Welcome back True Detectives.
“Pain is inexhaustible. It’s only people who get exhausted.”
It’s another of Ray’s little recorder messages that he supposedly makes for his son. It’s a good summary of how myself and other viewers are feeling about his season. Misery as an art form is only effective in contrast. That is, with actual happiness bleeding through. Why should we care who murdered the sex-crazed victim Ben Caspere? Why should we care about the intentionally-polluted rail corridor? Why should we care about corruption so institutionalized, it parades as governance? The show has provided no answers to these questions and, quite frankly, I’m getting pretty fucking exhausted.
We begin 66 days after the Vinci Massacre. Ray quit the force – and his mustache – to work “security” for Frank, basically handling the shakedowns of Frank’s slums. Ani was banished the the evidence locker while undergoing what is likely the worst counseling group in the history of counseling groups (dick size is the topic of conversation). Paul is relegated to insurance fraud while the bitch princess who accused him soliciting a blow job continues her charade against him. Last but not least, Frank is once again knee-deep running his criminal enterprise.
Our characters are in proverbial hell and so are we, the viewer. It’s beginning to be a chore to get through the raindance of misery our characters are perpetually stuck in. You begin to wonder is Pizzolatto himself lives in this haze of existential agony, unable to give himself or his characters a fucking moment of sunlight.
We find out the Attorney General (played by Dexter‘s C.S. Lee) has used the investigation to propel himself into a gubernatorial bid. You know the world is corrupt when Vince Masuka is running for governor. Velcoro was right; the state’s investigation into Vinci was a front for a power grab from all sides.
The episode acts as a reboot of the investigation: our three cop protagonists are brought back together by black lady attorney (whom I shall refer to here on out as Amanda Waller) to reopen Caspere’s murder. Paul and Ani take little convincing; it’s Ray who displays reluctance at the hero’s call. It’s only when she promises to help him keep custody of his son Chad that he agrees to join.
Speaking of his son, Ray’s custody hearing takes a nosedive when his wife demands a paternity test. What’s more, he discovers later that, unbeknownst to him, his wife’s real rapist was captured. A shocked and bemused Ray is at a loss. Did Frank set him up? Who did he kill?
Looking for more work to fund his custody battle, Ray tails Frank’s lieutenant Blake who, just last week, learned the word “louche.” He tails him to a palatial estate in the hills. There, he sees him meet with Dr. Pitlor the psychiatrist and Mayor Chessani’s douchebag son Tony while they set up one of their secretive sex parties. He also discovers Frank’s old business partner Osip is involved in the sex trafficking. Ray goes to Pitlor’s office and beats the every living shit out of him. Pitlor admits Caspere had gathered blackmail evidence with Tony to use against the power players who frequent the parties. It ends rather ambiguously, with Ray approaching the bloodied Pitlor with his club to . . . kill him? Beat him some more? The show doesn’t tell us.
Ani’s sister Athena appears to be doing well, having gotten into art school. Of course now Ani wants her help to get access to the sex parties that Caspere and the variety of the high-level scumbags we’ve met use to collude and conspire. Something terrible will happen, probably, to derail Athena’s upward trajectory.
Paul’s continuing to live a lie and we’re treated to another visit to his shitty mom. We find out he had stashed $20,000 from his time in Afghanistan in her trailer and, somehow, he’s surprised when he finds his mother spent it all. Another lecture about the virtues of being a white man and mention of Paul’s true sexuality later, he’s out the door to drink himself into believing he’s straight.
He and Ani follow up on Caspere leads. Paul discovers Dixon – Ray’s partner who was shot dead during the massacre – was trailing leads without them. Ani follows up on the missing person’s case from the premiere which leads both of them to an abandoned house in the hills. Ani notices carrion birds circling nearby. Birds are apparently a theme this season. It leads them to a rundown shack where someone was gruesomely tortured.
For what it’s worth, this is Vince Vaughn’s best episode to date, mainly because he’s actually allowed to show emotion. The last four episodes have tried to sell us on Semyon’s outwardly-sophisticated, inwardly-tortured persona without actually, you know, telling anything about him (don’t get me started on the water stain speech, which makes a brief reappearance at the end). When he was tearing up at his wife’s reasoning for adopting a kid, it was the first time he felt like a character and not a caricature.
At first, things look bleak. The railway corridor is moving forward without him. Mexican “associates” of the now-toothless Santos are swinging by the club looking for what he promised. Frank shuts that shit down with surprisingly little grace. You’d think he’d know better than to mess with Mexican cartels.
Frank meet with the Catalast rep again at his behest. Catalast wants Caspere’s blackmail evidence, the same camera and hard drive that was stolen by the Bird the night Ray was shot. In exchange for retrieving it, Frank wants his railway buy-in free. Thus, we reignite Frank’s own investigation.
He has yet ANOTHER argument with his beautiful wife. Props to Kelly Reilly for turning this nothing into something as a believable counterpart to Frank’s noxious activities. She finally manages to get him to emote after telling him she’s infertile from “operations” (presumably abortions) from her 20s. Seeing Frank tear up was the first time I was emotionally engaged with this show. Plus: that is happened. Minus: that it took four laborious hours to get here. He returns home and is able to open up to his wife for the first time in a while. Their relationship seems to be on the mend.
It’s not to last of course. A rabid knocking takes Frank from the happiness of his bed and wife to the door. It’s Ray, ready to confront the devil who he made a deal with.