True Detective Episode 2.02 Recap and Preview for Next Week

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I was hoping that “True Detective” would kick its sophmore slump with the second episode, but it just got slumpier. With a few minor exceptions, tonight’s episode was rather plodding. Remember the episode of “The Simpsons” where the family goes to see the new “Cosmic Wars” and are disappointed to discover the entire film is about taxes and tariffs and parliamentary procedure? I felt like that was me with this episode.

It felt like most of the episode was the various jurisdictions arguing over who is going to pull lead on the case. Ani will be heading up the investigation, partnered with Ray. Paul is offered a federal shield if he helps with this case; all he wants to do is get back on his bike. He has virtually no role in the police investigation this week. (We do meet Paul’s sultry trailer-park mother, who is a little too clingy to her son; and Paul’s girlfriend dumps him because he won’t open up to her.) Ray, however, is working double-duty. He is working the case for Vinci PD, but the mayor warns him that the Attorney General’s office is going to use Caspere’s murder as an excuse to investigate the alleged corruption in the town. Ray isn’t sure whether or not he is supposed to solve the murder. Frank, however, needs Ray to find Caspere’s murderer.

Frank went liquid in order to buy into the parcels of land that would be served by the high-speed rail. But Caspere never finalized the deal, and essentially died with the money in his pocket, no paper trail. Frank believes whoever killed Caspere has his money. With double mortgages on his house and the poker room, if he doesn’t get that money back, he is screwed. He starts to revert back to his gangster ways and sets up a beating on a guy as a warning.

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Caspere’s autopsy is finished. His eyes were burned out with acid, and there was a cocktail of drugs in his system. In a “fun” discovery, Caspere’s genitals were blown off with a shotgun. Ani and Ray visit Caspere’s home to check on the evidence sweep. Ani is clearly put-off by the sexual decor of his place. They find his date book and visit with Caspere’s shrink, who reveals that Caspere was being treated for various neuroses, and frequented escorts, which left him filled with shame. He was a sexual obsessive but “passive.” Not submissive; passive. The detectives link the regular $4,000 bank withdrawals in Hollywood and blank days in his date book with visits with prostitutes.

Frank checks in with one of his gangland connections, and the gangster/pimp produces an escort who “dated” Caspere. She writes down the location of Caspere’s sex house, which Frank then passes on to Ray during their regular bar meet-up. Ray is depressed and mentions that he doesn’t really have any interest in continuing their arrangement. Earlier that day, Ray had gone to meet up with Chad only to find his ex-wife Alicia waiting instead. She is angry about Ray’s behavior at Chad’s school, and suspects he was involved in beating up the bully’s dad. She informs him that she is going to seek sole custody, which causes Ray to spin out – Chad is all he’s got. Alicia threatens to do a paternity test, which would almost certainly show that Chad is not Ray’s biological son. So Ray is feeling pretty empty when he meets with Frank, even after Frank tells him that if he finds Caspere’s killer, Frank will basically own Vinci, and appoint Ray as chief of police.

When speaking to Caspere’s shrink earlier, he mentions that he knows Ani’s father and did some work with him at his commune early on. Ani doesn’t have anything nice to say about the commune, and it clearly upsets her to even think about it. That night, back at her hotel, Ani leaves a message with the Hollywood PD vice squad, then starts looking up escort services on the computer. At first, it seems like she is just doing research for the case, but it soon becomes clear that her interest is more than professional. It’s strange though: even as she looks at pictures of naked women and some kind of hardcore video, she remains completely emotionless. I’m still having a hard time figuring out what trauma happened to Ani. The logical trauma seems to be molestation at the commune, perhaps as “therapy” under her father’s direction.

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After his meeting with Frank, Ray checks out Caspere’s Hollywood sex hideaway. The kitchen faucet is leaking into a nearly overflowing sink. The radio is on; there is blood on the ground; soundproofing on the walls. A folded-up sex swing hangs from the ceiling. A small secret room is behind it that doesn’t hold much besides some basic computer equipment. There is someone else in the house, the man in the raven mask. He appears out of nowhere and shoots Ray. Ray drops, and the raven man stands over him and drills a second shot into him. Not a peep can be heard from outside.

Maybe I am jaded by the workings of television, but I don’t buy for a second that Ray is dead. Why the hell would a TV show hire a big-name actor like Colin Farrell, then kill him after two episodes? If nothing else, Farrell is listed as a lead star in the season, which means, contractually, he has to be paid lead-actor sums for all episodes, regardless of how many episodes he is in. So financially, it seems ridiculous to kill Ray off in episode two.

I want more of this raven man. He is by far the most intriguing part of this season. The raven man of season two is like the crime scene totem from season one. It is dark, it is strange, it hints at something cultish, and suggests something much more compelling than a general murder-for-money.

You can check out the promo for episode 2.03 of “True Detective” in the player below. Titled “Maybe Tomorrow,” the episode is directed by Janus Metz and written by Nic Pizzolatto. It will air July 5 at 9 P.M. EST on HBO.