We follow up last week’s episode episode that opened with a bang with one that ends with a bang or two (or several hundred) in what one watching it in context can’t help but think of as a direct response to last season’s episode 4 stunner “Who Goes There”. If you haven’t seen the first season or need a refresher on which episode was which that was the one with the long-take heard ‘round the world, an awesome suspense sequence taking place over six minutes without a single cut. It was also the episode where people stopped talking about True Detective as “that weird HBO anthology miniseries thing” and started talking about it as a potential masterpiece.
It’s an analogy that makes even more sense when you consider that both the third episodes of these seasons, S1’s “The Locked Room” and last week’s “Maybe Tomorrow”, ended with creepy shots of masked figures that worked as cliffhangers enticing viewers to come back to discover who these creepy potential killers are.
As an answer to “Who Goes There”, this ending pretty much sums up the differences between last season and this one. The beauty of the long take is in its execution. It almost doesn’t matter what actually happens in the scene because the longer it goes on the more and more of an accomplishment it becomes. In “Who Goes There” all that really happens is some sneaking through a residential area, but since that sneaking takes place entirely in one single shot every minor event compounds the complexity of the production exponentially. If anybody in the cast or crew trips, misses a line, does something out of character the whole thing goes back to square one. They have to reset the people in the house, the extras on the street, the cop cars, the people in the other house, Woody Harrelson circling in the other car, even the freakin’ helicopter! That’s like a million things that could go wrong and hours in between takes if any single one of them does.
This is appropriate for a Southern Gothic story that succeeds on the ethereal rather than the simple facts of what happens in the story. It’s about an atmosphere and a feeling in the pit of your stomach rather than who got murdered and how. It could even be seen as emblematic of the first season as a whole. Brilliant execution in direction, photography, and acting elevates what could be seen as a pulpy melodrama to the level of something approaching art.
If the ending of “Who Goes There” was a Swiss watch, the ending of “Down Will Come” is a jackhammer. Or maybe one of the plethora of assault rifles that make an appearance in the scene. Less elegant simplicity and more brutal excess that leaves the three True Detectives freeze-framed in a picture of destruction. While a bit of atmosphere was perfect for a Southern Gothic, this season is a ‘70s conspiracy thriller. The ending of “Down Will Come” is this season’s answer to Harry Callahan turning a city block into a war zone with six shots from his .44.
But how did we get to that ending?
Frank Semyon reveals quite a bit about this season’s themes of fatherhood when he refers to adoption as prison (“doing somebody else’s time”). This leads to the question of why he’d even want to be a father. If this is the way he views parenting, then even raising his biological child would be some form of “doing time”. It also draws a direct comparison to Velcoro, who’s made raising a son he strongly suspects is not his own a cornerstone of his identity. Rounding out this theme in “Down Will Come” is Woodrugh’s enthusiastic embrace of his soon-to-be fatherhood for the absolute worst reasons. He believes that fatherhood will save him from himself, in the hopes that that doubling down on an identity that he’s unable to commit himself to at this point will force him into commitment through sheer force of momentum. I’m skeptical that this will work.
Though after the day he’s had it’s no wonder Woodrugh asks Emily to marry him, saying this is “The best thing that could have happened.” Directly after his night at the Lux depicted in the last episode, he wakes up in his army buddy Miguel’s bed. Deeply uncomfortable with what he suspects he’s done, he leaves to find that his bike has been towed. A bunch of reporters are on his case, asking about his time in the army, at Black Mountain, and the scandal with the actress. His relationship, sexual identity, and job have fallen apart around him, so it’s perfectly logical for him to try grasping at a symbol of the stability and normality that he believes he desires.
Velcoro challenges Bezzerides perception of the state investigation. He believes it’s a shakedown, an attempt for some state officials to benefit from Vinci’s corruption rather than shut it down for good. The evidence he provides is that neither she nor Woodrugh are well-liked in their respective offices. This probably rings especially true to Bezzerides as in this episode she’s banned from her main office for sexual misconduct with a subordinate. This appears to be a trend that might effect her relationships at large when it’s also revealed that she’d previously slept with her partner, leading to his eventual divorce. Ultimately, Ray’s point is that they’re in the perfect position to be the fall guys when the shit finally goes down.
Meanwhile, Frank continues the tour he started at the Lux. He sold off all his holdings related to his illegal ties in order to get the money together to go legit on the high speed rail deal. Now that the deal has officially fallen through he’s completely broke and without any means to earn his money back. Like a cornered dog or a caged animal or some other metaphor he’s pushing back in the only direction he knows will give way: the same people he just cut ties with and/or sold his properties to. He pays unwelcome visits to all your classic mob-connected businesses: his poker room, the Lux nightclub, an overcrowded tenement building, and… an ornate pastry shop?
Basically everybody has to get back into business with him if they want to keep their teeth, and they do.
Bezzerides and Velcoro speak with Chessani’s daughter, learn that her mother was committed for schizophrenia and eventually killed herself under the care of the very same doctor Caspere was so fond of up at the clinic, Dr. Pitlor. This leads the two detectives to question Ani’s father, who admits to knowing Pitlor, Caspere, and the whole gang from way back. A brief scene with Bezzerides’ sister reveals that she also knows about the elite sex parties, possibly linking the whole family to this conspiracy.
They also follow up on Chessani’s land deals and learn that the land was apparently all contaminated with toxins. This actually makes sense, considering I’d doubt the land is so toxic that it’d hurt people hurtling over it on a bullet train. A high speed railway actually seems like one of the few uses for land that can’t hold plants, animals, or crops.
Semyon offers Velcoro a spot as muscle in his pending-construction criminal empire, but seems to continually overestimate the extent of his friend’s corruption. Velcoro is reduced to sneaking into his son’s backyard in order to give him his grandfather’s badge to remember him by.
Finally, Detective Dixon and Woodrugh zero in on a potential lead through a pawn shop selling Caspere’s watch. This puts them on the trail of gang member Ledo Amarilla, the pursuit of whom ends so very, very badly as we’ve already discussed at length.
We didn’t see the initial link between Caspere and the watch, so is it possible that this is part of the setup Velcoro described and the only three people left conveniently alive will be hung out to dry? After all, it seems unlikely to us in the audience that this was actually just a random robbery because we’ve been shown too much (and the season’s only half over) but this could’ve easily been intended to have publicly wrapped up the case, leaving the investigators disgraced and/or dead. I suppose we’ll find out next week in an episode IMDb calls “Another Life”. See you then!
Bezzerides can’t fit into the fatherhood theme except as a product of a father who seems to have been more and more absent and potentially corrupt the more we’ve seen of him. Compare to Velcoro’s father – a violent racist – and Semyon’s father – and abusive alcoholic – to get a vibe for Pizzolatto’s dim view of fatherhood.
Although considering the peek we get at Woodrugh’s mother, maybe that should just be parenthood in general.
Eliot Bezzerides claims Velcoro has a green and black aura. At the time the two main colors he’s wearing are green and dark grey (a faded shirt that appears to have originally been black). Ani is also wearing mainly green and black. Dialogue calling attention to a costuming indication that the two detectives are beginning to get along, perhaps?
Woodrugh’s a hell of a shot, taking a guy out from an upper-story window with only a pistol. I’m not sure he gets credit for the whole building exploding, but then again I’m not sure why in the hell the whole building would randomly explode in the first place.
I didn’t see much significance to it, other than Frank being in a situation he didn’t like again, but that eye-like pattern from episode 2 made a reappearance in this episode as well.
I’ve been calling her Dezzerides, apparently the name is actually Bezzerides. I may go back and correct that in previous reviews as well, but don’t hold me to it.