True Detective Recap: The Great Escape

Photo: Lacey Terrell/HBO
True Detective
Episode Title
Church in Ruins
Editor’s Rating

Frank says a lot of silly things, but he speaks the truth when telling his fallen comrade Stan’s son Mikey that “Sometimes a thing happens, splits your life. There’s a before and after.” He also seems pretty consistent about advocating for justice in his own strange way. Ray’s a pretty good judge of assholes, after all, and he’s inclined to believe that Frank didn’t maliciously misdirect him toward someone other than the scumbag who raped his wife. That’s not to say Semyon didn’t see what there was to gain from keeping a cop in his debt, regardless of whether he was trading on good intel. But per the opening scene’s spatial dynamic — i.e., Ray dictating to his counterpart from the catbird’s seat in Frank’s modest kitchen, as opposed to the other way around, in Velcoro’s desperate dive bar of choice — the playing field’s been leveled.

Or has it? One could still make the case that Frank’s got something to do with these coordinated orgies at the Kali Club. A few weeks back he was laying down the law to Santos that they’ll run “whatever the fuck they call MDMA now” through Lux Infinitum, and lo and behold, the ladies dispatched to Kali are sprayed with a hit of pure molly. Then again, as has been the case all season, there have been plenty of prosperous recurring visual cues, like the carrion hovering overhead during Ani’s hallucinatory flashback to a sexual trauma from her childhood. Her nightmarish recollection is a reminder that evil and manipulation come in many forms, and it’s a particularly cynical revelation amid the more expected Eyes Wide Shut debauchery of rich and powerful men behaving badly at Catalyst honcho Jacob McCandless’s soiree.

Still, what a thrilling escape from said fuck-fest (props to director Miguel Sapochnik, who directed the final two episodes of Banshee’s first season with similar relentlessness), and ’twas more than a little reminiscent of Rust and Marty’s daring escape from the projects-heist gone amok in season one. And at the risk of making an obvious Anchorman reference, how could one not think of Ron Burgundy’s beloved Brick when Ani remarked, “I think I killed a guy”? (Aside, of course, from not thinking of him.) Though unlike last season’s getaway, the extra passenger in the backseat isn’t scumbag Ginger but horribly mistreated missing person Vera, who hopefully has the answers to help resolve all these investigators’ lingering questions. Lord knows Frank’s all but hit a dead end after Irina Rulfo, who’d pawned Ben Caspere’s blue diamonds, was sliced and diced by the Santa Muerte gang before Semyon could have her ID the thin white cop who allegedly put her up to the job.

A good guess as to who that crooked officer might be is Lieutenant Burris (James Frain), the Vinci higher-up who was all too eager for Ray to pin Caspere’s death on some lowlife pimp so they could all move on and serve dutifully under gubernatorial candidate Geldof’s perverted reign. More and more, it seems the mayor himself is just a two-bit chump who’s chosen to turn a blind eye, take his share of the rewards, and stand between any nosy Goody Two-shoes and his philandering bosses and colleagues. Hell, not only is Geldof parading around at Kali Club (presuming we can trust Ani’s immediate perception), so is Chief Holloway. It’s the worst-case scenario that we all assumed was conspiring and closing in around Rust and Marty as they worked in and outside the system of Louisiana PD.

But the truth in that time and place was no different than in this go-round of True Detective. Ray, Paul, and Ani are fending off what’s festered after unspeakable things went unspoken for too long, both before and after signature tragedies. The L.A. riots were a reckoning after decades of racial and socioeconomic divide, yet they only seemed to further polarize and traumatize those who bore witness to them on all sides. A former LAPD officer (Josh Clark) can hardly bear it when Paul shows him pictures of the children whose jewelry-store-owner parents were killed for TD’s telltale blue diamonds during the riots. Who knows what those kids have become all these years later? Santa Muerte? Maybe. It doesn’t really matter because the stylized gangland murderers are here now, and they’re coming for guys like Frank who think this land is their land. At present, they’ll settle for funneling drugs through Lux and, much like Ray did, turning the tables on Frank and calling the shots on how their arrangement goes down from now on.

We’re getting closer to some version of the truth as it pertains to Caspere’s killer, but the tone of this noir fantasy is increasingly, resolutely bitter. The integrity of that jewelry-store heist back in ’92 was compromised, no different from the death shack Paul and Ani stumbled on up in the forest (and, indeed, the body was female, though not Vera’s). No different from how the abuse Ani suffered at her commune or what Paul endured in Afghanistan has been that thing that’s torn them in two, how Ray’s actions following Gena’s assault have ravaged his conscience, or how parental neglect lead Frank to nihilism as a means of survival. It’s no different, for that matter, from the riots themselves splitting Los Angeles in such a fashion that the haves may as well have cloistered themselves off in mansions with Eastern bloc hookers and cocaine while everyone else was left to ruthlessly claim what’s theirs. Really, True Detective isn’t any one character or city populous’s world. It’s just the world.

Apart from all that:

  • Moratorium request: use of the term my old man.
  • Frank doesn’t want to see Ray die, at least not “by me.”
  • I was kinda surprised at how scared Gena’s assaulter was of Ray.
  • Stan’s wife was indeed the wonderfully named Sprague Grayden of Paranormal Activity 2 and 3, Six Feet Under, et al.
  • And yep, Seth from Silicon Valley made an appearance as well.
  • No Lera Lynn this week, but her spirit was there in the episode title.
  • Oh, Chad.
  • Sort of a thankless role for Abigail Spencer, ultimately.
  • Another memo to all Banshee fans: Bogden from Kali Club was none other than the Albino!
  • Episode writer Scott Lasser is a friend of Pizzolatto’s and a novelist who, according to The Hollywood Reporter, helped him break stories this season. Interesting.
  • Am I the only one who keeps thinking about this past season of Bates Motel?
  • As ever, don’t read too much into star ratings. And don’t shoot the recapper.