It’s almost a relief that last week’s first episode of the second series of True Detective has been and gone, because the fall-out from that episode was beginning to drive me mad. It was so eagerly awaited everyone, and I mean everyone, seemed to have an opinion on it (including, let’s be fair, me and this site). It wasn’t as visually engaging as series one, they said (and me); the characters or dialogue didn’t leap off the page like series one, they said (and me); it just wasn’t like series one and this was the ‘difficult sophomore effort’, they said. “They” said this after one 50-something-minute episode. I wonder what “They” will say after this second episode…
Even though I’m trying my best to dispense with the comparisons to series one, this episode’s opening scene DID compare. The gangster Semyon was lying in bed with his wife, dolefully transfixed by a pair of damp stains on his bedroom ceiling that looked as though they were staring down at him. They reminded him of an episode from his childhood, and he told his wife the story, slowly, deliberately and softly. When his father went on night-long benders, Semyon said, he would shut a six-year-old version of him in the cellar for the evening. He’d always let him out again when he got home, but one time his father was arrested and he was gone for pretty much the whole week. One night in the cellar turned into two, then three… four, five. He ran out of food, and by the end of night three the light bulb gave out. He had to endure the dark. and the rats, who scurried out while he slept. he was often awoken by the rats gnawing on his fingers.
“What if I’m still down in that basement. In the dark. What if I died there?”
It’s all papier–mâché , Semyon muttered as his mind wandered back to that moment. It was a monologue reminiscent of Rust Cohle, not as wide-eyed but equally as literary – using story as metaphor. What happens if his personality did change completely as the rats gnawed at him in the dark? What happens if that was the moment the innocent six-year-old child turned into the dark, ruthless monster he is now? What if he is in the dark again, and the rats are to surround him once more? What if everything is made of papier–mâché? What if life really is that fragile?
All philosophical questions to ponder.
But lest we forget his money man Casper was found by the side of a highway, his eyes burnt out by acid. We soon learned that he died before he could invest the $5million Semyon had given him in the land that he so desperately wanted. This left Semyon more or less broke and without his investment and seething. So much so the desperate gangster went on his own investigation to find out who had stitched him up and offed his money man before he was able to do his job for him.
Meanwhile, our happy-happy, laugh-a-minute trio of Bezzerides, Velcoro and Woodrugh were engaged in a staring contest around Casper’s body in the mortuary, not quite knowing who each other was and why all three of them were in the same room and on the same investigation. There was then a quick-fire sequence where each division of the force behind each officer placed their cards on the table – the state attorney wanted Bezzerides on the case to investigate because they wanted to use this case to observe Velcoro and the Vinci police, who were bent; the Vinci boys, meanwhile, wanted Velcoro on the case to manage the situation and drip-feed information to these prying eyes (“Am I supposed to solve this?” he asked at one stage with a wry smile); Finally Woodrugh was there again on the behest of the state attorney for the same reasons Bezzerides was, this time with a carrot of reinstatement dangled in front of him.
“The Casper death is a window into everything,” the State Attorney said portentously.
Then it was all procedural, but at True Detective pace. It was like watching CSI on Diazepam. (That was a compliment, by the way.)
We saw Velcoro and Bezzerides sort of bond as they investigated Casper and his sex-obsessed extra-curricular activities, which took them to the deceased’s old house and then onto his eccentric shrink. Woodrugh, meanwhile, was splitting up with his girlfriend and placating his boozy, off-the-rails mother.
Then the shocker; the twist at the end; the wow moment.
In hindsight, I should have seen the signs that it was coming. At every opportunity in this episode Velcoro was confronting his past, thinking of atonement and being offered a way out. I was thinking that during a scene with his ex-wife, where, after she had taken away his rights to see his son, he was reminding her that he used to be ‘decent’. His subsequent acceptance of the situation seemed quite sudden to me – he went from being incandescent with rage to ok with things. It all seemed a bit rushed. There was also scene with Bezzerides where he admitted his corruption quite matter-of-factly, as if he was starting to think about leaving all of that behind him. And then was a scene in the bar with Semyon, where Velcoro told him he had been thinking of getting out (Semyon told him that he never wanted to hear of such things again). Even The Kind Scarred Landlady offered him a way out, and possible love in the long-term.
He did nothing and took no escape route, which proved to be fatal.
Yes, in hindsight it was the classic set-up. Just as we thought Velcoro would be the first out of the three to find some sort of redemption via the investigation, he was brutally and mercilessly shot dead by a person wearing an eagle head mask, inside a room (Casper’s secret sex den) where animal heads were festooned on the walls. Lots to digest there.
If is Velcoro is indeed dead, killing off a main character so early in a series is a bold, risky move (especially someone who we had begun to connect with). But let’s face it – on top of the shock of it all, the eagle head mask brought us right back into the nightmarish, pagan-ish imagery of the first series.
It’s safe to say I’m all in on this. Again.
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