Season Two, Episode Six — “Church in Ruins”
By Jarrod Jones. After five solid episodes of moody, relentless macho bullshit, True Detective pulled out a narrative victory for its sixth. (It was a matter of probability, really.) In the final stretch of a lackluster second season, it seems that our True Detectives are getting down to business by jettisoning the dead weight (you won’t find any of Paul’s patented self-loathing this week), or at least most of it: Frank’s still working an investigation of his own, but at least it appears that his efforts have opened a back door for the drug cartel he shrugged off last week to walk right in. (Ooh, actual intrigue!) We recognize a victory here, and though it’s an infinitesimally small one, with a show like True Detective? It’s like Terry McGinnis once said: “sometimes the small rewards are the best ones.”
WHAT WORKED: It’s hard to give the show a pass, it being the last stretch of this very short season, but True Detective is finally running on at least five of its six cylinders as the Vinci conspiracy takes a rather entertaining turn. The scaly underbelly of the California elite has been exposed, and — surprise! — it is not without vulnerability. Ani’s infiltration of the ostentatious hooker hook-up showed us that Nic Pizzolatto could control (or at least, strongly inhibit) his baser instincts of throwing Detective Bezzerides to the wolves for mere shock value. That level of control, coupled with the actual momentum the entire sequence gave this episode (to say nothing of the season), made for some damn good television. It was lurid and unnerving in a way True Detective should always strive to be. I’m actually locked in for next week.
Now, how in the hell did that happen?
WHAT DIDN’T: So Ray decides that he’s cutting out on the straight-and-narrow for a night of solo hedonism, one that includes just the right amount of cocaine and liquor so that we wouldn’t be confused as to whether this was a tipping point for the de-mustachioed True Detective or if episode director Miguel Sapochnik accidentally spliced some home video footage of a common Tuesday night at the Farrell home. Maybe Farrell is overcompensating here a bit, but the whole blizzard freakout a-go-go was pretty damned ridiculous, even by True Detective standards.
Maybe Nic Pizzolatto has a best friend named Stan? Who knows, but you can bet your britches we’re still talking about the show’s other dead guy, Frank’s former right-hand, Stan. Frank and Jordan pay a visit to the henchman’s widow and his orphan, and it’s as dull and lifeless as you’d expect. There’s some shoehorned relevance here — seems Blake has been doing some of his own homework, on top of running topshelf hookers behind Frank’s back, that li’l go-getter — but overall, why are we still on this? Will it bring Stan back from the dead? (That’s not rhetorical, I need to know: am I about to watch True Detective bring someone back from the dead?)
“Don’t you fucking shoot me, Raymond.” – Frank.
“You know me. You just didn’t know you did.” – Ray. I do believe it is Ray who is testing my patience this week.
BEST MOMENT: Imagine that. A fuck party made an otherwise inert show watchable. It’s easy for a show as inept as True Detective to get wrapped up just talking about inexorable evil, but to actually witness our True Detectives take it head on made for a pretty spectacular finish. When word came down that there was going to be an “orgy sequence” coming this season, and then it became apparent Nic Pizzolatto was going to be using his one female lead as the catalyst, the opportunity for calamity was paramount. But instead Sapochnik kept the camera close on Ani’s face, as the Caligula-level frivolity unfurled around her, and Ani’s knack for self-preservation took care of the rest.
EPISODE’S MVP: The Bezz. Ani made it. She didn’t make it because it was her turn or anything like that (you know that’s not how this works, right?), Ani Bezzerides made MVP because she downright owned an entire episode, a feat that was — I once thought — fucking improbable for this season. And as far as keeping promises is concerned, The Bezz is the only person on this show who keeps to her word: she did say if a man ever laid hands on her, she’d make him bleed out in under a minute. And she meant it.
– Did it ever occur to Ray that maybe Frank is just a shitty gangster?
– Sitcom idea: Ani and Athena move into the same apartment because of the tanking economy. Title: “My Psycho Sister.”
– So Stan was a great father. Maybe that’s why nobody knows who he is: he was too busy at home playing with his kids.
– For a guy who’s been crying poverty for the last six episodes, Frank’s throwing around a lot of money this week.
– My girlfriend, as Ray cried into his cocaine: “He misses his mustache.” Don’t we all.