‘True Detective’ 2×02: ‘Night Finds You’

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Warning: this recap contains spoilers.

After last week’s somewhat slow-paced setup, “Night Finds You” shocks us back into interest, employing the less-obvious dialogue, the more-layered characters and the sort cliffhangers that characterized Season 1.

Frank Semyon’s (Vince Vaughn) opening monologue reveals a torn past in a somewhat crude attempt to pull at the audience’s heart strings. The storyline is, albeit a little cliche, not inherently bad, but the repetitive delivery feels forced and unnatural. The saving grace of the drawn-out and overly explicated scene comes in the form of Frank’s wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly), who, even through her seemingly small throw-away lines, conveys a love that humanizes Frank.

Later scenes, such as one in which Frank turns from friendly stranger to intimidating mobster in the blink of an eye, remind us not to take any character at face value. Nothing about this mobster seems honest, and it makes us question even his pillow talk. Do the fear, regret and self-loathing that he expresses to his wife pain him enough that he may change his ways? The audience is left to think that he probably won’t, given that he’s bankrupt and that a dead man is holding all of his money.

Partnered for their investigation into the death of the Vinci city manager Ben Caspere, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ani’s (Rachel McAdams) interactions demonstrate a stark contrast between the ways in which they handle their complicated and broken family lives. Ani runs away from her tragedy-riddled past, while Ray tries with all his might to force the pieces — which he himself broke — back together. Even their smalltalk highlights the differences between their coping mechanisms: Ani tries to keeps their conversations all business, while Ray attempts to form a friendship based on jokes about electronic cigarettes and opening up about his rumored (and totally true) past.

After a buildup of hints to his violent past, a scene with Ray’s ex-wife confirms that he killed her attacker. In his mind, he killed for her in the same way he beat up a man for his son. Ray’s love for his family has mingled with an inability to handle any source of injustice, portraying him as vengeful vigilante leftover from the Old West — his bolo tie and mustache only serve to enhance this characterization. But despite his hard exterior, the unyielding love Ray shows for his son hints that he wants to be better.

The struggle between the city and state police to get to the bottom of Caspere’s death mirrors Ray’s inner struggles about his alliances. City officials fear the state interfering too much and want Ray to take the lead in the investigation. But, as Caspere’s murder personally cost Frank $5 million, he wants Ray to get to the bottom of it and to report to him rather than the city. Ray seems to feel long-over-due pangs of guilt and tries to contradict Frank, but it’s too little too late, and he still ends up doing his bidding.

We discover that Frank’s relationships with the police department extend past Ray to the police chief. Frank’s big financial losses, however, put a strain on the police chief’s pay-offs, limiting the amount of information he’s willing to give Frank. But being tight with the big man on campus is worth the big bucks (even if he doesn’t have them), so Frank offers a reluctant Ray the not-yet-vacant position. Frank attempts to persuade Ray using the high salary, which could open up the possibility of custody of his son, as bait, again revealing his manipulative side.

In a scene even more shocking than his mustache, Ray investigates Caspere’s secret sex pad — which Frank discovered by talking to some of his buddies in the sex industry — looking for possible clues about his disappearance before the other investigators have a chance. We begin to expect a breakthrough in the case as we see a pool of blood and other signs of struggle, when a man in a bird costume appears and shoots Ray.

Ray’s early death generates some serious anxiety about what will happen to the plot without someone who was advertised as a major character, if not the star of the season. But, beyond these broader plot inquiries, we’re also left wondering what this means for the case, asking ourselves: To what extent are Caspere’s weird sexual fetishes related to his murder? What else was Caspere up to? And what the hell does that bird suit represent?

Honorable mentions:

  • The transition between scenes fading from Frank’s water-stained roof to Caspere’s acid-burned eyes was definitely gruesome — but in the best way possible. The dark cinematography keeps the show feeling consistently eerie and us on the edge of our seats.
  • A scene between Office Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) and his mother reveals the roots of his intimacy issues. His mother’s touchiness and references to going to bed give the audience a queasy feeling, and, thankfully, left an air of mystery rather than the flatness left over from a play-by-play of the characters’ exact thoughts and feelings we felt after some other scenes.
  • Ray and Ani’s conversation about the differences between the sexes clearly attempts to redefine the show as enlightened and feminist — a tactic that clearly comes across as such without giving Ani’s character any real depth.
  • Dialogue between Ray and the scarred female bartender seems to leave a lot unsaid —  we have a feeling she might become a bigger piece of the puzzle in later episodes.

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