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True Detective recap: Night Finds You

The pieces of the puzzle start to come together, culminating in a shocking (and very violent) cliffhanger.

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Lacey Terrell/HBO

True Detective

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:

In a glass mansion on a hill overlooking the ocean, Frank Semyon lies in bed staring at a pair of water stains on the ceiling. They unnerve him like omens, these rusty blooms of rot. They are tiny twin maelstroms, sucking him into a void he’s been trying to escape his entire life, drowning him with ancient questions. What is real? Is life a dream? Did he die long ago and now haunts a realm of dead-end desire like a hungry ghost? And of course, the most important: When the hell will I finally be rich?! When Frank was six, his bad dad went on a bender and locked him in the basement. After the second day, when the light bulb burned out, the rats came for him. They nibbled at first. Then, they gnawed. The buggy blotches of omen on his million-dollar ceiling—thieving weevils nibbling at his store of worldly treasure—remind him of that harrow. They flood him with doubts about his own existence; they mock his want for permanence. Nothing lasts. There is legacy in land, but only if you have children, and he has none. You can’t take anything with you into death except yourself. “Whatever that was,” he tells his wife, joining him in his sleepless mope. Behold what is left of a man after a dark night of the soul: A yellow king, grieving his cracked mask. “It’s like everything is paper mache.”

“Honey,” replies Jordan, “have you been drinking with Rust Cohle again?”

“Night Finds You”

If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you. From life-sapped Frank mulling his flagging fortunes, “Night Finds You” cut to another life sapped man through an inspired dissolve. Those splotches of decay were replaced by the burned-out eyes of a corpse lying on a slab. The graphic match created the fleeting illusion that Frank was staring up into these hollowed-out orbs, and that those floating dead eyes were looking down on him as God might do, if God existed in this world. The symbolism smacked actually of Nietzsche. Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster, God is dead, yadda yadda abyss. (If Frank gets to project meaning upon likely meaninglessness, so do I. It’s the existential way!) The match also created symmetry between metaphorically dead Frank and the literal deceased, which was fitting as the DB in question was Frank’s treacherous business partner Ben Caspere, the corrupt city manager of profoundly corrupt Vinci, a fleecing weasel who took $5 million of Frank’s fortune and then lost it when he lost his life. And his eyes. And his penis. We got flashed with Caspere’s emasculation: It looked like the gaping hole that’s left after someone yanks a weed whole from the soil, root and all.

The coroner ticked off the deets and the damage. Ben Caspere: Expired October 26 (note the proximity to Halloween) between the hours of 4 and 9 AM. Alcohol and Xanax in system. Gonorrhea. Eyes burned out with hydrochloric acid, administered with droppers. Bound upside down or close to it. Heart attack as a result of trauma. Genitals obliterated by a 12 gauge shotgun blast. Now that’s a blow job… is an awful, awful pun that nobody in this scene uttered. Weirdly not discussed—in this scene, or at all in the episode—was the fact that whoever killed Caspere—or at least, whoever was responsible for driving his body up the coast and leaving it on a park bench by the ocean clearly wanted the corpse to be found. We might wonder why. 

A series of cutaways over the course of this well-constructed sequence re-established our anti-heroic detective heroes and established their new relationship to each other. Ventura County Sheriff’s Detective Ani Bezzerides, Vinci Detective Ray Velcoro, and California Highway Patrol officer Paul Woodrugh—a CHiPs stud with a Chippendale’s body—have been assigned by their respective law enforcement agencies to investigate Caspere’s murder together. Yet their task force is a clusterf— of competing, corrupting interests. Each cop has a secret charge or hidden agenda; each wears a mask, one of the episode’s explicit and implicit motifs. Clock the ways in which the three-headed beast resembles or evokes eyeless, castrated, diseased Caspere:

Ani’s function as lead detective is to be the eyes of an investigation that runs every risk of being misled and blinded from within by its poisonous agent, Velcoro, a compromised cop owned by an array of Vinci demons. Indeed, Ray’s secret agenda is to “control the sprawl” of the inquiry, to “control the flow of information.” Even he’s not sure what that means. “Just one question,” he asks. “Am I supposed to solve this or not?” Paul’s clandestine mandate is to collect intel for a state probe into Vinci corruption. If he does well, the attorney general’s office will make those (bogus?) charges of sexual misconduct go poof (see last episode) and bump him up to state detective. He’d settle for simply regaining the thing missing between his legs. “When this is over, can I just go back to being on the bike?”

NEXT: A history of Vinci