This True Detective review contains spoilers.
True Detective Season 2 Episode 6
This is probably the best episode so far. Almost every scene sweats distilled tension almost as pure as the MDMA that Bezziredes took at the sex party.
It opens with a staring contest over coffee. Former detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and aspiring former gangster Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn), each with guns in their laps, are negotiating terms on a broken life. It seems the greaser crankhead that Velcoro killed for raping his wife was just some scumbag who got on somebody’s hit parade. Not only does Semyon never once back down during the talks, he barely backs up. When he lays his gun on the table and tells Ray not to fucking shoot him, he wills the ex-mustachioed cop to drop his guard.
And what a schpiel. Semyon lays it out from the beginning. Velcoro was waiting to sell his soul in a buyer’s market. A young cop who thought he was Superman but needed Lex Luthor to set him free. Velcoro was a great bad cop, if only he’d own it. All that negative thinking is going to keep him out of heaven, a place neither he nor Semyon want to be. Before Velcoro can get his bearings, Semyon hits him with “I didn’t set you up and I ain’t your suicide ticket.”
Between Velcoro’s anti-static stare and Semyon’s tough cool under pressure, this was one of the great performances of the season. You just know from the relieved and aroused look on his wife’s face, that the morning glory balling that follows off camera is going to be better than makeup sex and let’s-make-a-baby sex combined. Probably twice, even if Velcoro got the last laugh of the coffee klatch: When Frank tells Velcoro he might be one of the last friends he has, Ray posits “wouldn’t that be fucked up?”
Along with the tension, this episode also delivered on the humor. So far, Vince Vaughn has been carrying the show as far as one-liners that linger after the episode ends. But tonight everyone indulges in gallows humor. When the top state cop on the secret detail is called to a murder scene and learns the blood on the chair has gonorrhea and is female, so it doesn’t belong to Ben Caspere and deepens the mystery, she chides Detective Ani Bezziredes (Rachel McAdams) with “You don’t have enough to do?”
Bezziredes even has a go at slapstick. Check out the timing of her knife jab, right after her sister says she goes out of the way to be alone, that’s a punch line worthy of Lucille Ball. But Frank gets the best lines of the night. He casually informs the Mexican gang member who gave up the Irena Ruofo’s El Monte hangout that “it’s going to hurt” when the nails are about to be pulled out of his appendages. The best line of the night is “Cross this off my bucket list, a Mexican standoff with actual Mexicans.”
The Mexican gang isn’t smiling when they finally deliver on their deal, anyone who works for cops is killjoy. Semyon agrees to trade the Mayor the one thing he needs for the things the ex-gangster wants, a great bargaining chip for a guy who’s playing both sides. Semyon never deals from the bottom of the deck, though. He is as straight up an enemy as you’d want to have. Semyon doesn’t dazzle with guile. He is maneuvering the waters of much more hardened criminals than he is, and it’s not the guy who he nail-guns for answers. It’s the corporate guys hiding sensitive footage caught on security hard drives you gotta watch.
Velcoro’s prison visit was menacing and masterful. He just wanted to know why the guy he thought he killed is the guy whose sacrifice might have made a difference. Velcoro’s final promise that he ain’t just whistling Dixie when he says he’ll put the rapist’s ears, nose, lips and nuts in a cheese-grater before he sentences him to life is powerful, intelligent and brutal.
Paul Woodrough follows the diamonds to the April 30, 1992 riots in LA. It was easy to cover up an execution, done by people in masks, in the midst of the reported looting. Of course, some lootings are great covers for bigger crimes. The cop who scored the diamonds still can’t pawn the memories of the two kids, Leonard and Laura, about four at the time, who witnessed the killings in the midst of the burnings and then were shipped off to the system.
Semyon and his wife pay a mourning call to Stan’s wife. When Frank hears about Stan’s son, he gets a look in his eye that kind of says, this is a kid whose baggage I can handle. The Semyons have been tossing around the idea of adoption and Frank gets a chance to show what kind of father he could be. He gives rough but pragmatic advice. He knows where that kid’s been and where he’s going and is there with his full support.
Velcoro also becomes a good father by letting his son go rather than submit him to his own sins and those he might have from DNA. But he parties like it’s 1999. Those lines aren’t for fun or forgetting, they are a passive aggressive suicide bid. There’s a quick shot of Velcoro holding his heart and he might have been willing an attack, judging from the quizzical look on his face.
Bezziredes’ drug of choice is adrenaline. Pure liquid Molly tends to bring out repressed memories of abuse. The abuse obviously happened at her father’s compound and somehow involved a certain psychiatrist pimp and an older man. I don’t see how the old businessman who’s trying to engage her in a little conversational foreplay doesn’t notice the obvious distress on her face. Bezzerides might speak with a Russian accent, but you don’t need a universal translator to read her expression. Maybe that’s what turns him on.
It must take every ounce of self-restrain Bezziredes has just getting to the exclusive sex party. Besides having to go it unarmed and debladed, she’s got to dress up and make with the coy and pretty. Blake, the snake in Semyon’s avocado tree, does everything but check her teeth like a horse before passing her through as USDA Prime. The bag-collector on the bus warns her “do not be arguing, bitch.”
The rescue scene was very reminiscent of the last few minutes of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Bezziredes is Travis rescuing the “pretty little girl” to bring home to her sister. She promised that anyone who touched her without and invite would bleed out in the second episode. The delivery comes oozing out of the shoes of the Russian mobster, who looks genuinely curious about why he’s dying and all she does is push him away.
True Detective season 2, episode 6, “Church in Ruins,” found missing person, but it doesn’t solve a thing. Hands down, this is the best episode so far in a series that’s apparently still warming up.
“Church in Ruins” was written by Nic Pizzolatto and Scott Lasser and directed by Miguel Sapochnik.