‘True Detective’ Review: A Shot to the Gut

True Detective
Season 2, Episode 2 – “Night Finds You”
Air date: June 28, 2015

While last week’s premiere was met with mixed responses, “Night Finds You” offers some glimpses of that old True Detective magic that audiences have been craving. There’s some uneven character development and a steady march of hit-or-miss secondary characters as the investigation picks up speed, but there’s finally some chemistry brewing between the brooding leads and even the occasional flash of humor. The investigation proceeds in predictable fashion as more lurid details of Caspere’s life are slowly uncovered, but the real shot to the gut is the one delivered at the end of the episode.

The second season is still struggling with its characterization–the weighty character moments don’t quite land as they intend, despite the show’s best efforts. Taylor Kitsch draws the shortest straw here, with Paul Woodrugh’s pouty aloofness more reminiscent of angst-ridden teenage years than the haunted ex-military man he’s supposed to be; the situation isn’t helped by scenes examining his creepy, co-dependent relationship with his mother and his breakup with Emily. Frank Semyon, meanwhile, opens the episode with a bit of existential anxiety, but it’s a far cry from Rustin Cohle’s nihilistic ramblings from the first season. Frank is much more compelling when he’s backed into a corner–he took big risks to invest in the land deal, but his money evaporated with Caspere’s murder and he’s desperate to find the man responsible. A later scene with Frank threatening a man allows a bit of Vince Vaughn’s wise-ass sarcasm to shine through, and is a refreshing break from the heavy bleakness of the series thus far.

True Detective

Indeed, there isn’t much to smile about–the most prominent smile is a golden grill with the words “fuck you” engraved across it–but the episode does contain an almost comical amount of weary gazes and probing stares. It’s part of the job of course; when the characters aren’t busy stewing in their own misery, they’re trying to size each other up. Velcoro is tasked by the crooked Vinci mayor Austin Chessani to “guide” the investigation in the right directions, while Bezzerides is still trying to work out just how compromised Velcoro is. This leads us to one of the better moments of the episode and the return of a popular hallmark from the first season: some quality partner bonding time spent chatting in cars. There’s a nice bit of characterization here, and the dynamic between the two is the best the season has mustered so far. Ray’s flashes of self-deprecating humor land flat against Ani’s no-nonsense coldness, but the two manage to approach something resembling mutual respect.

Almost as quickly as that happens, though, “Night Finds You” delivers a (literal) shot to the gut. After Frank uncovers the location of a property that Caspere used as a sex den, Velcoro is sent to investigate. There’s a pool of blood, a sex swing, and a wall of animal masks (one bust is conspicuously bare). The episode ends with Ray taking two close range shotgun shots from the man in the bird mask. It’s a shocking twist–few would ever expect True Detective to kill off its main character in the second episode, but the odds of him surviving such injuries seem extremely low. Ray hasn’t been a very sympathetic character and he had little left to live for after Alicia stated her intention to gain sole custody of their son, so his tragic downfall is arguably fitting (albeit abrupt). It’s early enough that Ray’s death would only add fuel to the investigation rather than completely derail it, but the show would almost certainly feel the loss of its strongest actor.

  • Dr. Pitlor is Caspere’s psychiatrist, acquainted with Ani’s father, and an obvious creep. He’s also played by Rick Springfield!
  • “I’m waiting for this Velcoro burnout to make like Rockford?”
  • “Well just so you know, I support feminism. Mostly by having body image issues.”
  • Ani’s old partner Elvis is still working on that missing person case from last episode, so that’s probably connected to all of this in some horrible way.
Will Fan
Movies, television, games, food, coffee, vague lists, naps. Twitter: @will_fan

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