What follows is an examination, recap, and review of the final episode of True Detective Season 2. As such, it contains spoilers for this season and season one, so watch your step.
The second season of True Detective certainly ended with a bang (and a stab). It tried, sometimes in vain, to tie up all the dangling plotlines. In solving the murder of a city official, our main characters stabbed, shot, and downright murdered all sorts of people. Perhaps both seasons of True Detective can be summed up in Rust Cohle’s line from season one, “World needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.”
If the finale proved one thing, it’s that the case our detectives were trying to solve was confusing as hell. It involved some blue diamonds, a police cover up, prostitution, land next to a train, and so on and so forth. Whatever it was that everyone was piecing together, it ultimately didn’t carry much weight. It was beyond the murder of a city official and some land purchases: in the end, it became about survival, and that is what our characters were fighting to do. Just survive.
The episode started right where we left off, with Ani and Ray in bed together. Strangely, they seemed to be telling each other fairly obvious things: Ray explained that everything in his life went bad when he executed the man he thought raped his wife. We know, Ray—that’s been apparent the entire season. The scene also addressed the abuse/abduction Ani suffered as a child, and it didn’t do much to make that addition to her character feel worthwhile.
But from there, things kicked into high gear. Ani and Ray learned of Paul’s death and decided that there’s no real turning back. It seemed they were being framed for Paul’s death—and the death of a few other folks as well. Basically, it all looks bad. It’s time to run and run far. They took the evidence they had and went after the guy they were fairly certain killed Casper in order to find out something to hopefully clear their names. What they were piecing together, though, was confusing as hell. Exposing corruption, I guess? It was convoluted, to say the least.
With all the evidence he apparently needed, Ray headed off to confront his former superiors, who were at a train station for a meet up where they were going to exchange blue diamonds for incriminating evidence against them. Or something. Instead, everything went to hell and Ray and Ani ended up in a shoot-out that they very narrowly escaped. This moment was basically the end of the end of their case: the moment where they realized they were never going to clear their names. All that was left to do was fight or run.
Meanwhile, Frank was busy putting his final plan into motion. His first step was to convince his wife to leave the country to ensure her safety, something she was none too keen on. The dialogue between the two of them, as Frank slowly wore her down, was one of the episode’s best moments. It finally gave us a much more human side of Frank, and for the first time, we were actually rooting for him to get out of this mess. “I have one more play,” he told his wife as he sent her off to safety. He never looked terribly convinced that he would ever see her again.
Frank’s “one more play” turned out to be “take machine guns and shoot everybody and steal their money.” With assistance of Ray, this is exactly what he does. They kill a dozen Russian goons and take off with their stacks of cash. After that, Frank, Ani, and Ray have the cash they need to disappear. They can catch a boat to Venezuela, sail off into the sunset and live happily ever after, right? Come on, none of us really thought it was going to end sunshine and rainbows.
Instead, Frank was captured by Mexican drug lords who are not happy with the destruction he’s cased in Los Angeles over the last few days. They drove him into the desert where they stole his money (the money he had just stolen from the Russians) and stab him. Frank, ever the fighter, attempted to walk out of the desert, a trail of blood and vultures behind him. This scene was Vince Vaughn’s best in the whole series as his life began to flash before his eyes. He refused to give up and pushed on as long as he physically could. He never made it out of the desert, but he died fighting.
Ray couldn’t resist stopping to see his son on last time, and doing that sealed his fate. A transponder was placed under his car while he was out giving his kid a final salute (it was a bizarre moment). Ray spotted it and realized he was being followed. He also realized that he’ll lead the bad guys straight to Ani if he tries to meet up with her, so he instead headed up into the mountains and tried to confront the men following him. Just as his dream (or vision, rather) from the third episode had predicted, he died in a hail of bullets out amongst the trees.
This left Ani, who managed to get on a ship and escape. The final scenes of the episode showed that she managed to meet up with Frank’s wife in Venezuela, ultimately relaying the entire story to a Times reporter about a year after the fact. Oh, and as it turned out, she was pregnant with Ray’s baby. And if that wasn’t enough, we also got a quick shot of Ray’s ex-wife receiving the results of a paternity test and guess what? Ray’s son really was his son the whole time! What? How did Colin Farrell and his skinny, dark haired wife make a big-boned redhead? Stranger things have happened, I guess.
With that, True Detective season two came to a close. Was it as good as season one? No, it wasn’t. Was it as bad as a lot of the internet would have you believe? No, it wasn’t that either. It was a solid season that maybe tried to pack a few things into its eight episodes. There were plenty of good moment though, plenty of times that you felt that True Detective charm. I might be in the minority here, but I found it largely enjoyable. The finale was satisfying, even if it struggled to tie up oh so many plot threads. I’m already looking forward to a third season.
What did you think? Let’s hash it out in the comments.