Season Two, Episode Two — “Night Finds You”

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By Jarrod JonesYou have to hand it to True Detective: only this show would use water damage as a narrative portal towards cosmic oblivion.

The opening sequence of “Night Finds You” is more than a stretch, and Frank Semyon’s navel-gazing ponderances are equally daunting, but it all gets an eleventh-hour save by Justin Lin’s rather artful sequeway towards the hollowed-out eye sockets of the recently departed, so *whew*. That was a close one. (“Now you’re thinking with portals.” – Me, to this show.)

Week Two of True Detective‘s second season has come and gone, and it’s nearly indistinguishable from the last. (A question: are those sludgy barroom meetups between Farrell and Vaughn deliberately identical so that we’re always met with a creeping temporal malaise? Because it’s working.) We get a superficial glimpse into the scaly underbelly of Vinci, California’s economic success, a storyarc that proves one vital truth: Nic Pizzolatto has seen Chinatown. Ani checks out a porn site for work just long enough for it to get weird. Paul gets hit on by his own mother. And Ray takes one to the tummy.

WHAT WORKED: Cracks exist in this show’s morbidly dense armor, and and if you look long enough, you’ll begin to see that wry, wicked sense of humor that kept the first season of True Detective from imploding entirely. Consider Frank’s roadside exchange with some random, put-upon fella: “Jeezus, buddy, what was that about?” Frank screeches as he lumbers with sinister purpose towards the maced and disgraced no-name, fire and comical vengeance painted on his face. (Reminded me of that time Tony Soprano pulled a similar stunt with Phil Leotardo way back when.) That’s the Frank Semyon this show needs. It’s a vast improvement from the “abyss gazes also” bullshit Frank spoon-fed us at the beginning of the hour.

WHAT DIDN’T: Well, there’s really not a whole lot to latch onto with these guys, is there? Paul (Taylor Kitsch), Ani (Rachel McAdams) and Ray (Colin Farrell) give each other pensive looks over the corpse of Ben Caspere (right after we see what a shotgun did to the lower abdomen of the notorious sex addict), and then it’s off to their equally shitty lives with little to connection made between them. There are attempts to make it work — at least with Ani and Ray, later on — but Nic Pizzolatto seems more interested in solidifying archetype instead of crafting nuance: Ani reminds Ray that her choice to play in the boy’s sandbox is a sound one (“Any man lays hands on me is gonna bleed out in under a minute…”), but Ray shits all over it with a reliably thick-necked response (“Well, just so you know, I support feminism…”). We’re getting nowhere, folks.

Guys. You gave us Lolita Davidovich, and what did you do? What did you do, guys? As Ma Woodrugh licks the salt from her shitty margarita, she caresses the back of her weirdo son, Paul, cooing about Clint Eastwood movies and hound’s blood. And then I missed the rest of the episode because I was too busy fixing myself a bleach bath. (It was the only way I would ever be clean again!)

BEST LINE(s):

You tight with him?” – Ani. ” I’m not tight with anybody.” – Ray, indulging in stereotype.

Innuendo is nobody’s friend.” – Mayor Chessani.

The fuck kinda modus operandi is that?” – Frank.

BEST MOMENT: That ending. Ray Velcoro is sent to investigate one of Ben Caspere’s hidey-holes out in Hollywood, and the second he crosses the threshold — where he discovers a soundproofed room complete with sex swings, animal masks, a pool of blood, and a live camera behind a two-way mirror — we know he’s good and fucked. Is this the end of Ray Velcoro? Seems strange that a man with “velcro” in his name wouldn’t stick around. (Jokes.)

EPISODE’S MVP: Frank Semyon. Vince Vaughn continues to intrigue me this season, a 6’5” lost soul with little muscle beyond what he can purchase, borrowing an inflection Frank Miller borrowed from Edward G. Robinson, and going pretty far with both. His fumbling delivery of Nic Pizzolatto’s faux-noir dialogue is almost a symphony in awfulness. It’s mesmerizing.

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GATHERING EVIDENCE:

– So now I know how a blown off pair of nuts looks like. Yet another visual True Detective offered me that’ll I’ll likely take to my grave.

– Love how we get a glimpse into the daily routine of Mayor Austin Chessani (Richie Coster). Spending an entire day in the mayor’s office with that elaborately stocked liquor shelf sends the man reaching for a drink at every convenience. It’s like he’s having a little game with himself: Assembling a conspiracy? Sip. Nosy detective butting in? Drink. Deal with Frank getting sour? Guzzle.

– You’re not endearing me any further puffing away at that e-cig, Ani.

– These car scenes are fucking terrible, people. I know you can’t just walk around southern California, and that at least a quarter of your life is spent in a car down there, but Justin Lin needs to learn how to shoot a car sequence on the inside rather than out (Fast Five was twenty years ago, Lin!). At least choreograph the sequences so that the green screened backgrounds synch up with the movements of the actors. (Rachel McAdams’ wheel turn… the horror.)

– “How’s that for detectin’?” We’re all very impressed, Frank.