True Detective Recap: The Evil That Men Do

True Detective. Photo: Lacey Terrell/HBO
True Detective
Episode Title
Omega Station
Editor’s Rating

There’s a commonly accepted school of thought that real estate is the surest means to wealth. It makes sense, then, that Vinci’s morally bankrupt circle of bureaucratic men would commit untold sins to buy their way into valuable land. And not just any parcels, but the very acreage that would serve as the foundation for a high-speed rail system connecting the greater state of California. You can imagine the rush of omnipresence in claiming partial ownership over something so vast. (And if not, the season’s through line of expansive aerial cinematography put a fine point on what was at stake.) Lieutenant Burris, Chief Holloway, Attorney General Geldof, Detective Dixon, City Manager Ben Caspere, Osip, Tony and Austin Chessani, Doctor Pitlor, Amarillo, Catalast head McCandless, et al.: They were shallow bad-guy archetypes whose individual knacks for ruining lives had their limits. But envision a scenario (as Nic Pizzolatto did) in which the spectrum of criminality conspires and descends on the heads of a single municipality, and it’s a more insurmountable disaster-movie premise than San Andreas.

This season of True Detective, like any spectacular parable, was an SOS to Joe Public that, as Frank puts it, “Everything’s ending. Time to wake up.” Even gloomy Lera Lynn got the message, having kicked out the legs from her stool to play a raging stand-up number before stridently departing the bar. Upstairs, Frank was laying out his arsenal and future plans for Felicia, Ray, and Ani. It wasn’t pretty, but few things are. Felicia understands this, having pledged loyalty to the sensitive mobster and compromised cop who helped rescue her from the men who tried making her ugly. Frank’s not exactly the sort of guy Ani sizes up and makes for a friend, but with enemies like hers, an ally will do. Ray, renewed with purpose, knows there’s no way he’s shaking the murder rap at his feet without one last extraordinary act of violence. The irony of his predicament isn’t lost on him, and it’s why he eventually leaves one last heartbreaking voice memo for Chad, assuring the boy we later discover is his legitimate son, “You’re better than me.”

Tragically, Chad never receives the message. It fails to upload on Ray’s phone at precisely the moment Burris and his task force dispatch an untold number of bullets into him with prejudice (and, more frustrating, impunity). For all Ray’s self-deprecation about how Paul and just about anyone else with a pulse was a superior person and/or officer, he deserved better. Unlike his dad, Eddie, he not only went out fighting, but fighting for what was right. Chad knows that on some level. It’s why he holds onto that badge in the schoolyard. It’s a reminder of his father’s intentions and the onus to surpass them, no different than what it symbolized for Ray when he retrieved it from Eddie’s wastebasket.

But that’s not enough for Ani. She’s going to make damn sure that Chad, the world, and the son she and Ray conceived know what injustice is. It’s not Laura and Lenny exacting retribution on Caspere and Holloway. Nor is it Frank blowing up nightclubs used as fronts by gangsters greasing wheels for corporate sociopaths and the politically entitled. And it’s certainly not Ray “making up for lost time” (to borrow Ani’s phrase from the morning after their tryst) by running toward and not away from the takers. She’s going to expose newly anointed Mayor Tony Chessani, Lieutenant Burris, presumed Governor Geldof, and any other remaining vestige of Vinci’s patriarchal legacy in similar fashion to Rust and Marty’s guns-and-good-hard-evidence takedown of the Childress/Tuttle clans in season one. Ray, Paul, and so many others “paid in blood” to tear down Vinci and everything it represents, and like Sarah Connor with a paper trail, she’s seeing to it that her son gets a clean slate.

So much of season two had to do with fathers and sons, women and men, resurrection and redemption, self-inflicted scars and cyclical abuse. But it was also about fantasy and fact. Frank and Jordan shared daydreams about meeting at El Obelisco in their Sunday best, but they both knew the truth that Frank was a stubborn son of a bitch who’d die putting his daddy issues to rest. Ani and Ray got carried away with their true connection, until it dawned on him first and her next that others had already determined their fate. Paul was so busy trying to be everyone else’s hero that he never fully grasped how easily he could be exploited, even in death. And this iteration of True Detective as a whole oriented, disoriented, and then reoriented us to its environment and ethos with lurid detours into genre storytelling and sobering cause and effect on real lives. It wasn’t always coherent, and it could be unintentionally comical, but it’s hard not to walk away having received the message (as presidential campaigns gear up, no less) that if we don’t want more Vincis to take root and prosper, it is indeed time to wake up.

Apart from all that:

  • Okay, so, far as casework goes, here’s some of what was confirmed/clarified tonight: Burris, Holloway, and Caspere executed Laura and Lenny’s folks after Mom refused to be discreet about carrying Ben’s baby (i.e., Laura); they took the diamonds heisted from the Ostermans’ store and more or less bought Vinci as their own personal anti-Eden; they were in bed with the mob and corporate developers to make loot off a high-speed rail system; Russian gangsters had other ideas and tried to cut Frank and other Vinci high-ups out of the mix; Caspere was holding onto some diamonds as leverage when needed over Burris and Holloway, but not a problem since Laura and Lenny took care of him (though it became a much bigger issue for Holloway in particular when they came looking for more blood); Dixon, no surprise, squandered his loot and was trying to blackmail Holloway and Burris; the Mexicans were indeed tipped off by Holloway and Burris; the Mexicans were also pissed at Frank that their nightclubs were in flames, were willing to be bought off, but then offed Frank after he got testy about giving one of the gang members his suit; Ray was on the run 'cause he was framed for killing Katherine Davis and Paul; and oh, yeah, this all basically started 'cause a bunch of pervs who twisted the ideals of a New Age hippie commune pursued boundless hedonism that evolved into the importing and prostituting of immigrant women as an ostensible metaphor for what’s been felling societies since the dawn of time. Anyhow, it’s been a long season and there’s lots of fun other nuggets to sort out, but I’ll leave it to you guys to take the ball and run with it from here, and I will happily fill in any blanks I can.
  • Elsewhere, let it be said: Frank was both bigot and poet. Frank’s safe house was very à la Tony Soprano’s in season six. Or that apartment above the bar Raylan in Justified called home for a bit.
  • Nails: Rides till he dies.
  • What’s a little smoke from a Range Rover in an atmosphere already so polluted?
  • Pizzolatto really got every cliché, climactic action-movie scene out of his system in this one. Loved it.
  • And can we agree that the less said about Frank’s ghosts of hard-knock's-life past, the better? Especially evil Harry Morgan?
  • Finally, let me just say: Thanks for sticking with the season and these recaps. It’s definitely been an eventful, sometimes volatile forum and give and take. But, hey, why have it any other way? Till next season?