‘True Detective’ Gets Taken to Church (TV Review)

[rating=7.00] “Church in Ruins”

Last season, Detective Rusty Coehle made mention of the sprawl of their case. What started as a relatively by the numbers serial killing investigation, ballooned into an investigation involving church leaders and state senators, indicative of a conspiracy that reached the highest echelons of Louisiana government. As massive and far reaching as Rust’s sprawl might have been, it’s starting to pale in comparison to the reach of season two which, yet again, began with a relatively simple seeming murder investigation.

At this point, it’s probably not even worth wondering who is involved in the conspiracy as it is wondering who isn’t. Small town mayors, big county officials, shady doctors, mid-level gangsters, state senators, police…all of these people are involved, in some way, with the land grab conspiracy that spirals out from the murder of Caspere, and any of them would stand to gain from his (and Stan’s) murder. So where does that leave us?

Somewhere in the middle, caught in a dizzying whirlwind of conspiratorial hijinks, a series of murders, some missing girls, and the disappearance of some rare, blue diamonds. These threads began coming together last night and we got our first peek behind the curtain, into the world of sex and collusion that ended Caspere’s life and threatens to bring down everything and everyone caught up in it.

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We begin the episode where last week left off, a tense conversation over coffee between Frank and Ray. Velcoro, you’ll remember, has recently found out that the man he murdered because he thought he’d raped his wife—a decision which left him at the mercy of Frank, who’s lorded this information over him as blackmail for the last 11 years—didn’t actually do anything. At least, not anything that was worth being murdered by Velcoro over. Frank claims ignorance over this development which of course he would. No one is expecting a hardened gangster like Frank to outright admit the set up, and it’s hard to believe him when he denies it. But he earns some goodwill by promising that if Velcoro helps him to locate Caspere’s missing hard drive—Frank’s ticket back to the land deal and subsequently out of the thug life—then he’ll release Velcoro from his obligations. This prompts Velcoro to give up a name: Irina Ruolfo, the woman suspected of hawking Caspere’s missing blue diamonds, which apparently have the ability to crack this case wide open.

Elsewhere, Bezzerides and Woodrugh are dealing with the fallout of their grisly discovery last week, setting off an inter-departmental dick measuring contest over jurisdiction, which seems to happen a lot in California, if this fictional show is any indication. The park rangers take over the crime scene, and all we learn is that the blood in the shed discovered last week is definitely female, tying this thread back into the prostitution and human trafficking scandal that has lurked in the shadows of this entire season. Bezzerides decides to infiltrate one of these parties in order to finally shed some light on a few of this season’s lingering mysteries.

Firstly, there’s the disappearance of Vera, who’s moved from throwaway line to potentially important as this season has progressed, and then there’s the prospect of finding more about the conspiracy surrounding the land deals that stand to make more than a few people rich. Bezzerides finally sees the use in the sister she’s been consistently slut shaming all season, and uses her as her in to go undercover at one of these wild sex parties we’ve heard so much about, and things, for the most part, goes about as poorly as expected.

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I suppose we should have expected so much as each of the hookers was lined up and given an aerosol spray of the “the purest molly” available, which of course fucks Bezzerides right up. She’s spent the entire episode talking a big game, telling everyone around her that she’ll be okay and can handle it, and things spin off the rails pretty immediately. The scene as a whole played out in Lynchian fashion, which hasn’t exactly been unheard of this season. A bewildered Bezzerides is having a harder and harder time handling her surroundings and dealing with the come ons of high powered men who are expecting her to, quite literally, lay down and take it. Added to this are the flashbacks she’s experiencing as a result of taking the drug. We’ve spent all season wondering just what it was that broke Bezzerides, come to find out, she was molested in her youth by a kindly man offering her unicorns.

It’s all rather disturbing; while the handling of the scene—flashing back between the party and the past—seemed a bit trite given the content, Bezzerides’s disjointed perspective was palpable in McAdams’s performance. Like so much of this season, the scene revealed just enough to put the pieces together, without showing all of their cards. Pizzolatto has no intentions on holding your hand and walking you through the mystery of this season, he expects you to keep up or move out of the way. While this scene was more than a bit heavier handed than other scenes this season, it’s McAdam’s who propels it as she moves from past to present in a fit of confusion.

Along the way, she finds Vera, fucked up out of her mind and dolled up for use by this cabal of businessmen and politicians. Despite barely having the strength to keep herself together, she takes Vera and leads her out of the party, killing a man along the way with her knife.

Woodrugh and Velcoro are on the scene as back up, running a sort of black ops recon mission to find the dirt on the contracts for the land deals. Finally, all of the threads are starting to come together, with but a few still dangling in the wind. After a brief gunfight, our three detectives make it away from the party with their lives mostly intact (though it’s safe to say that Bezzerides is probably irreparably changed), the girl rescued, and their first bit of evidence in hand.

It’s all pretty tense on True Detective, even as slow as this season has moved. But patience is beginning to pay off as this pulpy noir continues towards its conclusion. Just what will the ramifications of this episode be, both for the officers involved and for everyone in on the conspiracy? And where will Frank’s side quest take him? It certainly seems as though it’s a race between Frank and our detectives to get to the bottom of this mess, though it might be that their interests align as we get to the end. One thing for sure though, the flames appear to be rising and it looks like this is one fire that won’t be contained.

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