What follows is an examination, recap, and review of the fourth episode of True Detective Season 2. As such, it contains spoilers for this season, so watch your step.
Just as things start to come together, everything falls apart. Within the first few minutes of episode 4, we saw the characters start to hit some serious lows. Frank’s financial situation got worse, Ray warned Ani that power figures are calling for her head, and Paul woke up in a bed he never wanted to crawl into again. Everything was slowly falling to pieces, just as the case itself was coming together.
As the episode progressed, things did not get better. Frank tried to reassemble his empire, struggled to recover the funds he once had that made his big land purchase possible. His former business associates don’t seem to think much of him re-entering the game, but this allows us to see why Frank’s such a feared and imposing figure in the underworld. There was nothing quite as brutal as the teeth pulling moment from last episode, but Frank’s intensity was definitely felt. He is becoming more and more of a cornered animal, someone who was and is very dangerous.
Paul’s intense self-hatred was front and center. The episode opened with him waking up after a homosexual encounter with a former friend and lover. Paul’s collapse after this was immediate. Whatever is inside of him that will not allow him to accept who he truly is, it’s tearing him to pieces. “Be what you want, it ain’t bad,” the man tells him. This was hardly comforting to Paul, who seems on the edge of total self-destruction. To top things off, his ex-girlfriend (who he obviously has no feelings for), is pregnant with his child. When he’s near tears, just barely hanging on, he mumbled something to the effect of “who am I?” Ray responded, “You’re a survivor. Everything else is just dust in your eyes.. just blink it away, man.”
Things were not any better for Ani, who was suspended for sexual misconduct. It’s also now apparent that the bad guys behind the scenes are gunning for her. Her head is on the chopping block. Emotionally cut off from just about everybody, breaking hearts and kicking ass along the way. This episode only further confirmed that she is the show’s most compelling character. There’s a darkness in her that we have only begun to glimpse. She also has the best line of the episode when she spoke with her sister about their late mother. When her sister wondered why they could so vividly remember certain moments of their childhood, Ani replied, “Those moments, they stare back at you. You don’t remember them, they remember you.” That’s some good stuff right there.
In a strange turn, Ray was the moral center of the episode. He tried to warn Ani of the axe that was about to drop on her career. He tried to boost Paul’s spirits and encouraged him to forget those who would judge him. He brushed off Frank’s job offer. Ray is a cop – a dirty one at times, but still a cop — and that means something to him. When he went to see his son, to tell him goodbye, he hugged him close and stressed that one day the liege of their family would mean something to the kid. Ray was hoping that one day, the world will look back on him as a guy who did at least one good thing. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen.
While the characters were spiraling downward, the case had a huge jump. Casper – the dead guy who’s murder they are trying to solve – had real nice watch that turned up in a pawnshop. The watch had prints on it and the prints lead them to some bad people involved in prostitution, amongst other things. Ani, Ray, and Paul put a crew together and headed out to arrest some suspects. It seemed fairly routine, but Ani wisely put together a good-sized unit just in case. What followed after that can only be described as all hell breaking loose.
The cops were ambushed and a firefight broke out. Not a little firefight, but rather a huge one that left dead bodies littered throughout the streets and a whole unit of cops killed. It was the most action-packed moment True Detective has done yet. Machine guns tore holes through cars and pedestrians, and explosions blows the top off a building. Big, big stuff. What made it so great was how the show managed to still showcase character moments during this firefight. Tough-as-nails Ani was shaken to her core. At one point she was clearly preparing to stab a guy creeping towards her, and the prospect clear scared the hell out of her. Ray looked like he was barely hanging, obviously not an action junkie. Paul, not surprisingly, was unshaken. His military background and ever present death wish made him brutally effective.
The episode ended with a powerful moment of our three detectives standing a in a sea of destruction, unable to wrap their heads around the carnage around them. Ani was shaking, Ray ready to collapse, Paul dead behind the eyes. As a viewer, the entire shootout was completely unexpected and out of the norm for the show. The characters feel the same why we do, confused at what they just witnessed. Were they setup? It sure seems like they were not meant to survive this encounter, and if that is the case, then by who? What have they gotten to close to? It’s a hell of an ending and one that will bring us back next week with bells on.