This season of True Detective has been unjustly maligned by many critics who have decided to ignore great performances, and the nearly identical tone to the beloved first season. Episodes like “Church In Ruins” go far in proving these criticisms as moot points. This episode is full of tension from the opening scene to the finale.
“I have a sense of justice”
Starting from where we left last episode we immediately go full tilt into the confrontation between Velcoro and Semyon. This scene is full of tension so rich it would make Alfred Hitchcock squeal in glee. The fact that both characters are seemingly having a normal conversation but if you just peer beneath the surface you see what’s really happening in the situation. Did Semyon set Velcoro up? We are led to believe he thought he was being genuine, and if it was enough to stop Velcoro in the fit of his rage it should be convincing enough to audience members. I’m not so sure there wasn’t a hint of manipulation in Semyon’s initial dealings with Velcoro all those years ago. Their relationship had a clear benefit to Semyon more than it has for Velcoro. Semyon is the king of false promises and Velcoro’s so desperate he’ll grasp anything that might make him feel like a better person. The lie has interesting ramifications story-wise however as the fact that it was untrue was actually what saved Velcoro from continued investigation. True Detective is not a show obsessed with Moralizing, but it’s characters really want it all to be. This leads to a confrontation between Velcoro and the rapist who was the real culprit behind the attack all those years ago. We’ve seen Velcoro violent, brutal, and unfeeling before but it’s always been a result of drugs and rage. Here we see a calm, collected, and outright scary version of Velcoro.
Once we get into the core of this episode we have some interesting idea’s pop up that appear to be hallmarks of Pizzolatto’s writing style. For example the break that leads to the discovery of what happened to, and the origin of the stolen diamonds is linked to a past time of turmoil that led to certain cases getting overlooked. A similar thing happened in Season One where a Hurricane led to missing out on a crucial element of a story, and in this case it was a riot. There is a wonderful bit part in this episode played by Josh Clark, he is a detective who was involved in the missing diamond case. His performance is wonderfully layered with pain, and regret. For a character that appears for only a brief moment he had a big impact. He sums up the depressing reality of True Detective the sins of the past will always come back for you.
“Mexican Standoff with actual Mexicans”
Semyon has a rough go this episode, as all of his plans fall through his palm like sand. His efforts to secure a deal with some voluntary gangsters seems to go off well at first. He manages to reach out to the girl who pawned off Caspar’s goods last episode. In order to get this call he sacrifices a lot of profit to the drug dealers, and it turns out all of his work is for not. The girl gives Semyon a few tidbits, but after a request to meet her in person he finds her dead murdered by the Mexicans in response to her working with a cop. Semyon is now forced to abide by his deal with the Mexicans and has sacrificed even more money with no return investment. Semyon is hunting that hard drive because it’s the last vestige of hope he has. It’s another theme of this season characters almost ridding themselves of their vices but due to sheer acts of god they are drawn back into their own despair.
“That’s what pain does it shows you what’s on the inside”
In this episode we see another one of Pizzolatto’s favorite themes come into play. Fatherhood. While last season Fatherhood was a sub-theme in this season it’s the driving force behind every character. Seymon is haunted from the abuse his father gave him, and his nervousness at turning into the monster his dad was. Velcoro’s is the most obvious a man with an abusive father, becomes an abusive father, and loses his child the only thing truly important to him in this world. Bezzerides blames her father for the horrors inflicted upon her at youth, and Woodrugh is about to become one. World War 2 broke a myriad of able bodied men, and women leaving them broken. These broken people raised a generation of broken people, and it’s just now society is attempting to end the cycle of violence. Characters like Velcoro don’t realize the extent to which they are ruining their children’s lives. There’s a heartbreaking scene where he sits with his child and tries his hardest to connect to him. Once his kid makes a suggestion of something he would actually enjoy he completely shuts him down, before reluctantly giving in whilst an observer writes all about their interactions. Velcoro’s son is deeply afraid of his father, and has no idea how to connect to him. This leads Velcoro to dive back into the depths of cocaine and hard liquor a habit we were led to believe he had kicked. The road to death and misery are the only roads left for Velcoro to travel on. If there’s one character I’d almost guarentee doesn’t make it out of this season alive money would be on him. Although in the twisted world of True Detective that may be the reason he’ll be the last one left alive.
You brought a Chekhov’s knife to a gun fight
This episode really gives us payoff for Bezzerides obsession with knives. We are introduced to her in this episode obsessively practicing with her knife attempting to ensure she land all the proper kill moves. Her skills with a knife are so readily ingrained in her mind that she can murder a man after being severely drugged using muscle memory alone. The ending sequence was a pivotal point in the journey of our characters. We see payoff’s for almost all of the buildup they’ve slowly been building to this season. They find out how deep the corruption goes for the railroad, they save the missing girl, and they are forced to work as a team. Tense, rewarding, well staged, and brilliantly acted by McAdam’s who goes through a truly David Lynchian dream sequence.
Overall this is another strong entry in an exciting season. Heed not the words of all the naysayers, while this may not be on the same level as season one it’s still an entertaining and at time insightful piece of entertainment. to conclude here is the insightful trailer for Episode 07.
Find Season Two Episode 05 here.