The following True Detective review contains spoilers.
True Detective Season 2 Episode 4
Two of the most horrific words in law enforcement, the military and revolution are “collateral damage.” Usually it is explained away as an unavoidable consequence of whatever mission is being accomplished. For the most part, we are told that civilian casualties don’t add up to the lives that are lost in whatever service is being performed. The labored post-traumatic stressed breathing of Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), Detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and Officer Paul Woodrough (Taylor Kitsch) at the end of tonight’s episode is their minds getting around the idea that they sidestepped a steamroller that they set in motion that caused an unexplainable amount of collateral damage.
The episode opens in the aftermath of last week’s explosive ending. Bezziredes and Velcoro are assessing the damage to the car that got torched last week while they were on the job. Frank Semyon is dealing with the fallout that follows amateur dentistry and the mine runoff that’s killing his avocadoes. But babies and trees are moot points to the soon-to-be-ex-ex-gangster who’s surveying so many fuckups he’s losing his vision. His world went into warp speed and he’s navigating through the blur.
Woodrough’s focus is also akimbo. After a blind drunk night of blackouts and booty calls, he auditions for the Los Angeles edition of Dude Where’s My Car? In LA, when a motorcycle cop, who was busted for allegedly trading a ticket for a blowjob, loses his bike, it makes front page news. Reporters, after all, would rather be “wrong and first than right and second.” True Detective season 2 follows last year’s conversational dynamic, which they got from Seinfeld, Cops In Cars Drinking Bourbon. Velcoro proves to be a more understanding deaf ear than the closeted possible war criminal expects. The CHIPs cop might have his angles covered when he finds out that his hot girlfriend is pregnant. Of course he loves her. She’s the perfect beard for when those reporters probe too deep.
Velcoro isn’t in charge of the murder investigation into Ben Caspere but he is the senior officer and has the best vantage point. He knows the whole investigation into the city of Vinci is a shakedown and that the investigators may be part of the payoff. Nobody wants the case solved because nobody gives a shit. Velcoro may be alright, he’s got another job offer on the table from the other side, even though he’s not a muscle man.
Semyon is pushing his way back into his old turf, but he’s bringing a touch of class. He wants his old partners to upscale their market and he’s promising to take all the risks. After all, he mastered barroom dentistry and saves the anesthesia for sale in his clubs. Why waste time on drugs for pain when you have pain when you can save them up for when you can fully enjoy them. He’s taking a cut on the coke, the crystal and, in a line that cracked me up, “whatever they’re calling MDMA now.” He’s got to keep up with the times on True Detective this year, because the old world went up in smoke and it’s a new world of e-cigarettes and vaporizers. He doesn’t even know that the contamination of his own land deals keeping him and his trees impotent.
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Frank has big balls, double dipping on done deals, but they don’t measure up to Velcoro’s aura. Bezziredes’s suburban guru father says it is green and black and fills the room. Bezzerides’s mom died when she was twelve and she knows enough about grief counselors to get the Mayor of Vinci’s daughter to admit that her mom was a diagnosed schizophrenic and her father is a very, very bad person.
Bezzerides becomes part of the Mayor’s collateral damage as she joins the ranks of the temporarily unassigned. The clingy Officer Steven Mercer lodged a coercion complaint with Internal Affairs after their interdepartmental affair went sour. The Mayor promised to destroy the young cop when she questioned him too fervently. His family hasn’t had to answer questions for generations. The cop is told to use the time off of Departmental Leave to come up with a good excuse for explain her gambling debts. She might have to pawn something.
A watch in a pawn shop leads to the Caspere suspect. Teague Dixon (W. Earl Brown) leads Woodrough to the predetermined end of the Caspere case. And I mean leads. Teague is up to something. He’s already fillmed the biker cop and has been making cracks about him. Although it seems that this is an easy target that will lead the cops to closing the case without investigating it properly, it is anything but convenient. It costs the entire task force except the top three. The closing scene was very reminiscent of last year’s one-hand-held camera scene as far as the action and again sprung out of nowhere and yet was inevitable. So many things are tied together in Vinci, a well-oiled money machine of graft and influence. The Mayor’s family stood on the same grass where young Antigone Bezzerides played.
“Those moments, you don’t remember them. They remember you,” says Ani Bezziredes, which reminded me: on Friday, July 10, Turner Classic Movies ran the 1955 film noir classic Kiss Me Deadly, a great movie which every fan of the True Detective series should watch, if only for the lusty Greek car mechanic who would fuck anything. Not just anyone, this guy says things like “oh look at the chassis on that Chevy, va va voom.” No tailpipe is safe in his garage.
The screenplay for Kiss Me Deadly was written by A. I. Bezzerides, who the top cop on the detail was apparently named after. “Buzz” Bezzerides was also a novelist. He wrote a lot of Warner Brothers’ “social conscience” post-World War II movies. Bezzerides hated the Mickey Spillane book that the movie was based on and changed it, according to the TCM host, from a drug smuggling caper to a nuclear nightmare.
Bezzerides wrote a lot of great films, but my personal favorite is They Drive by Night from 1940. It starred George Raft and Humphrey Bogart as truck driving brothers on the run from a fabulously freaky Ida Lupino, “the doors made me do it.” Bogart’s character loses an arm when the rig that was just paid off in full takes the full impact of two seconds of shut-eye. Great movie, even if the comic relief is dated.
A.I. Bezzerides was also a communications engineer for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Remember, the crimes at the center of this season’s True Detective are all about land. And what’s land without water? Or avocado trees, for that matter.
Kiss Me Deadly starred Ralph Meeker as the quintessential Mike Hammer, in this film a dim private eye out of his depths with nuclear annihilation as a possible, probable, outcome that the private dick and the audience never saw coming. In tonight’s episode, the trio of cops, the last people standing, were out of their depths and unleashed a barrage of destruction that they never saw coming. White knuckle great.
“Down Will Come” was written by Nic Pizzolatto and Scott Lasser and directed by Jeremy Podeswa.