Everything’s Changed on ‘True Detective’ (TV Review)

[rating=8.00] “Other Lives”

Last week’s explosive conclusion was a game changer in a lot of ways. It was sort of this season’s “all in” moment, where the viewer was offered their first reward for sticking with the slow burn as long as they had. For our detectives, however, the climax was a bit more devastating. As we learned early on in this week’s episode, the entire landscape of the detectives and the case has shifted drastically, like a fault line resettling after a massive earthquake.

We miss much of the immediate fallout from the gun battle—the details of which are filled in with exposition as the episode moves on—and skip ahead about two months. Immediately we see things are different. Velcoro, for instance, has quit the force and accept Frank’s offer of more work. Woodrugh has been taken off the streets and moved to insurance fraud, a byproduct both of his involvement with the shooting and the ongoing charges brought against him by the young and troubled starlet back in episode one. Bezzarides has been moved to the evidence cage, safely tucked away where no one will be bothered by her.

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The Caspere case has, ostensibly, been closed. As far as the powers that be are concerned, they got their man in the firefight that left so much destruction in its wake. It’s a convenient end to a case with inconvenient implications, and I’m sure the corrupt power structures are breathing a bit easier without all of the scrutiny. This is more or less exactly what Velcoro predicted would happen at the beginning of last week’s episode which, if nothing else, reveals him to be an astute judge of people and their behaviors.

None of this sits particularly well with any of our detectives, however; all three of them have the nagging feeling that nothing was actually solved and that the suspects were still at large and the actual case was as yet unrevealed. To drive home this point: Frank’s still missing his $5 million. Had they actually gotten their man, Frank’s money would’ve been found and he wouldn’t have been forced to abandon his plans to go straight while downgrading his home.

Meanwhile, Bezzarides pays a visit to the woman with the missing sister she met back in the first episode, who questions what the police are doing to solve the disappearance. The detective learns that the missing woman had an abandoned P.O. box, the contents of which were delivered to her sister. The box contained a series of pictures that, while benign at first, have the potential to not only break open the missing persons case, but potentially the Caspere case as well.

While going through the photos, Bezzarides notices pictures of high powered men—Caspere, for one, a state senator, for another—in the arms of high class escorts. Additionally, there are photos of blue diamonds which are known to be missing from Caspere’s house. Something is definitely still fishy about this case, and the more we see the more apparent this gets. What’s the connection between Caspere, the missing girl, and the land deals? This is a question that was danced around the first half of this season, but it’s outright asked in this episode.

The mystery deepens even further as Velcoro, under Frank’s orders, tails Frank’s man Blake to learn more about his goings on. He follows him first to a nondescript club where he picks up a carload of high end girls and their luggage. Velcoro then follows the car to a secluded mansion, where he sees Dr. Pitlor, Tony Chessani, Oslip, and Blake ogling the women as merchandise, which indicates some sort of trafficking scheme.

Pieces are beginning to fall into place, even if we aren’t sure what it all means or how it all fits together. In a lot of ways, it’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle with friends, with each of you working on a section independently from the others. A bigger picture is being formed as the narrative threads become more tightly wound. These puzzle pieces are now in the process of being combined as we get closer and closer to the answers, and it leads Bezzarides’s bosses to form a new task force to dig deeper into mystery that had heretofore been written off as solved.

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The lone holdout is Velcoro, who’s left his policing days behind for a brighter future as low level enforcer. However, he’s reminded he still has his P.I. license, which I suppose is to Frank’s benefit. While he initially declines the invitation to join the team, he’s put in spotlight when it’s suggested that his involvement would oblige the county to assist him in his ongoing litigations with his ex-wife who’s now requesting a paternity test to see if Ray is, in fact, his son’s father or if the child was conceived due to her rape a decade ago.

Velcoro reluctantly agrees to sign on, but wonders why county had a sudden change of heart regarding his trustworthiness. He’s told that the rumors that he killed his wife’s rapist turned out to be false—the man was caught on a DNA test in an unrelated case just a few weeks ago—and if those rumors turned out to be false then, well, the other ones were probably false as well.

UM. WHAT?

We happen to know that Velcoro did, in fact, murder his wife’s rapist. Or, at least, murdered the man Frank said was his wife’s rapist. This is the act that corrupted Velcoro and kept him from becoming the cop he knew he could and should be, as well as ingratiating him to Frank as part of his schemes. So who did Frank murder and where could this lead?

Much has been made about this season’s focus on the personal lives of our detectives rather than on the case at hand, with many critics and viewers left wondering what the point of all this introspection might hold. In a lot of ways, these threads are beginning to come together. Ani’s beef with her sister is turning around, as she agrees to help her sister gain access to these high class hooker parties that Caspere was involved in. Velcoro’s personal life is so topsy turvy because of his involvement with Frank, and now we have an impending showdown between the two that can lead to nowhere good. Woodrugh is still somewhat of a blank slate, but his life is arguably more twisted than the other two detective combined, so who knows where this is going to lead to?

In a certain sense, “Other Lives” marked the beginning of season two part two. It’s a whole new ballgame now as the dangling narratives begin to coalesce into something deeper. Pizzolatto is definitely beginning to pay off the patience of his viewers as we begin the second half of the season, and there’s still no way of knowing just how deep the conspiracy surrounding Caspere’s death (and all of the fallout) might go. With just three episodes left this season, the board is being set for an endgame that, for now at least, feels certain to pay off.

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