‘True Detective’ 2×04: ‘Down Will Come’

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From Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn)’s fit of anger over a poorly producing avocado tree — what should be a trivial disappointment — it’s clear from the beginning of this episode that his life has not much improved. His attempt to double dip into the government’s wallet by converting contaminated land lining California’s planned railway into entertainment meccas has plummeted, leaving him attempting to rebuild his reputation and empire in the local clubs.

After his explosion, his wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly), starts a conversation about their failed attempts at conception and the possibility of adoption. Frank immediately dismisses the idea. It’s clear that his possible inability to conceive a child challenges his masculinity. Not once does he question his fertility — instead, he continues to demand that his wife see a doctor. He then cites her past aborted pregnancy as a reason adoption isn’t an option.

The mention of her lost child is a breaking point for Jordan, whose expression reveals the shame she carries because of her abortion. Although the show has made several attempts, this is the first time it’s successfully tackled a female issue. Jordan feels the encroaching pressure to start a family, and Frank makes no attempt to alleviate the pressure. Additionally, Frank’s nonchalance about bringing up a traumatic experience in Jordan’s life reveals his lack of empathy and inability to process the feelings of women, even those around him.

Jordan’s sense of isolation amplifies as Frank becomes more and more absorbed in his work. As his Max Keeble-level big move has failed, he struggles with the concept of no longer being successful. In the the attempt to rebuild himself, he alienates Jordan, despite her attempts to be an equal partner. Frank’s inability to allow his wife to help him further emphasizes the divide he — and many in our society — keeps between his and his wife’s positions, in marriage and their lives.

Later in the show, we see Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) with her sister, whom we discover is a talented artist in addition to an adult film star. Ani’s sister Athena (Leven Rambin) is Ani inverted, meaning that although she looks like a mess on paper, she’s happy and emotionally whole. Ani oozes guilt during their conversation, wanting to help her sister. Both Athena and we know, however, that Ani needs some help herself.

Ani’s inability to accept help has translated into an inability to form real relationships — a trait that has sharply bitten her in the ass, as a co-worker she slept with filed a sexual misconduct complaint against her. The police chief calls her into his office and places her on probation, leading to an argument about sexism in the workplace. He accuses her of “self-righteous indignation,” which feels like an attack on women as a whole rather than just on Ani. She then argues that “if (she) were a man, (they) wouldn’t be having this conversation,” to which he retorts that they would if a complaint had been filed.

But it’s clear to both Ani and the audience that, of course, a complaint wouldn’t have been filed against a man. Ani’s doing a man’s job in a man’s world, and we finally see her dealing with that in a real way. True to her character, however, she refuses to talk to her ex-partner, an additional ex-co-worker-lover, and digs deeper into her work with the state.

Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) wakes up in an unknown location after his night investigating the club and hooker scene. Dazed and confused, he wanders out to find his ex-lover and fellow soldier. He rushes out in a panic, discovers his bike has been stolen and gets bombarded by reporters.

Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) comes to his rescue, giving him a ride. Paul tries to have a real conversation about his inability to survive in the real world after his experiences in the war, but Ray seems unphased by Paul’s near breakdown, revealing his own inability to cope with real emotions. From his offering to Paul of a look in his vice drawer — his glove compartment, which contains a fifth of vodka, cigarettes and other goodies — we understand how Ray handles not only other people’s problems but also his own.

We later see Paul with his ex-girlfriend Emily (Adria Arjona), whom we discover is pregnant with his child. He hastily says he wants to marry her. Her slight reluctance suggests that she knows that things between them won’t magically get better now that a baby has been added to the equation. In a moment expertly crafted by Kitsch, we feel Paul’s battle between his desires for a normal family and for his sexuality.

Despite his personal failures, Paul is shining in the office after finding three suspects whose fingerprints match those at Caspere’s crime scene. Ani, Ray, Paul and an armed team of many more set out to bust Ledo Amarilla (Cesar Garcia)’s warehouse and bring him in for questioning. Another officer asks Ani if they need that much man power, to which Ani responds, “Better safe than something else” — a rather obvious foreshadow. As soon as they arrive, gunfire begins. In a drawn-out, bloody scene, we watch as both sides are blown to bits, with only Ani, Ray and Paul remaining as the episode closes.

Honorable mentions:

  • When Frank offers Ray a bigger role in his budding drug gang, Frank says, “Sometimes your worst self is your best self.” His motto reflects his need for a justification of his own actions. This Machiavellian idea begins to explain the intermingling of his two sides.
  • After being offered a bigger role in Frank’s gang, Ray gives his father’s badge to his son (Trevor Larcom). Is this the only badge that Frank plans on giving away?
  • While questioning the mayor’s daughter about her father and Caspere’s relationship, Ani hears her own familial problems mirrored. Instead of relating in a real way, however, she manipulates the situation for a more effective interrogation.

Contact Pressly Pratt at [email protected].

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