Apologies if these thoughts on last night’s penultimate episode of True Detective come off as disjointed and confusing, though that would be a fitting homage to this entire season, but man, this show is a marvelous disaster. That lousy first episode was a sign of things to come.
The second season of Nic Pizzolatto’s nut-flexing noir adventure started off softly and now has a plot resembling a ball of tangled Christmas lights in the garage. It’ll all probably end in an unsatisfying way, if bringing this to an end at all is even possible at this point, but somewhere about halfway through this eight-episode run, an unspoken option materialized for the viewer: Give up on those expectations you’re still gripping so tightly, and stop trying to follow the plot. Embrace the wave of shit being poured onto you. I took this option, and did not regret it in the slightest. The season has been great, if you stopped all emotional investment.
Last week’s “Hi, I’m Ray Velcoro, and I’m about to crank up the New York Dolls, snort this sandwich bag full of coke, drink a bottle of liquor, wash it down with two or three beers, and mix in a couple of pull ups while I’m at it” drug binge was the highlight of the season. Colin Farrell should win every award for that scene. Imagine someone directing a legitimate actor to do all of that, with a straight face, and that actor somehow pulling it off flawlessly. Michael Fassbender isn’t doing that scene justice. But Farrell is invested enough to not question terrible direction or ridiculous scripts. He just does a ton of fake drugs and works on his arms and genuinely believes that this is all going to be an emotionally moving part of Ray Velcoro’s story. Grumbling and grimacing your way through nonsense dialogue like “Pain is inexhaustible—it’s only people that get exhausted” is way harder than playing Stephen Hawking or whatever.
Here’s some actual dialogue from last night’s episode, wherein Rachel McAdams’s character, whose name is Ani Bezzerides, talks to the missing girl she pulled from a bonkers orgy sequence in the previous episode. Warning: Personal ethe may crumble after reading this hot truth.
Bezzerides: Maybe—and this is just a thought—maybe you were put on earth for more than fucking.
Vera: Everything is fucking.
(Damn. Let’s do another segue before we get too deep.)
Meanwhile Paul Woodrugh—that’s Taylor Kitsch’s character, and don’t worry, no one’s expected to remember all the characters’ names here, and he dies at the end of the episode anyway—is off dealing with some blackmail over gay hookup photos, so Velcoro and Bezzerides lay low in a motel. The two brood, look away from the camera in discomfort, and drink. Earlier in the episode, while Bezzerides was still drugged up from the orgy, she came on to Velcoro, but he rebuffed her advances. Now, with the two in more sober states—well, not really, because they’re drinking—they can arouse each others’ minds with muttering that requires closed captioning, like this:
Velcoro: Do you miss it?
They make out. Everything is fucking. A regular Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly, these two.
Let’s not forget about Vince Vaughn’s Frank Semyon, who’s still looking for money and respect and words to say that aren’t patently absurd, like he has the entire time. Frank finds out that his red-headed henchman (Blake Churchman; I had to look it up) betrayed him, so he smashes a glass on his head, chokes him out against a wall, casually tells Blake to look into his eyes so he can “watch your lights go out,” lets him down, offers him a drink, gleans relevant information from him, and kills him with a gut shot. Later, the guy from those “Opulence: I has it” DIRECTV commercials takes over Frank’s turf, so Frank collects his money, shoots a dude or two, torches his own clubs, and drinks on a hill while watching them burn. Seven episodes in, and he’s got a little bit of money, no respect, and no words to say that aren’t patently absurd. (“I never lost a tooth. Never even had a fuckin’ cavity.”) What a character.
Honestly and unironically, this season of True Detective has been glorious. Remember complaining about how the first season, full of esoteric references and actual depth, was wrapped up a little too tidily? There are only 90 minutes left to make all this make sense. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen.
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