The Game is Afoot on ‘True Detective’ (TV Review)

 “Maybe Tomorrow”

Well, well, well…if it isn’t my old friends, Bait and Switch. Good to see you, old chums, and I see you’ve brought some good news with you.

As it turns out, Velcoro was not murdered at the end of “Night Finds You.” Rather, buckshot he was hit only with some anti-riot, rubber bullet rounds. This reveal was delayed somewhat by a Lynchian cold-open. Looking like The Black Lodge made its way into Blue Velvet, Velcoro and his father share a moment of Freudian exposition set to the soundtrack of a bizarre Conway Twitty impersonator. “You’ve got your father’s hands,” his father, decked out in his old police uniform, tells Ray, who looks down to see his hands scraped and bloodied from all the fisticuffs of the previous two episodes. It might seem a bit throwaway, but we’ve gleaned some insight into the character of Velcoro; the damage to his psyche was done long before we met him, thanks to both his father’s work related absenteeism and distant rage. He’s a man who was never able to defeat his father and step out from his shadow to cast his own. His world is colored by disappointment and ennui, which, honestly, makes a lot of sense.

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As the Conway impersonator continues to drone, we fade back into the living room of Caspere’s secret love nest to see Velcoro still laying on the floor. He gasps awake, pained from the rubber bullets he took at point blank range (did it seem that his injuries weren’t enough to anyone else? I could be wrong but I feel like taking a shotgun blast from two feet away would be slightly more damaging, rubber bullet or no) and quickly realizes, “I pissed myself.” Don’t worry, Ray. We all did.

I suppose it was a little cheesy to undo the damage from the end of the last episode. After all, Velcoro’s supposed death was indicative of the high stakes our detectives are involved in this season. If the most interesting character could die, then no one is safe! But hey, Game of Thrones this ain’t. We can’t just go killing off our characters all willy-nilly now, can we?

Ray, of course, is pissed. Can you blame him? From his perspective, it certainly seems as though Frank set him up, though he denies the accusation. I’m on team Frank on this one; I can’t really see the angle and it certainly seems that if Frank wanted Ray dead then Ray would be dead. If nothing else, though, Ray is now more interested in ever in solving Caspere’s murder, despite the seeming disinterest of his bosses. After all, the person who killed Caspere and the person who shot him are most likely one in the same. Orders aside, Ray is all in.

This brings him more in line with Bezzerides, who wants nothing more than to solve this case like the badass detective she is. Of course, like Velcoro, she must contend with the wishes of her bosses who want to use this case as an opportunity to bring down corruption in the city of Vinci. Bezzerides, for her part, still seems to be on the fence about Velcoro. The rumors of his corruption are, to her, just rumors. It doesn’t seem as though she cares too much about the political dick wagging going on between the county and the city; she just wants to solve the murder. Of course, the corruption and the murder seem like they might be pretty intimately related.

We get more than a few hints of this throughout the episode. For one, as Frank loses more support from his bosses in Vegas regarding his land deals, it’s discovered that one of his men has been murdered in a similar fashion as Caspere. We don’t get a lot of details but we can plainly see that the victim’s eyes have been removed, just as with Caspere. This is two bodies now that share a link with Frank, leading him to the conclusion that someone is coming after him and his business. This leads to Frank calling a meeting with his former gangland business associates in the L.A. area, which commences at a strip club he used to run. (More on this in a moment.)

Bezzerides and Woodrugh, meanwhile, have a rather bizarre meeting at Mayor Austin’s house, meeting just as much resistance to their inquiries as Austin gave them in his office. Something is definitely fishy with the good mayor, this much we know. He’s corrupt for sure, taking kickbacks from Frank and not-so-subtly threatening him when the payoff is short. Considering this, as well as the fact that Caspere was his city manager, there can be no doubt that Caspere’s murder has something to do with the mayor and his as yet revealed plans.

Woodrugh is tasked with searching out local working girls who might have information regarding Caspere and his proclivities. This leads him to a local strip club where he’s able to learn that Caspere was interested in at least a couple of girls there. This happens to be the same the strip club where Frank has called his meeting, which initially doesn’t go so well for Frank.

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His former associates don’t seem to be too keen on his sudden reinterest in their affairs, reminding him that he was the one who decided to go straight. After some posturing, Frank reasserts his dominance with some good old fashioned backroom brawling, kicking the absolute shit out of the gold toothed club runner we met last episode, and giving rise to the baddest line of dialogue so far this season, “Leave your rings on, it won’t matter to me.” Frank further makes an example out of his insubordination by taking a pair of pliers and ripping out his gold-plated grill one tooth at a time.

This was an exceptionally dense and information heavy episode that sends us spiraling further down the convoluted rabbit-hole that is this season’s plot. We still haven’t quite hit the highs of the last season, but taken on its own, True Detective is developing a rich and intriguing story with complicated layers and opposing motivations to drive the tale forward. There’s been a lot of hate going around for this season so far, but the season is continuing its slow burn and set up. While much of the hate has been centered around the dialogue (which…okay, sure, it hasn’t always been great this season. A great example this episode: “I’m apoplectic.” “I’m apoplectic too.”) I’m chalking that up to the noir sensibilities. I’m completely sold on this season, and in it for the long haul. We’re in for a long and winding road and there’s just no telling what twists and turns we’re in store for.

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