This True Detective review contains spoilers.
True Detective Season 2 Episode 5
True Detective, season 2, episode 5, “Other Lives,” opens amidst the debris of the dramatically and tragically closed Caspere murder case. While cops go over the spent shrapnel at the city block-wide crime scene, the surviving squad members are as scattered as the buck shot that knocked Detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) on his ass at the end of episode 2. Velcoro quit in the aftermath of the tragic miscalculation of collateral damage. He is working in private security and moonlighting as Frank Semyon’s (Vince Vaughn) shadow man.
Semyon doesn’t buy the official story that the Mexican gang killed Caspere, but he can’t get Velcoro to cop to it beyond that after bullshit surveillance they found a crash pad and meth factory but nothing to imply anything to tie it to Caspere’s death.
Frank Semyon would make a good cop. He’d also make a good journalist. He doesn’t waste much time with the how’s your latest movie questions and goes right for the jugular when he’s talking to the Mayor. He almost names Tony as Caspere’s probable killer. The mayor responds by taxing him. Tony Chessani comes from a highly inventive family. If he did indeed commit some kind of crime, the city council has a think tank devoted to keeping the mayor’s son, who the father thinks is out of his fucking mind, out of trouble.
The city of Vinci is based on Vernon, Calif. The city had 112 residents and housed 1,800 businesses in 2010. John Leonis, who founded the city, sidestepped corruption charges after a probe in the 1940s. Leonis died in 1953 and left the city to his grandson Leonis Malburg, who was the city’s mayor for more than 50 years. Malburg didn’t live in Vernon, he lived in a wealthier neighborhood, much like Mayor Austin Chessani (Ritchie Coster) lives in Bel Air.
Probably everything that has to be said about bolo ties was said on the classic cop comedy Barney Miller. Even as a security guard Velcoro, a California cop, not a Texas cop, wears a bolo tie. He wears it to family court. He wears it to meetings with the mayoralty. He wears it when he cracks the face of the plastic surgeon. The only person on True Detective who gets to see Velcoro without his bolo tie is the lieutenant, but he gets to see the former detective put it on.
Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) is busted to sergeant at files at the precinct because of her coerce ‘em and leave ‘em ways. She looks down on her sister for doing live cam shows, but the cop with the knife in her shoe shows that she can steam up a room without dropping a stocking. When she starts talking width and girth, Bezzerides takes over the hearts, minds and crotches of the sexual harassment meeting. She usurps the shit out of the therapist’s higher power. Bezziredes didn’t grow up on a self-realization commune for nothing.
Officer Paul Woodrough (Taylor Kitsch) gives up his bitchin ride when he is reassigned to insurance fraud, which has to be some kind of purgatory for the action and speed junkie cop on the run from the tabloids. Woodrough’s fiancé is four months pregnant and the $20,000 he kept in the whole, money from Afghanistan, money he bled for, was fed to the slots by his mother, played by a tough and frail Lolita Davidovich.
Mothers always know, if they’re in show business at least. I really thought Woodrough was going to come screaming out of the closet just to shut up the actress who accused him of being bought off with a blow job bribe. You could see on Woodrough’s face that he knew far better techniques than she’d ever imagine. And Teague Dixon (W. Earl Brown) probably had the photos to prove it.
Dixon’s photos are at the heart of the investigation. They might be at the same level as the home movies on the hard drive. Both are being used for blackmail. The photograph of the blue diamond from the safety deposit box leads to the disappearance of one of the “hooker party” girls from the party that doesn’t allow photographs, which they implied during the second episode. Teague was showing around the picture even though it was kept out of the official files. The flatulent flat foot has been leading the detectives’ dance for somebody.
I began to get into my shock at the death of Detective Teague Dixon last week. It’s not that I was that invested in his character, though he did have a certain somnambulistic Lewis Black thing going. It was because I was sure his character was part of the scheme to keep the Caspere task force off the right track. I didn’t think he was going to turn out to be this season’s lawnmower man, which I’m still suspecting is the Mayor’s son. So last week, when the bullet caught him in the head, I was sure he led the cops to the ambush, but didn’t expect to be ambushed himself. I think it took him by as much surprise as it took me.
Dixon was leading the squad through the evidence to where someone wants them to go, which is nowhere. If they wanted to cut the head off the monster, all they did was chop off the tail of a blind mouse. The president of Catalyst probably supplied the traps.
A lot of characters have developed the shakes. The mayor, Woodrough, Bezziredes and Velcoro all have momentary hand tremors, Velcoro’s goes all the way up his spine and comes out his eyes when he learns he was set up to kill an innocent man. Bezziredes looks so pale on the beach talking to her sister, trying to get her to hook her up with one of the exclusive hooker parties all the best dressed cops are trying to get into. It’s like, between the stress and her basement filing duties, she has joined the ranks of the undead.
Woodrough and Bezzerides uncover the undead at the bird house in the woods they find through the GPS on Caspere’s car. Bezzerides says the area used to be a commune and a leftover Jesus is still carrying that cross.
Semyon sometimes has a strange way of constructing his sentences. You can see that he’s intelligent and that he was self-taught. He was self-everything. Semyon obviously had no one around him when he was growing up and plumbed his own depths. He’s bothered by the word gangster because he doesn’t see that he had a choice. He was born drafted on the wrong side of a class war. Like Lee Marvin in an old movie on TCM, no matter how Semyon may express himself, he doesn’t talk out of the side of his mouth. Vaugh’s delivery of the lines “Door’s in the same place amigo” and “Can I help you Cisco Kid?” were the comic highlights even under the weight of the threats. Taking a tip from Frank Semyon, Velcoro tries his fists at amateur dentistry tonight, knocking Rick Springfield’s grin from one side of his mouth to the other.
Velcoro then moves on to rearrange the choppers of the man who turned him around, Frank Semyon.
“Other Lives” was written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by John Crowley.