‘True Detective’ Comes With Guns A-Blazin’ (TV Review)

[rating=9.00] “Down Will Come”

Whoa, True Detective. You need to calm down.

It was an episode that should silence this season’s detractors (though it probably won’t) filled as it was with tautness and gut churning action. Characters were explored on deeper levels (even Woodrugh finally got a little interesting) as the sheer sprawl of the mystery began to spread out to incredible new lengths. Bezzarides bosses were right, it would seem. Caspere’s murder is a window into everything; while we’re still not exactly sure what it is we’re seeing through the dusty panes of his death, I’ve got a feeling the depth of this mystery—the real mystery, that is—has yet to be seen.

Mayor Chessani loomed heavily over this episode, despite the fact that he didn’t appear in it at all. Bezzarides, still confused by the bizarre run in with the mayor’s family at his mansion from last week’s episode, is interested in pulling these threads a little more. This is in line with her boss’s interest in the case, which is less about murder and more about whatever corruption Chessani is involved in. Velcoro warns her that to pry to deeply is to risk her career. His family has held power in Vinci for the last 100 years, after all, and you don’t maintain that kind of sway without knowing how to swat away the occasional investigation. Velcoro is of the mind that the three of them are being used by their prospective jurisdictions as fall guys, mere patsies for the departments to fire when the case inevitably falls apart due to the corruption of the town, the county, and the state. Bezzarides is flippant about this idea, but, as we see later, this comes back around the bite her in the ass.

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Pursuing the Chessani hunch leads Velcoro and Bezzarides back to the mayor’s Bel-Air mansion. Rather than go inside (because that worked so well last time) the two detectives wait for Chessani’s daughter to leave the compound and they follow her. Eventually, the two convince her to have a sit down, which doesn’t go that well, but information is gained. Chessani’s daughter isn’t too keen on talking, until she and Bezzarides bond over the mutual loss of their mothers at a young age.

At first this seems like a non-sequitor; we’re meant to see it as, at best, some trust building between the two. However, the more we learn about the death of Chessani’s first wife, the deeper the mystery goes. When his daughter was 11, his wife began to manifest symptoms of schizophrenia. He had her locked up in a hospital under the care of a doctor that his daughter has disdain for. The doctor in question? None other than Dr. Pitlor, the evasive runner of an upscale clinic we met a couple episodes back. The conversation ends abruptly with Chessani’s daughter admitting that, “My father is a very bad man.”

So just what is Chessani up to? It’s hard to say at this point. We know that he has his hands in a lot of pockets, just as a lot of hands are, in turn, in his. Not only this, but he also has no problem getting in bed with the criminal element if it’s financially beneficial for him. This seems to be the real mystery this season, with Caspere’s murder being the door to a wider conspiracy. This conspiracy has something to do with the land deals, though what we aren’t sure. However, Bezzerides and Velcoro check out some land up north that Caspere was known to have visited. Though perfectly beautiful, we learn that the land is near useless as the ground water has been so polluted with toxic chemicals. Could this be what Chessani was up to? Did Caspere find out about this? I have a feeling that this is key to understanding this season. My guess is that Chessani is somehow involved with illegal chemical dumping and Caspere was murdered to cover this up. I’m probably wrong though, so whatever.

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While Velcoro and Bezzerides are dancing around Chessani, Woodrugh is having a bit of a rough time himself. For starters, he wakes up to find himself in a strange room. This isn’t the hotel he checked into after his girlfriend kicked him out last episode. He nervously walks out of the bedroom to see a strange young man eating breakfast and watching the game. It would seem that Woodrugh’s latent homosexual tendencies got the better of him last night and he sowed some wild desires. He is disgusted with himself and leaves as quick as possible, refusing the perfectly reasonable offer of waffles and basketball, and even eschewing a ride back to his motorcycle, opting for a cab instead. He then discovers that his motorcycle has been stolen. Man. His day can’t possibly get any worse, can it?

Well…about that. All season we’ve been getting hints about Woodrugh’s time in the military. Nothing concrete, just vague mentions of how he doesn’t discuss the desert. When he arrives back to his hotel he is flanked by a team of reporters, all bent on asking him about his alleged war crimes. We still don’t know exactly what went down, but that’s a hell of a bomb to drop for this character, who’s previously been the least interesting one among the detectives.

Woodrugh is now close to full scale breakdown. He’s clearly suffering from some sort of PTSD from whatever he lived through in the desert, as well as attempting to hide the true nature of his desire. The allegations of misconduct with the young actress in the first episode still loom over him, his girlfriend left him, and now the sins of his past are coming back to haunt him. It would be a shame if this day got any worse.

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Except, somehow, it does. He meets up with his ex-girlfriend and tells her he doesn’t blame her. He’s a hard man to live with. She’s not hear to talk about that. She’s got other things on her mind. Namely, she’s pregnant. Woodrugh takes this news well, seeing it as an opportunity to atone for his homosexuality. He asks her to marry him on the spot (“I love you.” “I guess I love you.”) and she agrees. There’s no way this won’t end happily, right?

Elsewhere in the personal lives of our detectives, Bezzerides finds out that she’s being investigated for sexual misconduct at work and has been banned from the county sheriff’s building pending the outcome of the case. All of her blatant sexing with co-workers and underlings are coming home to roost. While she’s still allowed to work the Caspere investigation, she’s officially suspended from her job until further notice. Apparently Velcoro was right. She is expendable. Is she being set up as a patsy? Also, of note, did anyone else notice how her boss called her “honey” in the middle of admonishing her for potential sexual harassment? And why is she so keen on slut shaming her sister when sexual promiscuity isn’t exactly bad for her? Someone owes their sister a date night, is all I’m saying.

Velcoro, meanwhile, is coming to grips with the impending restraining order on him by his ex-wife. He meets up with his son to give him his father’s badge, imploring his son to look at it when he wants to remember him. He’s probably not going to be around much anymore. This scene was a bit awkward and out of place kind of, but both it’s played well by both actors. We’re probably going to see more of this as the season progresses, so I can only assume it’s setting up something else.

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Back on the job, Woodrugh follows up on some pawn shops looking for any of Caspere’s missing items. A watch leads them to a pimp named Ledo, who is now the number on suspect in Caspere’s murder. Plans are being made to find and arrest the suspect, as each detective dives further into their work as a means of avoiding the problems in their personal lives.

Before this can happen, Velcoro meets with Frank (who’s been on an absolute warpath this episode, diving headlong back into the game since taking back his club after last week’s dentistry) and gives him the scoop. At the bar (set to the soundtrack of the fourth and presumably final song from Lera Lynn) Frank appreciates his efforts and offers Velcoro a job as muscle within his organization. Velcoro’s not having it anymore. The longer these scenes go on, the more apparent it gets the Velcoro is less a corrupt cop than he is trapped in a shitty situation. Throughout this episode, Frank called on old associates to pay up on long cleared debts, strong arming them into his corner with threats and muscle. The same appears to be going on between him and Velcoro. Frank has the dirtiest of dirt on the detective, what with the rapist murder and all, and he has no intention of letting him off. Velcoro declines his offer, preferring to keep what little integrity he has left. The two part ways, and Frank makes plans to find Ledo before the cops do.

He’s just not quick enough, however. The police, acting on information that Ledo is holed up in a warehouse downtown, send in a team to take him out. Our three detectives, supported by an entire squadron of tactical officers, close in on the warehouse only to be surprised by gunfire. A man on the second floor is spraying the area with bullets fired from an automatic. Cops are mowed down with impunity. Heads explode in gory detail. Chests collapse from a hail of bullets. The top floor of the warehouse explodes, possibly as a result of a meth cook.

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It was a scene reminiscent of the infamous home invasion scene from last season’s “Who Goes There” (will episode four of True Detective become akin to episode 9 of Game of Thrones?) and the action was intense. By all appearances, the entire squadron of police are killed in the gun fight, along with a plethora of innocent bystanders and villains. It was a bit of a surprise coming, as it did, out of absolutely nowhere. But the tension in this scene was palpably high. As the episode closes, our detectives are being surrounded by backup, taking in the carnage as they stand amidst of sea of the dead.

This season just keep getting better, despite the occasional silly line of dialogue. Of course, if we’re being really honest with ourselves, the dialogue of this show has never exactly been that strong. Taken as we were with Rust’s existential darkness last season, we all neglected to notice that “time is a flat circle” isn’t exactly that great. So whatever. The closing ten minutes seem as though it’ll have repercussions that ripple through the last half of this season, and there’s no telling just how far this mystery expands. What exactly is in store for our detectives? What’s the end game here? Personally speaking, I can’t wait to find out.

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2 Responses

  1. In the first four episodes of the second season of True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto has offered a number of clues to the identity of who killed Vinci city manager Ben Caspere and subsequently complicated gangster Frank Semyon’s (played by Vince Vaughn) multi-million dollar land deal ahead of a planned a high-speed railway project.

    Paul Woodrugh (played by Taylor Kitsch) killed Caspere.

    Detective Dixon (played by W. Earl Brown) suspected Woodrugh, but now Dixon is dead (Episode #4).

    And don’t forget, there is a videotape in the second season of True Detective, just as there was in the first season. There is always a videotape – it is a necessary and ironic ingredient in the Pizzolatto formula because, like Caspere, most people like to watch . . .

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