This review is going to operate in two parts. First I’m going to recap the episode as usual, next time I’m going to do a post-mortem on the entire season. Strap in because this shit’s complicated.
We open on Ray and Ani post-sexytimes. They have a game of “confess a horrible thing, then twist the knife with an even more horrifying detail”. Ani tells Ray that she was molested as a child and reveals to both Ray and the audience that she blames herself for the incident, claiming that she went willingly and was “glad he thought I was pretty.” In turn, Ray reveals to her – not the audience – that his wife was raped and he went outside the law to kill the guy who did it. Right after Ani forgives him with a “Whole cultures wouldn’t blame you,” he tops it by revealing to her – not the audience – that it was the wrong guy, so he killed an innocent man.
Frank says goodbye to his wife, Jordan, at the station. He’s leaving her with the $100,000 of his own money he was able to scrape together in order to escape to Venezuela before his rampage. She refuses to go because Nic Pizzolatto has ideas about feminism (I guess?) and Frank tries to scare her away like a filthy animal. He tosses his ring away and insults her for being unable to bear children, so she tosses her ring and claims she wants to stay anyways. Of course, it’s all the same in the end when he manages to convince her with a story about meeting while wearing all white clothing that’s so syrupy sweet that not only does the audience know they’re clearly doomed, the characters themselves appear to realize it.
Burris calls Velcoro to tell him that Woodrugh is dead and gay, in that order. Velcoro tells him that he knows about the ’92 robbery/murder, so Burris offers to frame Bezzerides and cut Velcoro in if he keeps quiet. Velcoro claims to play along.
In actuality he wants the Ostermann kids – Erica/Laura and Tyler/Leonard – because he now knows that Ani, Paul, and himself were always set up to take the fall on this. He ID’s Leonard as the photographer that he talked to way back on that post-apocalyptic movie set, so Ray & Ani head to Leonard’s place. There they find all the evidence they could ever need that he’s the one behind everything: the crow mask, rubber bullets, pictures of Chief Holloway and Det. Burris… Also, Erica/Laura’s chained up next to a poster for Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. As far as wearing your influences on your sleeve goes… Well, if you were holding out hope that this season might end happily… that’s your cue to go ahead and stop.
They break Laura free and she feeds them a MASSIVE BLOCK OF EXPOSITION: She got out of the foster system as soon as she could, wound up in prostitution, met Tasha, got into the parties where she met Caspere, and used information she got from him to change her identity and get a job in the film industry. Eventually she met her brother, he’d had a really rough time in foster care and was eager for revenge, so she got him a job on the movie set to keep him close and he trailed Caspere to the sex house. Their plan was to drug Caspere at the house, torture him with the acid in order to get him to give up information on the other people who killed their parents back in ’92. Caspere immediately confessed everything, but her brother “got carried away”. By “got carried away” she means “is violently insane,” and he’s about to make a handoff with Burris for the hard drive – which, incidentally, is blank.
Velcoro and Bezzerides go to intercept this handoff, getting the jump on Leonard and convincing him to watch as Velcoro arrests Burris and Holloway. Admittedly, it’s not much of a choice as the alternative is to get shot. When Holloway shows up to make the handoff he believes Velcoro was in on the theft and blackmail the whole time, commenting “No one thought you were this competent.” He reveals that part of the reason for the murders in ’92 was that Mrs. Ostermann had been sleeping with Caspere behind her husband’s back, and that Caspere was Leonard and Laura’s actual father. So they tortured their father to death with acid. Also, in ’92 Mrs. Ostermann was pregnant again and Caspere thought the whole arrangement was more trouble than it was worth, so he had her and the husband killed. Learning this causes Leonard to stab Holloway. It turns out that Det. Burris was watching in case of exactly this situation, so he shoots Leonard. Bezzerides then shoots at both of them before the train station’s security shoots at everybody, but she and Velcoro run the hell out of there and take refuge at that dive bar, Black Rose Cocktails.
Meanwhile, Frank goes to the Chessani’s mansion to find Austin Chessani dead by “suicide” – floating in the pool as alluded to in the first scene at the Chessani’s. His wife assumes Osip is responsible but Frank realizes this is the work of his own son, Tony. Frank calls Osip to tell him he’s getting out of town but someday, not today, not necessarily tomorrow, he’ll be responsible for Osip’s death. He then apparently enters the first stage of “getting out of town” by heading to the Black Rose. The waitress with the scarred face takes him to a back room and they detail the process of sneaking out of the country in the reverse of the way they sneak illegals in. As a nice little side note Frank leaves her the bar, making her basically the only one to get out of this situation ahead in the end.
Incidentally, this is the first time Frank and Ani meet. He immediately entrusts her to go in his place to meet his wife if he dies. As this appears to be the time to tie up loose plot threads, Ray asks about the man who gave Frank the wrong name in his wife’s case all those years ago. Frank reveals it was Blake, that he killed him, and it was not pleasant so don’t worry about it.
We then speed through a raid on Pitler’s institute where they find Pitler dead by “suicide” and his files missing, so that we can get to the raid on Osip’s group. It’s another in a long line of above-average season 2 shootout scenes. The use of gas masks and smoke grenades (possibly tear gas?) was particularly badass. Also badass, after telling Osip he’d get him “Not necessarily today, not tomorrow, but someday”, Frank’s final line before killing him was “I guess it was today.” Awesome. Anyways they get the full $12 million Frank, Osip, and Caspere were putting into the rail deal, leaving only the Chessani kids as loose ends.
Okay, so, I don’t want to be a baby here or anything, but Ray and Ani’s relationship has gotten way cuter than a relationship that started last episode has any right to be. They hold hands at one point and call each other all worried while Frank goes off to get his share of the cash laundered into diamonds. Adorable.
Time is counting down until the boat that’s going to take them to Venezuela sets off, and Ray decides to stop off to see his son one last time. The good news? Chad Velcoro-Brune seems to be doing alright, playing with friends and carrying around his grandfather’s badge. The bad news? Burris & company are watching the kid in hopes that Ray will do just what he’s doing, and now they’re on his trail. Ray calls Bezzerides to say that she should leave without him, then tries to leave his son one last voice message. It’s pretty touching, he says “You’re better than me. If I was stronger, I’d be more like you.” It’s also pretty sad because he runs into the woods, abandoning his chance of escape in favor of getting a cell signal in order to send this message to his son. Velcoro’s one final bit of dignity is that he gets to look at the sunlight through the trees – the exact thing he referenced as “all he needs” to get a sense of god – before getting shot the fuck up by Burris’ men. The message doesn’t upload, making the sacrifice pointless.
Wrapping up Velcoro’s storyline, his father learns of his death on the news and his ex-wife gets the paternity test results. It turns out Ray really was Chad’s biological father.
Frank is abducted by the Mexicans on his way to the boat. They’re pissed that the deal he made with them is no longer valid. After all, they can’t exactly deal drugs in his clubs if he’s burnt them to the ground and left the country. From their perspective he’s screwing them over. They drive him out into the middle of the desert, apparently about to kill him. He tells them he’s got a million dollars in cash in his luggage that he’ll trade for his life. Frank is willing to part with this because he’s still got most of his money in the form of diamonds in his jacket pocket. The Mexicans take the deal, but want to add insult to injury and ask for him to give them his clothes. Of course, this fucks with Semyon’s plans. He refuses. They stab him and leave him for dead.
In the sequence that I’ve found most affecting in all of this season of True Detective, Frank then tries to limp out of the desert. Literally haunted by the memories of his past, we see exactly what drives him to stubbornly push forward in an undeniably hopeless situation. The sequence is weakened by the fact that most of the hallucinations are of characters and situations we’ve never seen or heard of before, however the power of seeing his father is undeniable and the ultimate turn with his wife is one of the best portrayals of death I’ve ever seen on television. At the very least it made me tear up and I was not expecting anything this season to do that to me.
There’s a nice visual hint to the fact that he’s already dead the moment he hallucinates his wife: he’s been limping due to the stab wound in his gut for the entire painful walk, but when his wife shows up he’s walking upright, dignified and showing no signs of pain.
In the last storyline, Ani makes her way out of the country on the “Great Escape” (a bit on-the-nose with the ship name there, Pizzolatto) and we jump forward at least a year in time. Woodrugh has a highway named after him. The high speed rail is under construction. Tony Chessani is Mayor of Vinci. Ani is laying the out whole story – including all the files and evidence they’ve gathered – to a New York Times reporter in Venezuela. He promises to work on the story. She leaves to meet with Jordan Semyon, Nails (Frank’s former bodyguard), and a baby. They head off to an uncertain future.
Assuming Jordan actually was unable to carry children as was stated earlier, this has to be Velcoro’s baby from his and Ani’s brief affair. A bit sad for Frank that Ray gets two babies to his zero. However it’s a nice sendoff for a Velcoro, who probably died thinking he had no biological children at all.
… BUT “TRUE DETECTIVE REVIEWS” WILL RETURN IN…
“SEASON 2 POST-MORTEM”!
SAME DETECTIVE, WHATEVER.