True Detective: “Other Lives” Review

True Detective
Season 2, Episode 5 – “Other Lives”
Air date: July 19, 2015

True Detective takes a couple steps back even as the plot jumps sixty-six days forward in “Other Lives”, moving past the fallout from the brutal shootout at the end of “Down Will Come” and focusing on how our heroes have been coping after the dust has settled. The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, isn’t well. With the case officially closed but unofficially wide open, the team is reassembled into a confidential task force to investigate not only Caspere’s murder, but the corruption surrounding it. It feels a bit like a narrative reset, but with three short episodes left in the season, it’s some long overdue forward progress.

The flash forward was similarly employed in the first season, but used to better effect in an investigation that spanned over a decade, bridging the gap between the characters’ accounts and the present day. In “Other Lives,” however, the gap serves largely to clear the table, a narrative convenience that bypasses the messy aftermath of the Vinci Massacre so that the team can be reunited and the investigation reopened. One of the issues with the season so far is that the corruption at the heart of the mystery is readily apparent, but frustratingly beyond the reach of our heroes–it’s only past the halfway point of the season that our detectives are finally on the right trail. The central mystery of the season feels more like a straightforward corruption scandal, without the intriguing clues and occult undertones that made the first season so compelling.

The dead suspects from the firefight are all that Attorney General Geldof needed to consider the Caspere case closed, a victory he leveraged to announce a bid for governorship. Ray resigned ahead of the state’s corruption probe and is now working as an enforcer for Frank, who himself has downsized both his home and ambitions. Meanwhile, Paul was promoted to detective, but Ani finds herself working in the evidence locker as a result of the internal affairs investigation against her. State’s Attorney Davis secretly reunites the three main characters for a confidential investigation into Caspere’s murder and corruption.

So the investigation essentially starts anew, but with a handful of more concrete clues to drive the plot forward during the season’s final three episodes. The missing girl from the premiere, Vera, left behind some photographs of Caspere’s missing blue diamond and the secret parties that keep getting mentioned. Paul questions a few local pawn shop dealers, one of whom reveals that Teague Dixon was also searching for the missing diamond. A later investigation of Vera’s last known location in Guerneville brings Ani and Paul to a small, blood splattered shack. Meanwhile, Ray tails Blake and finds him trafficking girls from Pitlor and Tony Chessani to Osip. A rather forceful interrogation of Pitlor reveals what should already be mostly apparent–Pitlor provides plastic surgery and prescriptions for the girls used in Caspere and Chessani’s parties, where they forge business deals and gather evidence for blackmail.

The camera and hard drive from Caspere’s bungalow is notably still missing, the contents of which have piqued the interest of McCandless, the president of Catalast. He offers Frank his five parcels of land in the rail project in exchange for its return. But another problem lands on Frank’s door–Ray, who after his wife’s real rapist is arrested, realizes that Frank set him up all those years ago. The first half of this season was weighed down by uneven characterization and a meandering investigation, but “Other Lives” dumps more significant plot developments in an hour than we’ve received all season, and the story finally receives a much needed push forward.

Will Fan
Movies, television, games, food, coffee, vague lists, naps. Twitter: @will_fan

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