Now that the second season of True Detective has officially become a part of my television watching history, as well as yours, I think rather than write a long review, I’ll do a lengthy alphabet soup of observations and questions.
As you may have already realized, this 2nd Season Of True Detective has turned out to be one of the most polarizing tv series seasons ever. There are vociferous people all over the internet/blogosphere all clamoring for attention. There seems to be as many people who either:
1) Called the Season disappointing
2) Called the finale the worst finale ever
3) Called the season as a whole depressing television…
as there are folks who thought well of it.
So without further preamble, let’s dive in.
A) In Episode Three: There is a dream sequence where Ray’s father predicted he would die among the giant trees. And that’s where Ray did die. Yeah, there were problems with him driving into the woods like eventually they would hunt him down, the elements would get to him even if they didn’t find and kill him, cell phone capabilities would be seriously impaired. Also that sack of money was way too big for him to run with.
Finally – having the dream become the reality was just too gimmicky. It is not that special an accomplishment to write about a dream in Episode Three then have it become real in the finale (episode 8).
But to Ray’s credit – his intent (knowing he was going to die) was to draw them as far away from Bezzerides as possible.
B) Despite having time, and certainly the money, Frank didn’t even think to buy a different car. Then again, wasn’t it strange that the Mexicans were not following Frank up to the mountain resort for the heist. Actually they couldn’t as Frank and Ray had a different car for the trip to the mountains which they destroyed after. The Mexicans only follow him days later.
Ray didn’t get a different car either. But in reality he didn’t have time.
C) Why did the Vinci Police Chief show up at the new Railroad Station, which, by the way, is in Anaheim. I can see undercover, or even uniformed police staking out the station for Ray and Ani – but surely they didn’t know about Len. Hence why was Vinci the C of P there, and carrying the fake diamonds? If Ray called him – we didn’t see it, and as far as we know – it was Len’s sister who told Bezzerides that Len would be at the station. Did Len called the Chief?
Why wasn’t the bus depot being watched?
D) Mayor Austin Chessani is found by Frank, floating face down and dead in the pool. Would have been much nicer to see him getting killed rather than him doing a Joe Gillis.
That’s a reference to Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) that opened with Gillis floating dead in the water. I’m guessing this was a tribute by Pizzolatto to Wilder as one of the influences for True Detective.
E) Did I expect the Detectives and Frank Semyon to all die? Yes, after Woodrugh was gunned down, I wrote , actually commented (not here – check PolarBear Watches TV – the post about Ep 7) that I saw them as Dead Men Walking. I didn’t expect that it would be the Mexican’s who wanted Frank for burning down his proverbial bridges, ie the clubs. That was a surprise. I thought it would be the Russian Osip.
F) I see a Emmy Nomination ahead for Kelly Reilly who played Jordan Semyon. No one else from the show will get one.
G) Wasn’t it strange that the night that Frank and Ray pulled the grand heist at the mountain resort – that all that money was just sitting there in plain sight. And even more strange – why were there only two security guys on the grounds. And last – why did the bad guys keep running out of the same door…didn’t they hear the shots? Wouldn’t one assume that the front door would be covered by those who launched in the tear gas and stun grenades.
H) Another influence/tribute for Pizzolatto – when Frank has Osip on the ground and ready to be riddled with bullets – Osip brings out a quote from Coppola’s The Godfather
Tessio: Can you get me off the hook, Tom? For old times’ sake?
I) What with all the repeated shots of the SoCal highways and freeways with all the lattice-work-like crisscrossing roads with off/on ramps, overpasses, and flyovers that Frank dies in the openness of the salt flats, or that Ray dies amid the giant redwoods, and that Paul died in the alley after climbing out of the tunnels.
J) Many of commentaries have criticized Frank for his pride which got him killed. I understood his pride. But for me, the whole scene was ridiculous – if the Mexicans had already dug a hole in the ground for Frank – why would they be bought off for the contents of the briefcase? With Frank in the ground, they would have had the briefcase anyway.
The hole in the ground in the desert was another Pizzolatto tribute/reference – this time to Scorsese’s Casino.
Frank didn’t object to giving up his suit – it was the diamonds in the jacket coat pocket that he didn’t want to lose.
K) What became of Bezzerides Dad? Was he at the Rail Corridor groundbreaking ceremony led by Tony Chessani, Vinci’s new Mayor.
L) For that matter – what became of Emily and Paul’s Mother who we last saw at the motel watching Splendor in the Grass?
M) The hard drive was a Macguffin. Another Pizzolatto tribute – this time to Hitchcock. A Macguffin is an object used for misdirection. You think it has value, and so does everyone else, but in the end it doesn’t. Didn’t see that coming either.
N) Bezzerides ended up with the baby in Venezuela. That was a surprise. Especially since Jordan held the baby at first. Could Bezzerides have known she was pregnant at that time (on the boat) – no, it was far too soon after her intimacy with Ray.
O) The opening scene at the RR station with Frank and Jordan seemed to go on forever. I guess this was to show Jordan’s determination. Maybe Pizzolatto heard the critics who decried his treatment of the female characters in Season One, and he wanted to show how tough and brave and determined Jordan was.
P) Why did Paul go off to his doom, after being told of the incriminating gay sex photos of him. Maybe Pizzolatto needed a way to get Paul in harm’s way. You’d think that with Paul having made his choice to marry Emily and raise his child, he would have told them to stuff the pictures.
Q) Question – Why did Len, who was the one who shot Ray with the shotgun at the Caspere playpen – keep the Raven’s head mask. Since he was not of the mind to kill Ray, but to try to scare him off, or he was of a mind to kill Ray, but didn’t realize that shotgun was loaded with lightweight ammo – holding on to the mask was still silly. As was Len’s comment that the mask was Caspere’s.
R) Dr. Irving Pitler is found dead with his wrists slashed. What was the point? Who did it, or why did Pitler commit suicide. Maybe he was being squeezed out by Tony Chessani, and the Catalyst Group too.
Also, was he the one, since he was already a pal of Chessani, and Bezzerides Dad. and was in that group back in the day – who raped Ani Bezzerides so long ago?
S) After we saw Ray gunned down, and Frank die in the desert, didn’t you think, even it was a brief or fleeting thought, that Bezzerides might take a header off the slow boat to Ensenada. Maybe I am projecting a bit here – but the choice of how they shot Bezzerides, like when she leaned over the railing, made me think it was possible.
T) Paternity Test – so fat Chad was indeed Ray’s son. 99% likely per the report. Who would have figured that based on Chad’s looks? I know children can get fat based on poor eating habits and too many trips to MickeyDee’s – but Chad was a carrot-top – and that seemed unlikely from Velcoro and the boy’s mother.
U) After looking up and down the streets, Ray could not detect if he was being watched, but he decided to leave the tracking device on the car. Which means he knew he was not going to lead them to Bezzerides. He could have still taken the tracking device off AND still not lead them to Bezzerides.
V) Venezuela. It is a more than a year later. Where are Jordan, Bezzerides, and Nails going as the show ends?
W) Will there be a third season.? I think it is up to Pizzolatto AND depending on who is willing to sign on as the leads…
X) When Frank drove off after paying off the Albanians, what are we supposed to make of the look between the two of them?
Y) Why do we see Ray’s almost blissfully quick death seeming to point upward (giant trees, phone in the tree niche, hand point toward the trees – as a reference to heaven, and Frank’s death, face first into the desert seeming to be a downward and agonizing death journey,
replete with all of Frank’s demons) toward’s Hell?
Vince Vaughn as Frank started slowly, didn’t bring a whole lot to the role initially – maybe because he had to say so many of Pizzolatto’s worst lines, but I think he was fine by the end. Upward arc for him.
Colin Farrell as Ray Velcoro – I have always loved his work, but this time, mainly for how steady his performance was – the one worst scene for him was the drug and booze bender that would have killed most of us. Blame that on Pizzolatto. Steady arc for him.
Rachel McAdams as Antigone Bezzerides. Started quite well. She was intense, and tough, and wound so tight, But after the shootout on the street with no name. her character and performance devolved in a downward arc even with deciding to go the party at Club Bed in the mountains.
Taylor Kitsch as Paul Woodrugh – a tortured character from beginning to end. Yes he was at once both heroic and cowardly. I don’t believe that Woodrugh could have been performed any better by another actor. The role had too many character limitations and didn’t afford the actor much room to develop and run with the character. Slight downward arc.
Kelly Reilly as Jordan Semyon – Many believed she was part of the conspiracy to take Frank down (she wasn’t) and steal his money (which happened but without her involvement). But Jordan was not in on any of that. She was true-blue all the way. Though somewhat under utilized in the middle, she walks off with the acting honors in my opinion, and she stole nearly every scene she was in..