This week's True Detective undoubtedly had a great deal of payoff for the viewer, including those who seem to be watching it for the sole purpose of talking about how much better season one was. And it wasn't just because the episode kicked off with the promise of a good old fashioned sex party (although that didn't hurt) but it may have been the least confused we were watching an episode of season two to date. In fact, we probably only paused it twice to wonder what the hell was going on. Dare we say it, did some things even start to make sense?
The episode, entitiled “Church In Ruins”, kicked off with possibly the most intense cup of coffee anyone's ever had, as Ray Velcoro rocked up to Frank Semyon's house (or one of his houses) looking for answers over why he gave him the wrong name of the man who assaulted his wife. It was a tense few minutes where a Hans vs Greedo style shootout looked like it may be on cards, but they managed to resolve things with Ray promising to find this hard drive Frank wants if he gets the name of the dude who gave Frank the name of the guy he accidentally murdered. Sound over-complicated? This is like two-times tables compared to the rest of it.
Frank even admitted that Ray 'may be the only friend he had left' to which he replied 'how f*cked up would that be?'. Indeed, we're not sure these two can quite reach the same great heights of the Rust and Marty bromance of season one, but look, at least they didn't kill each other. Yet.
One of the other strange but undoubtedly visible themes running through season two is that of fatherhood. Ani's turbulent relationship with her own dad, Paul is just about to become a father, and of course, most obviously in Frank and Ray's storylines where the former is desperately trying to have kids, while Ray is desperate to hold onto his.
Their paternal sides were juxtapositioned in last night's episode where Ray tried to spend some quality time with his kid building airplanes but instead he just wanted to watch Friends (because they'll "be there for youuuu"), while Frank had a much more successful heart to heart with the son of his friend Stan. By the way, can anyone else not remember who Stan is? Seriously, who the hell is Stan?? He may have been in the first episode but we were probably too busy missing Rust and Marty to notice.
The climax (for want of a better word...) of the whole episode was of course the sex party that Ani was crashing. There had been rumours of this upcoming 'Eyes Wide Shut' style orgie scene for the last few months, with porn stars cast for many of the roles, however it somehow managed to avoid being as gratuitous as it easily could have been. The camera focused entirely on Ani's drug-induced traumatic experience with everything else kept pretty much in the background. The flashbacks to her childhood abuser made for hugely uncomfortable viewing although it goes in some way to explain her turbulent relationship with her father who brought her up in the commune where this clearly happened.
Outside the house where this 'sexy shindig' was taking place then, Ray and Paul were on some Pink Panther mission where they were trying to have Ani's back and somehow managed to stumble across a significant exchange between Osip and McCandless who were hashing out a deal, similar to the one Frank seems to have had with Caspere. Meanwhile, back in the sex house, Ani has managed to puke up the drugs and lo and behold, who's that in the bathroom, but the missing girl she has been looking for all season. What are the chances?
However, it would be completely remiss to downplay this scene to its few fairly remarkable coincidences, because in fairness, who actually cares that they were coincidences.
T Bone Burnett's fantastic score almost stole the scene in those last suspense-filled minutes and the final few moments left us with that eerie shot of the gang all driving off into the moonlit night. Bizarre? Yes, but don't try and tell us you hadn't been entertained.
This entire sequence gave the show the momentum that it has been crying out for and set it up nicely for what's bound to be a heart-stopping finale that hopefully won't have the saccharine ending season one threw at us.
As we said, this episode proved a hell of a lot easier to follow than what's gone before, in that each character had a clear goal throughout. We haven't even mentioned Paul's investigation into the blue diamonds where it emerged they were stolen at a LA jewelery shop back in 1992 around the time of the riots. Most notably, the mention of the two kids who were left orphaned in the robbery, which we assume has to be a red herring of sorts, unless the whole season is just Nic Pizzolato seeing how much he can mess with our minds and he's off having a good laugh somewhere.
Therein lies the problem with season two, there is so much information thrown at us, that we're not sure which is supposed to stick and what's not. It massively over-complicates things one minute and then over-simplifies them the next. The missing girl conveniently showing up at the sex party, Ray just giving up on custody of his kid after some Charlie Sheen-esque binge... Dammit True Detective, which storylines are we supposed to be caring about??
There are two episodes left in the season so we can only hope Nic Pizzolatto has some master plan to tie it all together.. right Nic? RIGHT??
Either way, we'll be watching. There's no turning back now. And as Frank put it, "on the ropes ain't the same thing as bleeding out."