woman who, according to Ray, spent quite a bit of time out of the maternal picture. She’s also shown no empathy for why her husband would even go after her attacker in the first place. The idea of his wanting to avenge her seems to be a concept that’s completely lost on her.

This leads us to another plot point and a beyond-sinister possibility that was subtly hinted at during the episode. One of Frank’s enforcers had bright red hair, a trait Ray’s son shares. Is it possible that Frank had one of his own guys rape Ray’s wife to get Ray under his thumb when he inevitably came to Frank wanting revenge? It’s a chilling thought.

There was a lot of hinting in this particular installment. It felt like we were being led to various possibilities that, while sensical, also seemed too obvious a conclusion for a mystery series. The aforementioned Frank hint and the not-too-subtle intimation that Paul might be gay. All of the pieces seem to fit both puzzles. The only thing is, none of those answers would be all that shocking if they were to be revealed. Instinct says there has to be something more to it.

Side Notes / Burning Questions: Did anyone else find Rick Springfield almost unrecognizable as the creepy shrink? Why is a show called “True Detective” spending so much time on a criminal character? After Episode 2, there is no question that Season 1 was superior. Ani is still not all that engaging, though her patrol car chat and overall interaction with Ray breathed the most life we’ve seen in the character.

Episode 3: “Maybe Tomorrow” | Opening with the heavy aura of David Lynch, it didn’t take long to learn that Ray had survived his apparently fatal gunshot wounds. Thankfully for him (and viewers), they were rubber bullets. After landing a shocking moment with last week’s cliffhanger, the propulsion of vigor that felt primed to jumpstart the season’s energy diminished to nothing. Like driving down a dark, twisty road, the overall investigation only adds confusion, turning up a few resolutions. The more they investigate, the more tangled it all becomes. Waiting for this whole mystery to unspool is becoming tedious. 

At the heart of the problem is solving this crime, which has not been challenging to personally invest in, in terms of interest. The victim was a crooked libertine who really had not garnered much sympathy. As a result, the storyline isn’t offering a huge motivation to catch the killer, and it appears the lackluster desire to nab them is trickling down to the on-screen detectives.

Unlike last season, the trio of investigators working on season two’s case has demonstrated little zeal for solving this one, and you can’t really blame them for their lack of enthusiasm. It’s all a political minefield, and everyone acts as someone’s puppet, even if they don’t realize it. In this case, there aren’t any personal stakes, the way there were for Rust and Marty.

On a separate note, Vince Vaughn has been doing some of his best work in years as the psychologically damaged Frank. In the previous episode, he shined in the opening monologue and its follow-up. he portrayed the tough side of the criminal trying to go legit with equal measure. When the show revolves around Vaughn and Colin Farrell, it is at its best. Vaughn utilizes his nifty gift for monologues, and Farrell continues to impress with his signature ability to portray a demeanor that is as tender as it is volatile.

As the mystery surrounding Paul’s personal life lingers on, there continues to be mounting support for the theory he’s gay. This plot point has already grown so obvious that there’s nothing left to solve. What is this build-up leading to if the outcome is so obvious though? Could we be being faked out like we were Ray’s fate? If so, what is the point?

Side Notes / Burning Questions: Does anyone care about discovering who killed Caspere? It is unlikely that Ani will be working her feminine wiles on Ray anytime soon. Will Ani ever stop being angry? Why is destroying Velcaro such a high priority for the department? It is starting to look personal. He’s certainly not the biggest fish in the pool of compromised cops.