Well, here it is, folks…
The last episode of the second season of True Detective.
Where everything gets tied up all nice and neat, the heroes win and everyone lives happily ever after!
Well, not really (especially on the happily ever after part). But the season concluded, and we now know the fates of (almost) all of the characters. And we have an ending, even if it is not the happy one we may have wanted.
With that being said, here is my recap and review of True Detective, Season 2, episode 8.
And, as always:
The episode begins after Ani and Ray have consummated their relationship. Ani and Ray both confess their painful pasts to each other, and make plans to escape Vinci and its corruption. Ray then receives a call giving him news of the death of Paul.
Ray and Ani speak to Laura Osterman (Caspere’s former secretary), who turns out to be one of the children who was orphaned by the robbery of the jewelry store in 1992. They learn that her brother Leonard (the camera man on the movie set in episode 3) was the one who actually killed Ben Caspere, and that Caspere is the father of Laura. The robbery was also to keep the public from finding out about Caspere’s affair with Laura and Leonard’s mother. Leonard and Laura had plans to use Caspere’s sex tapes for blackmail, in exchange for the blue diamons. Ani buys Laura a bus ticket, and tells her to get as far away from Vinci as she can.
Frank pays a visit to Mayor Chessani’s mansion and finds him dead in swimming pool. Frank then meets with his Jordan, and tells her that she must leave Vinci as soon as possible. Frank promises to meet Jordan in Venezuela in two weeks or less.
Ray and Frank invade the headquarters of Catalast, the company involved in the land deal gone bad. Ray and Frank then proceed to murder everyone, including Osip, and also take $2 million in cash. They split the money between them, and promise to each other that they will meet up in Venezuela.
Ray meets with Leonard in a transportation center in Anaheim. He tells Leonard to let him bring justice to his former chief Holloway. Ray then meets with Holloway, and tells him that he has killed Leonard. Ray tells Holloway that he wishes to be cleared of the murders of Paul and the prosecutor Kathryn Davis. However, Leonard comes out of hiding and stabs Holloway. Leonard is, in turn, shot by Burris, who has been hiding in a corner. Ani shows up and also begins shooting. Both Leonard and Holloway are killed, and Ray and Ani escape from the transportation center.
Ani visits Dr. Pitlor’s office, and finds him dead, with his wrists slashed. She also notices that his his files are missing.
Ray sends Ani to board a boat, telling her that he will catch up with her when she can. Ray wants to see his son Chad for the last time, so he peeks in on Chad at his school. He notices that Chad is playing a game, and using his grandfather’s badge as a game piece. When Ray leaves the school, he notices that his car has had a tracking device placed on it. Ray then realizes that he will not make it to Venezuela and drives to the forest. He leads his pursuers on a chase and manages to take out a couple of them, but the pursuit ends in Ray’s death as he is shot.
Frank attempts to leave Vinci but is kidnapped by members of a Mexican gang in retribution for setting fire to his clubs. The gang drives him out into the desert and robs him of his share of the cash. One member asks Frank to give up his suit but Frank refuses. Frank is then stabbed and left out in the desert. He begins to walk across the desert and has hallucinations of various people from his past. These hallucinations include his abusive father and the bullies who tormented him as a child. Frank finally sees an image of his wife Jordan, who is wearing a white dress. He thinks that he has escaped, but Jordan tells him that he actually died several yards away. Frank sees his own dead body, and collapses, dying of his wounds and exposure.
The episode jumps forward several months. The murders of Paul Woodrugh and Kathryn Davis are pinned on Ray, and the news reports that he was taken down in a standoff in the woods. The paternity tests ordered by Ray’s ex-wife confirm him as Chad’s father. Woodrugh is hailed as a hero and memorialized. Tony Chessani is inducted as mayor of Vinci, implying that the corruption will continue. The construction in Vinci continues. Ani speaks to a reporter in Venezuela and tells him her story. The reporter tells her that she should testify, but she refuses, and continues a life on the run. Ani then meets with Jordan, and we learn that she has given birth to a baby boy fathered by Ray. The two women make their way on the streets of Venezuela, as they continue to try to escape the danger that continues to haunt them, even though they have started a new life on a new continent.
So, the second season of True Detective (that was much anticipated and had high expectations to meet) is now over…
Or is it over? I know that this show is an anthology show (much like Fargo and American Horror Story), but I still had the impression that something was left…unfinished, to say the least.
Maybe I was supposed to feel this way. After all, reality is hardly ever nice and neat with a tidy ending, and perhaps this season was trying to bring that point across.
And I found the ending to also be quite disturbing, on quite a few levels. And perhaps some of that feeling is because everything was so unfinished. After all, no one ever really faced justice for the murder of Caspere and the conspiracy surrounding it. It is true that Leonard died, but the corruption was given license to continue, since Tony Chessani was inducted as mayor, after he got away with murdering his own father. The public was never told the actual truth about the murders of Paul and the prosecutor, Kathryn Davis. Instead, the city of Vinci was led to believe that Ray was the one who committed the murders, when he was actually one of the few people who was trying to bring the truth about Vinci to light. Ray paid the ultimate price for that, and it is unlikely that anyone will ever know the truth. And Vinci will be able to continue on in its corrupt ways and face no consequences…that is an unsettling thought.
Another unsettling thought is the thought of Ani and her lifestyle. It appears that she has been perpetually on the run, although she did tell her story to someone. However, that action has put her at risk, even though she has fled to another continent. The implication is that is that Ani will constantly be in danger, and will always need to keep that knife in boot (we saw it at the beginning of the season and we saw it again in the last episode). In the beginning, Ani was running away from a troubled childhood. But now she is running from people who want to kill her and would probably stop at nothing to hurt her and her son. So any kind closure for Ani is a thing of the past. Any kind of normal life for her and her son is also a thing of the past. While Ani may do a better job at protecting her son than her father did at protecting Ani and her sister, she is still unable to give him the kind of normal childhood that she did not have. So this is both sad, and disturbing. In other words, Ani got screwed again.
I think Frank’s death scene was my favorite part of this episode. The imagery was really good, I loved seeing him walk through the desert and have hallucinations involving people from his past, like his father and childhood bullies. If there really is a hell, being stuck in the desert and haunted by people from your past would be a pretty good depiction of it. The vultures following Frank also added a nice, disturbing touch to an already creepy scene. And I liked how Frank finally reached his wife, and she was wearing her white dress. Perhaps Frank will find the peace in death that he could not find in life.
So, let’s evaluate this season. I have been holding off doing this, since I wanted to see the entire season before passing judgement. This show is really more like an eight hour long movie, so evaluating it without seeing all the episodes would be akin to evaluating a movie I didn’t watch all the way through.
Because of the ground-breaking first season, True Detective was subject to some ridiculously high expectations for its second season. The first season was unlike anything on television, and provided something unexpected: a writer’s show, that featured ridiculously tight writing, and performances from Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey that were also ground-breaking. So, the second season was supposed to follow up, right?
Well, not necessarily. It would have been nice to see performances from the actors that were similar to the first season, and a script so cleverly written, but alas, we need to be realistic. And by being realistic, I mean that we need to cut everyone, from the writers, to the producers, to the actors, some slack. Sometimes an artist (or in this case, those involved with a TV show) is just in the zone, and that artist creates something never seen before, and is hailed as a genius. And of course, people come to expect genius from that artist, and anything less than genius is seen as failure.
So was the second season of True Detective genius? Not really. But was it an utter failure, as some critics have painted? Far from it.
The second season of True Detective was good. Very good, in fact. However, it was never great. And there were a couple of things that kept it from reaching great. One of them was a convoluted plot line, with too many characters to keep track of. The final episode was a great example of that, as it went back to a character (Leonard), who was only seen for a few minutes on a much earlier episode. Had I not been doing research and watching like someone who was analyzing the show for a blog post (imagine that), I would have had a hard time connecting this character to the story. We also learned a lot about the characters’ pasts, like Ani’s history of being sexually abused and Paul possibly committing war crimes during his time in the military, but the show failed to really flesh any of this out and connect it to the story line as a whole. In other words, we were provided some interesting puzzle pieces, but were unable to find out where they fit in the jigsaw puzzle, and those pieces just ended up being left out the table.
Another issue with this season of True Detective was the acting. Or lack of it, in some cases. In the first season of this show, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson both provided performances for the ages. McConaughey’s performance, in particular, was another ground-breaking aspect. A character such as Rust Cohle was never seen in a “mainstream” TV show, and McConaughey was able to portray this character so beautifully. And of course, this set a high bar for the acting for season 2. And that bar was not reached (and probably never will be on any show). This is not to say the acting in season 2 was bad. It wasn’t. Colin Farrell gave a great performance and was able to portray Ray as sympathetic, even when Ray was not being a good guy. Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch gave decent performances as well. Rick Springfield gave what may be the most memorable performance as the creepy doctor that one does not want to meet in a dark alley. But the show also suffered from uneven acting, particularly with Vince Vaughn’s character. Vaughn did have some memorable moments (his death scene was probably his best), but fell short too many other times. There were times when I think that his dialogue was meant to be serious, but either it just made me yawn or even start laughing. And I still don’t know whether this is the fault of Vaughn, the lack of decent writing for his character or perhaps a combination of the two. I am leaning towards the latter, although I may change my mind in the future.
So did I love this season of True Detective? Well, love is probably too strong a word. But I did like it. In fact, I really liked it. And really liking something, as opposed to loving it, is the next best thing. Really liking something is the consolation prize, and who said consolation prizes were a bad thing?
So that’s it for the second season of True Detective. Sometimes it was confusing, sometimes it was disturbing and sometimes it was even frustrating. but it was never dull. And hopefully we will be meeting again next year to discuss and dissect season 3. But until then: