‘True Detective’ 2×06: ‘Church in Ruins’

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Lacey Terrell/HBO/Courtesy

In this week’s episode of “True Detective,” we start right where we left off, with Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) engaged in a tense debate that sets the tone for the rest of the high-drama episode.

In last week’s episode, Ray discovered that the man Frank told him raped Ray’s wife was innocent — at least, of that crime. Ray blames Frank for his criminal behavior, but Frank throws it back at him. Frank claims that anything Ray has done, Ray already had the drive to do, and that Frank just gave him the motive. Frank talks Ray down from his rage, using the manipulative smooth talk we’ve become accustomed to hearing from his character.

After putting down their weapons, the pair resumes conversation as if everything were peachy keen. Ray reports on the involvement of Blake Churchman (Christopher James Baker), a high-ranking member of Frank’s crew, in Caspere’s prostitution and party ring, and Frank ends the scene by saying Ray might be his only friend left.

Ray obviously trusts Frank, but we’re not sure we do. His motives for using Ray as a hitman are too apparent, and although he claims to have a “sense of justice,” in a later scene, he has one of his cronies nailgun a man’s hand and back. Once again, his cold, expressionless reaction to horrific violence suggests that he’d be a rather cool liar, making it hard to trust anything he says or does.

Of all the characters, Frank is the most finely crafted. Moments of pure terror, such as the nailgun interrogation method, are juxtaposed with humanizing scenes, such as his conversation with the son of Stan (Ronnie Gene Blevins), a deceased member of his organized crime network. In this scene, Frank explains the importance of pain and easily relates to and comforts Stan’s son.

Interactions between Ray and his own son, Chad (Trevor Larcom), stand out in direct contrast to Frank’s fatherly ease. Chad appears squeamish throughout the supervised visitation with his father and seems more interested in watching “Friends” than anything his dad has to say. After Chad remains unaffected by Frank’s monologue about his paternity, Ray spirals out of sobriety and into a cocaine party of one — mind you, with the most fun music of the season soundtracking the montage. But once the exhilaration of doing pull-ups and dancing by himself wears off, Ray’s emotions come crashing back. He weepily destroys every reminder of Chad in his home and then calls his ex-wife to make a deal: He will stop contesting custody if she promises not to tell Chad the results of the paternity test.

This offer is the first time we see Ray do what’s right for his son. He obviously wants to be a good father but has no idea how to do so. But this moment of rationality is as short lived as a cocaine high. We later see Ray erupt with fury and spew threats while visiting his ex-wife’s rapist in jail. Although Farrell’s acting is convincing, his lines during the scene are somewhat ludicrous. And just like the rapist, we are left wondering who allowed Ray in for a visit.

Later in the episode, Ani Bezzeride’s (Rachel McAdams) sister, Athena (Leven Rambin), shares her good news: She has secured herself an invitation — which Ani will be using — to one of the high-rolling, low-moralled parties that the late Caspere was involved in. She advises Ani on what to wear and how to act, knowing Ani’s repressive and disgusted reactions to flagrant displays of sexuality. Ani won’t have any weapons with her, making both her body and mind vulnerable.

Ani arrives at the party looking sexier and more put together than we’ve ever seen her. Ray and Paul (Taylor Kitsch) follow her to a lavish mansion and stand guard outside. Inside, Ani — along with the rest of the girls — is forced to take MDMA in order to get her in the right state of mind for the orgy she’s about to enter.

The cinematography becomes blurred and flashy — we’re seeing the orgy the way a drugged Ani does. She eventually begins hallucinating, seeing her father in the place of all the men at the party. As the scene continues, we realize that her father sexually abused her, leading to her inability to experience intimacy in a healthy way. At this point, the parallel between Ani’s and Paul’s adverse reactions to their sexuality, stemming from traumatic experiences, feels cheap, repetitive and almost boring.

Even while high, Ani is still on her game. She makes herself throw up and, miraculously, sobers up instantaneously. She finds and saves the missing girl she has been searching for, and stabs and kills a man during her escape. She runs out to the car, and Ray and Paul drive them out of harm’s way.

These final scenes were well shot and more dynamic than most we’ve seen this season. By showing the party through Ani’s vision, the plot feels less forced and contrived than much of the season has. The contrast between this scene, in which we see a major plot point revealed both organically and in a straightforward way, and scenes such as the conversation where Athena points out Ani’s isolation, remind us of the loss of the air of mystery in the show as a whole. Last season twisted and turned so naturally in a way that was confusing but not absurd, whereas this season feels like the writing staff is trying too hard. It appears that even the writers set the standards too high for this season of “True Detective.

Contact Pressly Pratt at [email protected].