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True Detective recap: Black Maps and Hotel Rooms

Chessani, Holloway, Burris, McCandless, Davis, Stan, Panticapaeum, Black Mountain, Catalyst, Electralux, Caspere, Caspere, Caspere.

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Lacey Terrell/HBO

True Detective

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:

My new theory is that True Detective season 2 isn’t a failed drama. It’s successful pro-drug propaganda. The subtext to every episode is: “Look how much more interesting these boring people are when they take drugs!”

Like, watching Ray Velcoro off drugs is about as much fun as watching Alexander with the sound off while eating a cupcake covered in Colin Farrell’s trimmed mustache hairs. Who wouldn’t prefer Vintage Ray, the cop who snorted and smoked and drank his way through the job, beating up journalists and suburban dads, before finishing the day at Lars Von Trier’s favorite dive bar listening to Lana Del Rey’s body double sing another happy tune? (When Ray does cocaine, he also does pull-ups — and isn’t exercise important?)

Don’t we all agree that this season really came to life when the gangsters gave Bezzerides a nice spray of Substance D or Mega-Molly or LSDelicious or whatever the hell kind of drug makes you hear Bernard Herrmann music while you confront long-buried childhood memories and commit gender vengeance using knife slashes? And isn’t it possible to imagine that poor Paul was only really happy when he drank himself into his old bunkmate’s apartment? At the start of episode 7, Bezzerides was feeling low. Ray asked her, “You want me to roll a joint?” In the context of this season, that might as well be a love poem.

I’m honored to be filling in for my learned colleague Jeff Jensen this week. He’s currently on vacation — possibly hanging out with some Russian-Israelis in Paris to plan an elaborate scheme for taking over the drugs-and-gambling industry in a small Los Angeles suburb — which means he missed the delightful moment in ‘shipping history, when Bezzerides tried to jump Ray’s bones. In fairness, she wasn’t in her right mind. “I feel so f—ed up,” she said. “My head’s so f—ed up. Those f—ing f—s!” She mumbled something about someone shaking hands with someone else. Sorry: “F—ing shaking hands with him!” Rachel McAdams gets to say “f—” a lot on this show. Maybe she wanted to shake up her image, doing True Detective: Take a hard-boiled cop role, a dark and violent, and sexually adventurous streetwise Avenger. (Say what you will about Bezzerides, but at least she’s not married to a time traveler.)

But the show doesn’t know what to do with her, or with anyone. She pulled off her brunette wig — a moment that you could almost tease out for Hitchcockian resonance, if you were feeling generous. In some crazier version of True Detective 2, McAdams played Antigone and Athena, two flavors of f—ed-up father-issue femmes. It wouldn’t have been very subtle. Which means it would’ve been perfect for True Detective!

Example: In case you were wondering if Ani’s visions of a pedophile hippie Jesus had provided her with some kind of catharsis, she specifically told Ray: “I’ve been waiting my whole life for that. I think I even went looking… my whole life… and when I ran out of the woods, and they found me…”

“The woods?” asked Ray.

“What?” said Ani. “What?”

“You said…” but Ray trailed off, and oh how I wish that right then Paul could’ve walked into the room and held up a big paper marked “GRANT DEED” and declared: “Guys, this paper says we’re experiencing a profound moment right now! And look at this: It’s signed by Caspere! Everybody drink!”

How Paul loves his documents! Documents, and pictures, and helpful computers with their helpful plot points underlined in bold. Reading closely, Paul discovered that the documents were signed by Osip Agranov and Anthony Chessani, two of the Very Important People that we met for like two scenes, five episodes ago. It turns out that they repurchased Caspere’s shares for pennies and redistributed them. So, just to clarify, in case you haven’t been paying attention: Evil Men were something-something, Caspere money, Chessani hookers, freeways Bad.

Another minor mystery solved by Our Man Paul! How I wish Paul could investigate every crime. I want Paul to go to the tower of Barad-dûr and stare into the blazing immortal eye of Sauron, Lord of Mordor, and then do some digging into some of Sauron’s real estate deals in the Shire, and then discover a document marked “MY PLAN FOR ETERNAL DARKNESS,” and then run into Ray’s room, declaring, “This thing has Sauron’s signature all over it!”

But let’s cut back to my personal favorite TV-show-inside-a-TV show: The Vince Vaughnologues. Frank Semyon was playing a lonely game of blackjack, with himself as the dealer and all four players. There’s a masturbatory resonance you can tease out there — or maybe you can pause to imagine the speech Frank could make out of a set-up like that. “That’s the thing about playing cards, Ray,” he would say. “Sometimes, the cards play you. And sometimes, Ray? Sometimes, the cards aren’t even cards. They’re just numbers. And you never know when your number’s up. And sometimes up is down, so the higher you fly, the closer you get to rock bottom. But I’m coming in hot, Ray, and those rocks are gonna be lava by the time I’m through.”

Frank’s wife sashayed up, pregnancy status negative. She asked Frank how his night went. “Mexicans,” said Frank. “Something else to solve. In the midst of being gangbanged by forces unseen, I figured I’d drill a new orifice, go on and f— myself for a change.” (Wouldn’t Gangbanged By Forces Unseen be a better title for this season?) Frank’s wife talked about walking away from Vinci. Just the three of them: Frank, Mrs. Frank, and Mrs. Frank’s uncooperative uterus. “You see me managing an Applebee’s?” asked Frank, sarcastic. “I worked for one once,” said Mrs. Frank, childless.

I kid, I kid! Some people hate this season of True Detective, and some people have been giving it a chance, treating every disappointing new episode as further evidence of some master plan further down the road. I quite enjoy it: With Veep off the air, we could all use a good laugh. And so too, Paul, who received a scary text message from an anonymous number showing him in (quite joyful!) coitus with his old pal from his days in Fake Blackwater. Paul picked up his fiancé and told her he needed to keep her safe. Actual quote, from Emily: “We are having a baby.” In a better world, True Detective season 2 runs for five years, and Emily saying, “We are having a baby!” is the show’s catchphrase, like “Ay Caramba!” or “Sock it to me!”

Midway through this episode, I started playing a game: I imagined that when they originally filmed this episode, every scene ended with a female character saying “I’m having a baby!” Example: When Ani told her sister that she had to get out of town for a little while — and told her to get out of town with Dad, even though everything else that has happened this season would lead you to think that Ani wouldn’t care what happens to their Dad — Athena told Ani that was crazy. She couldn’t possibly leave. “I’m seeing someone. I’m starting school in the fall. And I’m having a baby!”

This was the episode where every main character tried to get their people to a safe place. Paul brought his mom and his fiancé to a hotel room and told them to order room service and not to answer the phone. Emily was a bit nervous; she’s having a baby, after all. Personally, I could have spent the whole episode in that room. Emily and Cynthia: Pregnant Angel Fiancé and Hooker Madonna Mom. What would these two character say to each other? They’re different in every way; they’re united only by their (very strange) (almost inexplicable) love for the same (very strange) man. You would imagine that the writer who created these two characters would badly want to write the scene where they talk to each other. Instead, they watched Splendor in the Grass.

NEXT: Geldof and Holloway and Burris and Riots…