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I think we can all agree that the ending of “Night Finds You” was pretty shocking, right? And man, if True Detective opts to off it’s most interesting character two episodes into the season, that would be pretty amazing. But I don’t doubt for one second that Ray will be back in the saddle at some point this season. After all, without Ray, I’m not entirely certain the show can sustain itself over the remaining six episodes.
While “Night Finds You” fell into a number of traps apparent from episode one (chief among them Vince Vaughn’s inability to handle the show’s stylized dialogue, despite making it crystal clear he’s trying his absolute hardest to do so- a fact that is now verging on sad every time he has to speak), it did make some minor progress in defining our four main characters.
The most interesting aspect of the episode was the relationship between Ani and Ray. Unsurprisingly, Rachel McAdams has managed to begin crafting an interesting character out of Ani (who, while she remains mostly an enigma in many regards, has a strength and purpose now). Her moments in the car with Ray were the strongest of the episode. When the show’s dialogue is normal (meaning no failed attempts at creating more iconic Rust Cohle speeches), the characters shine. In the Ani-Ray scenes, I felt as if I understood these two individuals. Ray’s decision to tell Ani that the investigation is expected to fail and his inability to vocalize how corrupt he really is were key moments for both characters. They show us that Ray isn’t as far gone as we thought (although he still has a great deal to overcome before he’s anywhere remotely good), and that we should trust Ani- she’s our moral compass when it comes to the case (if not necessarily the most moral of person outside of the investigation). Each of those character moments was essential to move the story along.
Outside of Ani and Ray, however, there wasn’t all that much going on within the episode. Frank continued to be a rather dull character, his winding speech about being locked in the basement in the dark missing its mark due to Vaughn’s acting limitations. Similarly, Taylor Kitsch’s Paul has been relegated to stilted dialogue and brooding stares. His rant about the “fag” at the bank and his wistful look at the gay couple in the street are neon signs that he’s deeply in the closet (which also explains the Viagra of last week). Were Paul more of a focus within the series (and if the show had the necessary time to really craft these characters- as it did when faced with only two leads last season), this development might be more interesting. But I doubt the show has the time or ability to really delve deeper into how this revelation affects Paul and who he is. True Detective this season is over-stuffed. There are four leads each begging for a deeper character exploration (although, perhaps without the crazy dialogue), and a massive and messy murder investigation. It’s already clear that some characters and some of the story are going to get the short shrift here. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Paul was one of them.
As for the investigation itself, there are so many sides playing so many angles that the whole thing is rather convoluted. I’m honestly not 100% sure who wants what to happen. But if season one taught us anything, it’s that paying too close attention to the actual mystery can lead to disappointment all around. We’ve only had two hours out of eight shown to us, so I suppose the positions and players (outside of our main four characters) will become more nuanced as the weeks roll by (or, at least one hopes they will), so I won’t worry to much that the reasoning behind the various sides is still a bit opaque (beyond the basic corruptions battles that is- with the Attorney General fighting the corruption and the government brazenly ignoring that the investigation is upon them). This storyline could also use a bit more pep. While the Yellow King arc last season devolved into the realm of the ridiculous by the end, chasing political corruption through dully drawn characters is almost worse than having a fun storyline fail to deliver in the end.
Two episodes in, I’m still on the fence about this season of True Detective. Two episodes in last season, I was completely hooked. I can’t help but want to continue giving the show a chance. When it has truly strong and interesting moments, it’s worth watching. But when it shoves exposition down our throats or fails to land plot points (or acting choices) in any meaningful manner, it frustrates.
— That was Abigail Spencer, from Mad Men and the soon to be returning Rectify, playing Ray’s ex-wife. She’s an amazing actress, and I highly recommend watching Rectify when it returns (you can catch-up through Amazon). It’s one of the best shows on television, hands down.
— So, no one involved in the conception of Ray’s son is a red head. Is it possible that someone else is the kid’s father?
— I’m glad the bird suit head from the back of the car last week played a role this week. While I suspect it’s simply a case of a killer disguising himself and not something more complex than that, I’m happy the show didn’t just drop that moment.
— I can’t decide if I want Ray to be dead or not. Killing him off at this point would be huge in terms of adding real stakes to the case (I don’t really care that Frank lost everything or that Caspere is dead at this point). But killing him means the show’s most engaging character is gone, which would be a huge loss to the show.