Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell in “True Detective”
“True Detective” ups the ante in every way and settles into its comfortable procedural grove this week. Its season premiere may require more than one viewing to truly appreciate (having watched the episode again, I can say it does improve), but “Night Finds You” is full of all the elements that made the first season such a standout.
The episode opens with Semyon (Vince Vaughn) concerned for his legacy. Subtlety is nowhere to be found as quick flashes of Semyon’s large empty house are intercut with him lamenting the fact he and his wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly) do not have children. When Frank recalls his five days in the dark as a child and his terror at being locked in the basement, his desire for some sort of lasting contribution becomes clear. Semyon straddles the line between legitimacy and his gangster past for most of this hour and he seems to land on the side that lets him utilize the brutal skills he learned in the basement. When he has to fight for survival, he will use any means necessary, even if all that’s left is a dead rat in his hand.
After learning Caspere never purchased the land set for the high speed rail line, Semyon is rightfully upset. There’s a moment where he absentmindedly plays with his glasses only to crush them in his hand (again recalling his time in the basement). It was in this moment I felt Vince Vaughn may have been miscast in the role. He is doing a fine job with most of his scenes, but in these types of moments, the moments he is supposed to be silently intimidating and full of rage, something is falling a bit flat. I would expect a character like Frank Semyon to bring a sense of unease and dread when they appear on screen, greatly increasing the chaotic energy. Not to say he won’t get there, but for now, Vaughn feels like the weak link in the cast.
On the other end of the spectrum is Rachel McAdams and her portrayal of Det. Ani Bezzerides. As the investigation into Caspere’s death begins in earnest, it’s clear she is the only one actually interested in doing her job to solve a murder. As with all four main characters this season, Bezzerides is clearly the product of a troubling childhood. Unlike Semyon, she has buried her experience so deep, she will only acknowledge it when directly confronted with it. Each time Velcoro (Colin Farrell) tries to continue a conversation by asking about her past, she offers absolutely no information. The only time she opens up slightly is when Dr. Pitlor (Rick Springfield) brings up her father. She’s so matter of fact about two of her siblings suicides and the other two siblings being incarcerated, she almost mentions them like it happened to someone else.
After the visit to Dr. Pitlor, we get a “True Detective” staple, the two lead detectives driving in a car. There was a car scene earlier in the episode that wasn’t exactly stellar but this one is where Nic Pizzolatto‘s voice comes through. One piece of information Bezzerides is happy to share about herself is why she wears so many blades. She finds it fundamental to her job when most of the people she encounters could easily overpower her – as Velcoro notes, the knives balance the scales. It’s an important detail though when she continues to say she would wear them even if she wasn’t a cop. It’s a cynical statement to be sure but deeply important to the core of who Bezzerides is. She is fiercely independent and refuses to rely on anyone else, backlash from her nontraditional upbringing.
Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) is the only one who gets a bit of good news this week but this being “True Detective”, his life is still incredibly messy. He is picked to lead the investigation from the state side and if he does well, his suspension will be lifted and he could even find himself being promoted. He could be an early candidate for the pseudo-happy ending Rust got last year. Not the traditional happy ending where everything works out but rather a shift in perspective. Woodrugh is suicidal as demonstrated by his bike ride last week, he breaks up with his girlfriend (who he had a hard enough time being with in the first place), and he has an Oedipal jackpot of a relationship with his mother. Not to mention Black Mountain is brought up again yet he refuses to talk about what happened when he was part of the private security contract firm. Carrying baggage like this creates a damaged, depressed man but he could find his version of redemption by bringing Caspere’s case to a close.
The break in the case this week comes from Semyon who uncovers Caspere’s second house in Hollywood. He meets Velcoro in the world’s most depressing bar from the season premiere to pass along the information, ultimately sealing Velcoro’s fate. Velcoro intimates he wants out from under Semyon’s thumb but realizes he can never change the person he is. When he arrives at the house in Hollywood, he finds a few disturbing clues. A pool of blood (which hopefully isn’t Caspere’s because that would mean it’s been there for a very long time), a sex swing, a lot of sound proofing, and a video camera rolling behind a one way mirror. A break this big can’t happen this early in the season, can it?
Of course not. A shrouded figure in a bird mask shoots Velcoro with a shotgun. For good measure, the bird mask shoots Velcoro again in the stomach at point blank range. It seems pretty clearly the end for Velcoro, and most likely means a big delay in Bezzerides or Woodrugh discovering the true importance of the house for themselves. The case is still unclear and there is no easy path ahead. Velcoro going down changes the game and I for one, can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Crazy Theory Corner
Each week I’ll posit a crazy theory that will most likely be 100% wrong by the end of next week’s episode. Feel free to share your own!
Dr. Pitlor mentioning Caspere’s other “damaging behavior” will become a major point in the case as it will open the door to the bird head cult which will implicate the slowly unraveling Mayor Chessani (Ritchie Coster) in some way.