Our patience is paying off. We're getting somewhere.
If True Detective's first four episodes were about setting up the characters and the world, the second half of this eight-episode season is primed to be about moving the pieces that writer Nic Pizzolatto placed around his multi-tiered elaborate board. His story is running, not shuffling, all the while incorporating tiny details and clues he dropped casually along the way.
Season two isn't a thrill or as exciting as season one was, but it has its own unique joys. Close viewing pays dividends. As we watch themes that were once emerging rise to the surface, we can understand and explain them. Checking back every week — doing the hard work to talk this out — doesn't just make sense out of the show. It makes it better. We're winning, and it's time to cash in some of our ships, starting with episode five.
The title of True Detective season two's fifth episode, "Other Lives," has at least three meanings. On the surface, it's about what happened to our main characters in the 66-day gap between the episodes four and five. It's also about other lives (or, perhaps, former lives) that need investigation. Dive a little deeper, and it's about the people beneath the surface and the lives they lead when they're not cops, when they're not psychiatrists, when they're not wealthy.
And that really gets to the central question that True Detective season two is wrestling with: Can people can change?
Can Ani stop being an angry loner? Can Frank stop being a gangster? Can Ray stop being an addict? Can Paul stop pretending to be a straight man?
Or is everyone just who they are, inheritors of sins, doomed to be who they've always been, thinking what they've always thought?
Put differently, is there reason for hope?
Maybe. But probably not for everyone.
In this week's deep dive into True Detective's second season, we're going to do it a little differently. There's little need now, after spending five hours with these characters, to spill e-ink explaining where they all came from. We know. Last week's watchthrough did that, but this week's episode doesn't need it. Instead, we'll start with an examination of Vinci, the fictional town at the center of this season, and see what insights that will give us.
Then we'll stew in "Other Lives," with all the juicy details thrown right into the pot.
Vinci isn't Vinci — it's Vernon
True Detective season two takes place in Vinci, California, which is not a real town … mostly.
You won't find Vinci on a California map, but you will find Vernon, which is its obvious real-world inspiration. How related are the cities? Remember the shot of the Vinci water tower? That is the Vernon water tower, the letters replaced through special effects magic.
The similarities don't end there.
State attorney Davis gave the history of True Detective's Vinci way back in episode two. Here are the highlights:
- It started out as a vice haven in the early 1900s
- It became industrial in the 1920s
- It pushed out residents in favor of manufacturing zones
- It's the worst air polluter in the state
- It emits or processes 27 million pounds of toxic waste
Vernon's history isn't much different — at least not until recently.
Vernon sits on 5.2 square miles of land about five miles outside of Los Angeles. It is industrial by design: filled with businesses, not houses. Its official website touts, as Vinci's Mayor Chessani might, that "Vernon means business." From 1984 to 2006, there were precisely zero contested elections.
In 2011, California state officials embarked on a plan to abolish Vernon as a city and fold it into Los Angeles. Strictly speaking, it was not successful. Vernon remains independent. But reforms did follow, including salary caps and term limits city officials. When a low-income housing complex is built and filled, Vernon's population will double from its current 114.
So Vinci isn't real … mostly.
If Vinci continues following in Vernon's footsteps, season two could ultimately be the story of the downfall of old Vinci — and, by necessity, the Chessani family dynasty.
As we've done for each episode, we'll concentrate on the rapid-fire "Previously on True Detective" recap at the beginning of the episode so that we know what the show's creators think we should know:
- A dozen years ago, Frank Semyon tells Ray Velcoro that he knows who raped his wife and gives him a picture of the alleged rapist, who does not look at all like Chad the doughy redhead. (Ray, as far as we know, finds and kills him. Frank helps Ray hide the body, and their relationship begins.)
- "You want to be police?" the woman whose house is being foreclosed on in episode one asks Ani and her partner Elvis. "Why don't you go find my sister?" (That leads them to her former place of employment, Panticapaeum, the commune Ani Bezzeridies' father Eliot runs.)
- "The reputation of this clinic," Dr. Pitlor says to Ani and Ray, "rests on its discretion, officers." (That was a previous episode, where we learned that Pitlor treated the late Vinci city manger Ben Caspere for, according to the doctor, his sexual depravity and its accompanying shame. We learned in episode four that Pitlor also treated Mayor Chessani's late wife.)
- Eliot says that he remembers Dr. Pitlor from when he hung out at Panticapaeum in the early '80s and said he was part of "Chessani's lodge, I think." (The Chessani he's referring to is Mayor Chessani's father, the preceding generation of Vinci's ruling class.)
- Emily, Paul's ex-girlfriend, tells him that she's pregnant. He says that "is the best thing that could happen," kisses her and tells her he loves her.
- "Just like that, you're back here," Jordan Semyon says to Frank Semyon. She's disgusted that the man trying to go straight is now an angry thug again. "Have I somehow given you the impression I've got a choice?" Frank asks. "Congratulations," he says. "We're club owners again." (He's referring to Lux Infinitum, the club that he once owned, sold to Danny Santos, and then took back from Santos, along with his gold teeth, which he extracted with pliers.)
- Ray gives his son, Chad, his father Eddie Velcoro's badge, to remember him. Chad asks if he's going away, but Ray doesn't answer.
- Paul Woodrugh explains in a briefing that they have enough information to arrest Ledo Amarilla and his prostitute employee, Irina Rulfo, to charge them with Caspere's murder. (The assumption is that Caspere hired her, brought her back to his palatial estate, she told Amarilla, they killed him and ransacked his house. They think this because they found footage of her pawning Caspere's watch.)
- Amarilla screams something in Spanish in the middle of the street while he holds a gun to a hostage's head. He shoots the hostage at point blank range.
- Paul and Ray shoot Amarilla. Ani emerges from behind a car. The three stand in the middle of the street, mostly horrified, except for Paul, the veteran, who's cool as lemonade.
The show's creators coninue to chop Leonard Cohen's poem turned song, "Nevermind," into thematically appropriate snippets for each episode. Here's what's new in "Other Lives."
Your victory was
Some among you
Thought to keep
A record of
Our little lives
The clothes we wore
Our spoons, our knives
And all of this
The sweet indifference
Some call love
The high indifference
Some call fate
But we had names
Names so deep and
Names so true
They're blood to me
They're dust to you
They've been chopping Cohen's "Nevermind" into thematically appropriate pieces for weeks. This time, for whatever it's worth, they did a lot of chopping, juxtaposing stanzas together. I assume that's because it told a better story this way.
Episode five watchthrough: Other Lives
There are no main or minor characters in this shot. Only bodies in the aftermath of episode four's deadly shootout.
Frank, Jordan and Nails
As Frank sips coffee, a reporter on TV says it's been 66 days since "one of the deadliest shootouts in state history." It is known as the "so-called Vinci massacre." Attorney General Geldof, apparently satisfied, declared the case closed.
If the name sounds familiar — and it probably doesn't — it's because Chessani mentioned him in passing in episode two, saying that Geldof is squeezing Vinci. For a crooked as the mayor is, he's always finding some way to cast himself and the city he runs as victims.
The first episode took place on Oct. 27, because the newspaper with the article exposing Vinci was dated Oct. 27. Allow a few days for the first four episodes, and we've picked up in early January 2016.
Geldof is running for governor — and it sounds like he made that announcement at the same press conference where he announced closing the Caspere case. Which is coincidental in the sense that it's not even a little coincidental.
The house seems to be packed up. Nothing is on the shelves. Cardboard boxes with labels — DEN PRINTER PHONE, BOOKS HEAVY, LIVING ROOM COUCH PILLOWS — are piled on furniture. Frank takes a shower alone, dresses himself alone. Where is Jordan? Asleep in bed. The point is: This is in contrast to the first episode, where she was up with him, giving him a pep talk, helping with his cufflinks. That was in October, on the day he was hosting the party at the casino about the high-speed railway land investment.
Frank almost leaves, thinks better of it, walks into their bedroom. Jordan, facing away from him, hears Frank, opens her eyes, but doesn't turn to see him. He leaves without saying a word. Their relationship is toast.
He gets into a black Land Rover. He walks out of a modest house in a residential neighborhood. Point is: They don't live in the mansion on the hill with an enormous pool and glass walls anymore.
Nails is driving. He appears to have some reddish discoloration low on his forehead. They don't speak. "In other news," a woman on the radio says, "construction is set to break ground next week on the state central rail line." Frank turns the radio off and looks at Nails. He doesn't look back.
Ray and Lieutenant Kevin Burris at Ray's house
Last episode, Frank offered Ray a job working for him. Ray turned it down. This episode, we learn that he took him up on the offer.
Lieutenant Kevin Burris, Ray's former boss at Vinci PD, is holding the card. They're in Ray's house. "You stick with what you know," Ray says.
He doesn't have a mustache anymore. He still has a bolo tie.
"You didn't have to quit," Burris says. "I told you that."
"None of that went down right," Ray says. "State came in. Better to walk before they make you run."
Burris says they could have helped. Besides, Attorney General Geldof closed the case. He's been cleared. Burris asks if anyone came to Ray asking about Caspere and the dead Mexican thugs. Maybe Teague Dixon, the lazy copy and Ray's one-time partner who had a quarter of his skull blown off in the shootout three months ago.
"What did you come here for, Lieutenant?" Ray asks.
"Learning some things about Dixon," he says. "Wondered if you knew anything."
"Anything about what things?" Ray says.
"Well, he had a lot of photographs," Burris says. This is a callback to the brief few seconds we saw Dixon taking pictures of Paul and his old army buddy and sometimes sexual partner. "Some other stuff. Might have been into some people."
Ray doesn't answer. I think the answer is probably no. Ray and Dixon never seemed close. Ray complained (though he didn't explain why) when they assigned him to work on Caspere's case in episode one, back when it was just a missing person's case. When Ani asked Ray if he was close with Dixon later, Ray said no, and he wasn't close with anyone.
Burris tells Ray that the house he lives in is for Vinci employees. He's not one, so he has to leave. He has 60 days, and he wanted to tell him in person. "Come on, Ray," he says. "You don't want to live here anymore." And it is a little odd, right? Just like the real Vinci, Vernon, those hours are for city employees. Ray quit. Why would he want to live there?
Ray doesn't answer, either way. That's a thing they do in True Detective, not answering. Instead, he says he has to go to work. Burris leaves, and Ray breathes deep. Like he's nervous. Scared. Like maybe he thought Burris was there to shake him down, not be friendly.
Ray at Frank's apartment
Ray's collecting rent at the apartment complex we saw Frank muscle his way back into in the last episode.
He knocks on a door, and a woman answers and hands him a wad of cash — and it may be the woman from the first episode whose house was foreclosed on and whose sister is missing. It's short $200, Ray tells her. Ray, concerned and not sure what to do, scolds her, but hands the money back, tells her to have it tomorrow. She never answers, giving the impression she might not speak English. He says something in Spanish and then leaves.
Ray walks away from the door, surveys the squalor, and says "Jesus Christ."
Ani in a sexual harassment course
In this sexual harassment training course, men are blaming women. There are five men. The group leader is a man. Ani's the only woman, there because of her ex-boyfriend and subordinate who ratted their relationship out to higher authorities. It'd be weird that she's alone, except this is pretty much exactly the situation she found herself back at the sheriff's department. Ani's the only lady in the ladies' room.
There's a little irony here, too, given that a few episodes ago, depending on how you look at it, Ani complimented or harassed Paul about his good looks — and tried to use them to their advantage when talking to Chessani's daughter when they visited Chessani Manor.
"Who wouldn't want her sexually harassing you, am I right?"
"Can I just ask a question," One guy says. "What the fuck are you doing here? Who wouldn't want her sexually harassing you, am I right?"
The group leader points out the blindingly obvious about the blindingly obvious writing: That's not cool, dipshit in a sexual harassment course. Dipshit's like, but it was a compliment! Ani says it's OK. She understands.
Then she makes up some stuff about how "just really like big dicks" to make everyone excited. And of course it works — because men, get it? The group wants to say that she's doing the same thing he did, unaware, but he just stammers. She plays dumb, like she doesn't know she did anything wrong. She looks off in the distance and seems uncomfortable.
This is, as all things are in True Detective, supposed to be profound. Ani exposes the farce, see? It isn't profound as much as it is silly. I suspect Pizzolatto typed it with a hammer it's so damn blunt.
Paul and Lacey Lindel, the actress
Six people sit across a long table arguing about Paul's future. Three represent the California Highway Patrol trooper. Three represent Lacey Lindel (Ashley Hinshaw), the actress Paul pulled over in episode one.
"I did not do anything. And I am innocent."
"I just want to forget that this terrible thing ever happened," Lindel says, "and get on with getting my life back." She's a piece of human garbage, to be clear. She propositioned Paul, not he her. And now she sits between two lawyers — one playing good cop, one playing bad cop — ruining Paul's life.
"I did not do anything," Paul says. "And I am innocent."
"Black Mountain," the bad cop attorney says. "Pandar village."
"I wasn't there," Paul says. "I wasn't at Pandar."
I assume this is allegorical to the 2012 killings that U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales perpetrated carried out in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. He plead guilty to killing 16 Afghan civilians in their homes, and a military judge sentenced Bales to life in prison without parole in August 2013.
"How many men did you kill then," the attorney asks, as if this is somehow relevant or OK. "How many at Vinci?" as if they're talking about the shootout. This is about the blond. It makes no sense. Aside from Paul's boss, CHP Commander Floyd Heschmeyer, says, "Come on!" at one point, but the lawyer just keeps on talking, saying crazy things.
"I've learned a lot in therapy. I'm listening to my higher power."
The good cop lawyer says they're willing to put this all behind them — if they drop Lindel's previous parole violation. (Recall that, in the first episode, Paul pulled her over, she was clearly drunk, and she was violating her parole.)
State Attorney Katherine Davis is there, fit to be tied. A few episodes ago, she promised Paul a promotion, in exchange for his cooperation in the Caspere case.
"I've learned a lot in therapy," Lindel says because she's a class act. "I'm listening to my higher power."
David says that Paul "works insurance fraud now, so you got him off the street. Congratulations."
"She's a fucking liar," Paul says, and I'm inclined to agree with him. She sits there, looking smug, surrounded by expensive lawyers perfectly content to disparage Paul if it muscles the state into getting what they want for Lindel. The bad cop lawyer threatens to start a civil case and calls Paul "Mr. Woodrugh."
"Detective Woodrugh," Paul corrects him. The scene ends.
Frank in Lux Infinitum
Frank sits in a booth in Lux Infinitum, the club he took over again after removing Danny Santos' gold teeth with a pair of pliers, talking to someone.
Frank's been stuck in a loop for the last few episodes, doing the same thing over and over with different people. Desperate and broke, he's shaking down his old associates for money. He's been diving back into the life he wanted to get out of. Whatever success he had wasn't enough to keep him in his mansion.
"Rate's changed," Frank explains to the man with the beard. "I need you to offer me an old-times'-sake price." Beardy balks. Frank tells someone named Lloyd to start him a tab.
Two men walk in the door, one Latino, one dressed in all black wearing a cowboy hat and aviator sunglasses. Frank sees them and hesitates, shaken. Beardy heads for the door. Nobody says a word, but it's clear from these actions that these guys are serious.
"Frank Semyon?" the Latino man asks.
"Who are you?" Frank asks.
"Our name is Gonzalez," the Latino man says. "We work here."
"How's that, friend?"
"We had an arrangement with Santos."
Nobody's seen Santos for a while, Frank says. Gonzales says he's heard, "so it is time to ratify our arrangement." These are the tables turned on Frank. Someone waltzes through the door and tries to extort him this time. Frank says they didn't have an arrangement, and he doesn't need partners. "Door's in the same place, amigo," Frank says.
The speaking man turns and starts to walk through the door. The man with the cowboy hat just stands there, staring.
"Can I help you, Cisco Kid?" Frank asks. The Cisco Kid leaves.
Chessani and Frank in the mayor's office
Chessani is snoring in his office. Frank walks in and flicks him on his forehead. Frank mocks him. Chessani says Michelangelo took micro-naps, too.
"You remember Acheron Waste Management?" Frank asks.
The name is another link to Greek mythology, like Antigone "Ani" Bezzerides, her sister Athena and their father Eliot's commune Panticapaeum. In Greek mythology, it's the river of woe, one of five rivers in the underworld. In Roman mythology, it's the river you'd have to cross to get into hell. In Dante's Inferno, it's the border of hell. It's also a real river in Greece.
In True Detective, it's Frank's old waste disposal company — the one he sold to raise the $5 million buy-in for the land adjacent to the railway corridor. And Frank confirms that he sold it "after we sprinkled that corridor valley with heavy metals."
That's a link to the previous episode, when Ani and Ray visited a polluted valley near Fresno for two reasons: Caspere's GPS coordinates put him in the area and Ani saw maps of the area in Chessani's house. There, they talked to a man from the EPA about the pollutants. The EPA guy blamed the pollution on abandoned mines and said the state doesn't have the money to clean them up. That valley is also the very first shot of the season. So, in short, Vinci, a tiny industrial city notorious for producing pollutants, was having Frank dump some of these pollutants in desolate, already-polluted California wilderness.
Frank says he sold it to Ali Komunyakaa, a man he never saw finish a beer, who got drunk and drove his car off a hillside in Ventura. He's dead, and the business is closed. Frank's trying to link both to Chessani.
"You deal with pimps, you get pimpish results, Frank," Chessani says.
Frank wants to know who the "outside interests" looking into the poker room were. "Foreign interests," Chessani says. "Some fuck. I don't remember. I haven't been in touch since." Assuming half of that's true, who could it be but Osip and the Russians?
Frank lives in Glendale. "Shame, that," Chessani says. Frank mentions Chessani's son, Tony. "My family ain't your concern boychik," Chessani says. It's not the first time he's used a Yiddish word.
Chessani says he knows Frank's been running prostitutes through the poker room he runs, but he didn't tell him. That's cost Frank an additional $5,000 a month as a kickback. You could say that's unfair, and it surely is, but Frank's in no position to argue on moral grounds. Extortion's exactly what he's been involved in for the last couple episodes.
Chessani tells him to leave and not to come back unless he's invited. The mayor's — what? thug? chief of staff? — Ernst Bodine is there to see Frank out. Frank mocks him for being Chinese.
Ray and Gena at the hearing
Another table, bisected by interests for and against. This time, it's former Detective Ray Velcoro.
Ray was a person of interest in a corruption investigation that went nowhere, a lawyer explains. There's a substance abuse charge pending against Ray. His ex-wife, Gena, sits across the table from him. Remember that, in the first episode, Ray went to a lawyer and handed her a wad of cash and asked her to help him get more visitation with his son Chad.
In a subsequent episode, Gena says she and her husband, Richard Brune, want sole custody because Ray is a bad man, and Chad doesn't really like him. In a mall parking lot, she threatens Ray with the trump card: She'll get a paternity test. It's significant because they both know that Chad's not Ray's biological son. Though, frankly, I can't imagine what difference that would make, given that Ray's raised him as his own for the last 12 years. That's got to count for something right?
Gena stares down at the table, ashamed when her lawyer mentions paternity.
"Fucking asshole," Ray says, and the judge or magistrate says he's not helping his case.
The lawyer explains what we know (or what we think we know): Gena was raped and conceived Chad.
"I raised that boy," Ray says. "Am raising him. It doesn't matter where he comes —" and the lawyer cuts him off.
"Our position is that it matters a great deal," she says.
"I trusted you," Ray says to Gena.
"I trusted you," she says, furious.
"What does that mean?" Ray asks. It's a good question.
The judge or magistrate orders a paternity test and a toxicology test, the latter of which Ray agreed to earlier. And now Ray has supervised visitation until the tests come back. Ray is incensed knowing that a stranger has to supervise visits with his son. And the judge or magistrate does not seem to be on Ray's side.
"She never looked at me like that before," Ray says. "Like she hated me."
"You really going to test clean?" Ray's lawyer asks.
"Yeah," Ray says. "Yeah, 60 days now. I want to fight this, however I can."
"Then pull some more cash together," his lawyer says. "Tax-free or not, this is going to get expensive." She's referring to the "tax-free" wads of cash Ray slid across the table when he met with her in episode one.
Frank and Ray in the casino
A woman leads a man in a suit out of a set of doors in the Vinci Gardens Casino poker room. Let's just go ahead and assume she's a prostitute. Some tacky decorations announce Happy New Year. A woman walks away, and we see Blake, Frank's redheaded muscle, checking her out as she does. Last episode, Frank banished him to the upper levels. He's down on the floor again. Unless this is where Frank banished him to.
But before we move on, let's acknowledge that this is the second time this episode that they've got us thinking about hookers.
Frank and Ray are in Frank's office talking about money. Ray says he needs more. Frank says he needs more money, too, because he's "war rationing." Ray says he'll work extra shifts at the Lux, the club Frank required with pliers.
Frank asks if it's for Ray's son. It is. "I might have a job for you," Frank says. And we're back to the waste disposal company.
"That guy who bought the waste company we used in the corridor died," Frank says. Used in the corridor? As in the high-speed railway corridor? As in the poisoned land from last episode? As in that's in the pathway of the railway corridor? "Place has been cleaned out. I'm going to start listening to the hot feeling I got in the back of my neck. I want you to tail Blake. I want to know what his life is outside of me."
"I can do that," Ray says without hesitation.
"The enemy won't reveal itself, Raymond. Stymies my retribution."
Ray asks what he's thinking. "Am I in confession?" Frank says.
Frank asks if he thinks the Mexicans killed in the last episode really killed Caspere. Ray says he doesn't know. He explains the explosion as being a meth factory. He doesn't seem convinced. This will not be the last time someone asks this question.
Now Frank restates his problem.
"Caspere died with five million of my dollars, cash," he says. "Stan's killed. I'm squeezed out of the rail corridor. The enemy won't reveal itself, Raymond. Stymies my retribution. It's like, uh, blue balls in your heart. I'll see about some shifts at the Lux. But follow Blake. He's gotten too smooth for my peace of mind."
That's a link to the last episode when Frank called him louche — shady — and compared him to Roger Moore, who played a suave James Bond.
The scene ends as Ray takes a drink. Whatever he stopped doing, assuming he stopped doing anything, it wasn't drinking.
Paul and his super triple extra creepy mother, Cynthia
Paul tells his mother that he's getting married, that he's in love. Reaction: "Oh, Pauly. Oh, no."
Paul's mother pours herself a drink, asks how pregnant she is. "Four moths," Paul says. "Mother of God," his mom says. She's pissed. Says he's good-looking and white, that he could do anything he wants. Instead, he's becoming a husband.
"If I was a man, I'd have had the world," she says. "Dumb bastard." Yeah, I know what you're thinking: She's a pretty great mom.
Paul grabs something out of a closet and starts freaking out.
"You took it," Paul shouts at his mother. "How the fuck could you?"
"Took what, Pauley?"
Paul slams his fist on the wall. "YOU KNOW WHAT!" he screams. "The money! The money I brought back from Afghanistan! Twenty fucking thousand dollars, Cynthia!"
"That bag? Oh, Paulie. You've been back four years. I thought that was something you left for me."
It was his stake. He wants to use it for his child. He holds up his shirt, shows his scars, says he "fucking bled for that money." Gritting his teeth, he accuses her of gambling it away, and that's when she gets mad.
"Now listen: You knew I was out of work," she says. And it's true. That was their first conversation, way back in episode one, when he asked her about picking up shifts at the restaurant, and she said something derogatory about her boss. "I had every reason to expect a little help."
He says she doesn't care about family, and she says don't you tell me that.
"I carried you for nine months, and I've been carrying you ever since with your weirdness. You're strange. All your good friends, the boys. Yeah, I know about you, Paulie. Yeah, I know."
"I was a dancer, but I carried you," she says. "And I brought you up alone. You could have been a scrape job."
Mother of the year?
Loathsome as that turn of phrase is, keep in mind that the writer is putting planting abortion as a seed in your mind right now.
"You wouldn't even know whose it was," Paul says. That's interesting, because she also told him mentioned his father in the first episode, and that didn't seem to phase him then. Maybe she was just making it up.
She starts to tear up. Then she lashes out. She goes for the jugular.
"You ruined my career," she says, "you ungrateful asshole. I carried you for nine months, and I've been carrying you ever since with your weirdness. You're strange. All your good friends, the boys. Yeah, I know about you, Paulie. Yeah, I know."
"You shut your fucking mouth, you fucking positioned cooze," Paul says. That, in case you don't know, is a slang term for a woman's genitals. (I had to look it up.)
He slams his hands against the front door, walks out and drives away. She's crying now.
Ani and the lady from the first episode with the missing sister
I need you to think back to the first episode, when Ani and her partner, Elvis, served a foreclosure notice to a woman. That woman said her sister, Vera, was missing, and no police agency she contacted would help. They're not those kind of cops, they say. But they wind up investigating anyway, which leads Ani and Elvis to the commune for the first time because Vera used to work there.
This scene begins in what appears to be hotel room. That woman seems to have called Ani because she got something from her sister in the mail. It was sent other old address. Here sister had been missing for about a month back in episode one. It will be about four months now.
She and Ani talk, she thinks she can trust her. This is huge, but we've got to do some serious linking here. Ready?
- The pictures were taken covertly at some kind of party. Attendees are in evening dresses and tuxedos, sipping champagne.
- One picture, in portrait orientation, taken from low down indicating that it was taken covertly, shows a wooden chandelier in the top left and a woman in a red dress hugging an older white man. It sure looks like Ben Caspere. Remember this. Remember this well, dear reader.
- There's an invitation (that's what I'm calling it, anyway) in with the pictures. It says SEPTEMBER 9 ADMIT ONE. It doesn't say anything else. There's a gold embossed symbol at the top of a sun rising behind two mountains.
- When Ani and Ray interview Mayor Chessani in episode two about his relationship with the late Vinci city manager Ben Caspere, Chessani says that last time he saw her was at a party "maybe a month ago, September. Celebrated breaking ground on the Red Line extension and the imminent production of a major Hollywood movie."
- Chessani says Casper was with "a woman he'd been seeing, I think."
- Ernst, the mayor's assistant … thiks her name was Miss Tascha.
- You wouldn't have any pictures from the party, sir, by any chance?" Ray asks. (How's that for foreshadowing?)
- The only time we ever meet him, when Ani and Paul visit the Chessani's Bel Air mansion, Tony Caspere, the mayor's son, describes himself as a high-class party planner.
- Ani assigns Paul to interview prostitutes. At Lux Infinitum, the club Frank now owns, he learns of Tascha. A man Paul interviews says she used to rock parties, but she hasn't been around lately.
- In episode three, Ani and Paul open Caspere's safety deposit box and discover a blue diamond.
Wouldn't you know it, there's a photograph of blue diamonds.
This is it, friends and neighbors: In all likelihood, this is the party where Chessani said he last saw Caspere. Browse the gallery below for a closer look at Vera's photos.
Ani, secluded in the evidence room
Ani, at a desk in what looks like a warehouse, wearing a uniform that makes her look demoted, examines one of the photographs with a magnifying glass. It shows a man standing next to a woman in a red dress. On her computer screen is the homepage for Fred Jenkins, United States Senator from California.
Just then, her former partner (and one-night stand) Elvis appears, making an off-color joke. He tells her he didn't throw her under the bus, that he took full responsibility, that the Sheriff already knew about them.
"Yeah, sure," she says. "You're a real prince."
He says she'll be out of there in a few months.
"Look, somebody was trying to do you, girl. And if you had a few more friends, it might have been harder to get done."
This is another recurring theme: Ani, alone. She's a loner, the sole female sheriff's deputy, if we can judge that based on the shot of her in the otherwise empty women's locker room. And at the beginning of episode three, Ray speculates that somebody has it out for all of them.
"And when our betters make nice, and the money's traded hands, and they need something to show for this big investigation, who do you think's going to be first in the firing line? I'm going to take a wild guess that you and Woodrugh ain't the most popular folks at your squads. Expendable, one might say." That's what Ray told Ani in episode four.
As he's leaving, she asks him if he remembers the foreclosure. He remembers. She asks for Vera's old roommate's phone records. It contains an address for Vera's last-known phone call.
"Yeah, it was up north," Elvis says. Everything north of Vinci is bad.
Elvis is wary. She's working the evidence room now. She's not a detective. She makes a joke about doing a moral inventory. He agrees to get it for her.
She walks back to her desk, grabs the magnifying glass and, looking at the photo again, starts shaking and has to put it down.
Ray alone in his car, talking into a voice recorder
Ray's driving at night, talking into his voice recorder. He's talking to his son. He first mentioned these in episode one when talking to his attorney. He says they used to trade. To date, we've seen him talk into it once, after he threatened Chad at school to get the name of the kid who stole his shoes. He was apologetic, and he said his famous line "I used to want to be an astronaut. But astronauts don't even go to the moon anymore."
Today, he's talking about loyalty and pain. "Pain is inexhaustible. It's only people that get exhausted."
Oh, and he's tailing Blake, who pulled into a mansion's driveway. Ray cuts the light, gets out of the car and walks over to some boulders overlooking the house. There, Blake meets Dr. Pitlor, who's follow by three young, attractive women.
There's a third man, Tony Chessani.
They get into a Cadillac SUV, and Ray follows. They stop at what appears to be a warehouse. Ray peers through binoculars, and there's Osip Agranov coming out, the Russian (presumed) mobster who was supposed to partner with Frank to cover the second $5 million as a buy-in for the land. But when Caspere didn't shot, he got cold feet. Well, that was ostensibly the reason.
One of the escorts, a brunette, looks an awful lot like someone who was photographed covertly at a certain party.
Tony and Osip embrace. The Russians inspect the women, who must be prostitutes.
Jordan and Frank in Lux Infinitum
The club is in full swing, lights dimmed, bass thumping. Frank leans against the bar, looking around. Businessmen talk to scantily clad women. Hookers, probably, because they're just everywhere at this point.
Jordan, Frank's wife, walks in. She looks at him and walks away. Frank follows after a few seconds.
She's in the basement office.
"These books are bullshit," Jordan says. "Whatever they were actually making here, I can't figure it out."
Frank asks about her — how's she doing? She, in classic True Detective form, ignores the question, continues pouring a drink and asks one of her own.
"Where is this Santos character? Used to own the place."
"Wherever he is, he ain't coming back."
"This is backslide city, Frank. I know what going on out there in the poker room now. We're not just running some club. Come on."
"What's happening now is we are surviving," Frank says. This is a pretty deep insight into Frank's character. He justifies bad actions in terms of survival.
"You were almost out of this kind of thing when we met," she says. "It was like you had a design."
"That design does not work once someone has stolen all of our money," he says. "The design does not work when I'm knee-deep in dirt. You don't bring a kid into a situation like this."
"To what? Where is this going?"
"Excuse me? I thought this was a you and me thing, first off."
"It is, but it has to be about something more than this. God, Frank, I helped, I know. But I don't want to be some fucking gangster's wife."
"You know that word bothers me," Frank says. Again, we're seeing inside his character. Frank sees himself as good. He's only doing bad things to survive, see? "Because, me? I didn't ask for this world. I took it as — gangster? I was born drafted on the wrong side of a class war. So fuck that gangster shit."
"You're a pimp now, Frank. A dealer."
"I don't mix with those people. You know that. Those people, everything they do, they would do anyway. Crime exists contingent on human desire. These were the avenues left me."
"You're a pimp now, Frank. A dealer."
Where does it end, she asks? Their child and being legitimate are "part of the design," he says. Consider that word legitimate, in the context of their discussion last episode. Adoption is out of the question because you shouldn't inherit someone else's burden. That's certainly not Ray Velcoro's view. He's been raising a son he knows isn't biologically his for 12 years.
Regardless, the plan is on hold right now, he says. Does she love him? Then she's with him. And maybe she loves him if she's not with him. He understands. But she needs to say so. It's a test — a loyalty test, a theme Ray Velcoro brought up in the last scene. And that's when she drops the bomb.
She might not be able to have children, though she's been pretending otherwise. She says she had more than one "operation," a thing she referenced last episode and I assumed to mean an abortion.
This is the second time someone's mentioned abortion in this episode.
In fact, in her 20s, she had three euphemisms. Frank is disgusted.
Why's she telling him this now, he asks. "Maybe I'm less appealing in current circumstances. Why not tell me this when I'm on top of the world?"
"Well now I'm me," Jordan says. "And you're you." They are at their most raw, most basic. Money isn't hiding anything anymore. They're at their worst. "And here we both are, out in the open. So who loves who?"
Paul, his fiancee Emily and his future mother-in-law, Irma, have dinner
Paul is pouring himself a double vodka mixed with some iced tea. He and his fiancee, Emily, are having dinner with her mother, Irma.
Irma wants to stay with them until the baby comes — and she thinks they should "speed up" and get married.
"Might get kind of cramped," Paul says. He's being polite. Irma offers to sleep on the living room sofa. She won't complain. She spent a week on a boat when she was four, spent eight days in the hull. This, I assume, was when she came to the U.S.
"Thank Jesus," Irma says, "they got you off that motorcycle. Much better." Irma speaks her mind. And she's trying to help. But the motorcycle is Paul's favorite place in the world. Plus she likes that he wears a suit now. Em smiles and says he's very handsome. Paul takes a big drink.
Jordan and Frank in the Lux's basement office
The scene picks up where we left it: Jordan and Frank in the Lux's basement or back room, talking about how she can't conceive. She mentions a conversation from a couple months ago. That was last episode, three months ago.
And she says something brilliant.
"A couple of months ago, when I was talking about adoption, I was whining about you, what it would have meant if somebody had looked out for you. If somebody had taken care of you."
"There's no bandwidth for that right now," Frank says.
"I don't want to see you lose who you've become — and I don't mean the money."
She says she's with him and she loves him. "But I don't want to see you lose who you've become — and I don't mean the money."
These are two opposing worldviews here. Frank was arguing that he is who he is because of circumstances, that he's doing what he must do to stay afloat. Jordan argues now that he can become a better man — that he was becoming a better man — and that the very process will improve his circumstances.
There's a connection here to something Frank said. It seemed, like so many things, innocuous at the time, but it was important. Ray and Frank were sitting in their booth at the dark bar where they meet. In a moment of apparent tenderness for, well if not a friend then a longtime acquaintance, Frank gives Ray some unsolicited advice. "A good woman mitigates our baser tendencies," he says. And then segues into saying that he and his wife are trying to have kids, through in vitro fertilization.
"And I want to thank you for seeing me like that," Frank says. He's emotional again. Her words had a profound effect on him. And remember: For a much as he's acted like a gangster for these last couple of episodes, we also know that Frank has better angels. He's just mingling with demons right now — again, not because he wants to, but because he believes that he has to.
Despite his best efforts, Frank still sees himself as the kid locked in the basement as his father is out on a bender, and he's terrified, being chewed by rats that he has to smash to goo — the story he told in a whisper while crying at the beginning of episode two. The question is whether Frank can accept someone seeing him like that or if he can't square it with his own sense of self, can't accept it, and feels like he has to reject it.
"It fucking tears me up, the way you're having to live now," Frank continues.
"My problem is with you not coming to bed," she says. "With both of us being half in the bag each night."
"I will find a way out," he says.
"I will find a way out."
"The adoption, you were so definite. I think you were saying no to the kid that you once were. You were saying he was somebody else's problem," she says and talks past him. "I'm going home. You should make some time to join me."
They are, at this point, living separate lives in the same house. It's not a relationship in any meaningful sense. She's trying to make it so, by seizing their most vulnerable moment and filling it with brutal honesty. Jordan's extending an invitation to Frank: If she can accept Frank knowing the horrible things that happened to him when he was young and the presumably horrible things he did when he was a full-fledged gangster, then he can accept the dumb things she did when she was in her 20s. Both of them are paying for their pasts now. The question is: Do their pasts have to define their futures?
Frank pours himself a drink. He sets it down and walks away.
Ani and Ray in The Black Rose
The Black Rose. That's the name of the bar where Frank and Ray meet. The name's right there in the establishing shot for this scene.
Our constant singer is there, playing a sad song on her electric guitar.
Waking up is harder
That's all we hear before Ani starts talking to Ray. She's been doing some detective work on her own. She "spent all day in state's evidence control" and Vinci PD. The blue diamonds she gathered as evidence — surprise! — are gone. Ray says they look like the diamonds, and that the pictures would have to have been taken before Caspere died.
And she's switched from e-cigarettes to real Camels.
He asks her how she's doing, and she answers, honestly. She's drinking more. Her hands shake. She asks about him. He says he's talking to himself a lot and sticking to booze, which is new.
Before we move, let's take moment to consider how different their relationship is. Just a few episodes ago, she wouldn't trust him. And for what seemed like good reason. Everybody said he was dirty and compromised. They worked briefly as partners. He saved her life at the end of episode three, pulling her out of the way of an oncoming truck she didn't see because she was so focused on the escaping, masked suspect who torched the burgundy Cadillac — the car stolen from the movie set in Vinci, the car that ferried Caspere to his roadside resting place — that he had to pull her off the road. Last week, they survived what the media is calling the "Vinci massacre."
That was three months ago, in show time. And they've — well, they've changed. Grown, even. Letting people in, sharing yourself, that's difficult to see as anything but progress.
Then they're back talking about the blue diamonds again. It's not exactly unheard of for evidence to go missing, Ray says. Then Ani tells Ray of the missing girl, Vera.
"What did we keep hearing about escort parties? Powerful men? I couldn't make them all, but that's a state senator," she says, showing Ray one of the photos. He identified Caspere. This kind of party doesn't allow cameras, Ray says. Blackmail, maybe?
"You really think we cleared the Caspere case?"
They had Caspere's stuff, pawned it. And what does she care, Ray asks. This case and the people overseeing it put here in a cage.
"This girl's gone missing," Ani says. "Nobody cares. The interior's poisoned and suddenly worth billions, nobody cares? Bunch of people got shot to shit, nobody fucking cares."
"This girl's gone missing. Nobody cares. The interior's poisoned and suddenly worth billions, nobody cares? Bunch of people got shot to shit, nobody fucking cares."
Ray says he's not a cop, and she's not a detective anymore. She's too good for that, he says. She should quit. Ray asks if she heard about "the kid," Paul, doing fraud investigations. "He was a fucking god warrior that day," Ray says. They all got screwed.
Ani talked to him, and said he's miserable, that he belongs in the field. Ray's answer is the same: he should quit, too.
"Why didn't Dixon make that place for a cookhouse, huh?" Ani asks, ignoring that Ray doesn't want to be interested. He doesn't know. Maybe because he was an alcoholic?
"I have this new program, see?" Ray says. "Because my powers of influence are so meager in that sublunar world of ours, I try to limit the people I can disappoint. And I make sure to know the difference between my obligations and somebody' else's."
She nods, finishes her drink and get sup to leave. We hear more of the song:
Breaking up is harder than it seems
Ray realizes how he sounded. Tries to get her to stay, says it was good seeing her. "I didn't realize you'd been on my mind," he says.
Pictures on the mantle
Speak your name
She leaves without saying a word. The waitress with the scar looks on.
Softly like forgotten tunes
Just outside the sound of pain
Jordan and Frank at home
The couple sit in on their modest couch in their modest home, watching "some Lee Marvin movie on TCM," as Jordan describes it. Frank puts his arm around her, caresses her arm, suggests watching "maybe something light. I don't care what we watch." He kisses her on the forehead.
Ani, Ray, Paul and state's attorney Katherine Davis
The gang stands in front of the building where it all went down last week. It seems Davis called them all there. Ray arrives last, in his new Dodge Charger, which Burris pointed out in the beginning of the episode. He's last, just as he was at the Caspere crime scene at the end of episode one.
He's crotchety. Her boss closed the case. What's her point?
"That's my point," she says. "We close the Vinci investigation and Geldof announces a governor's run with a suddenly massive war chest."
Maybe we knew all we needed to know from the very beginning. Mayor Chessani said that the state investigation into Vinci was just Geldof extorting him.
Did Ani get to Davis with her missing girl story? Is Paul just looking for trouble, Ray asks.
"I need to be in the field," Paul says. It's a refrain he's been singing since the first episode. "I'm not happy either how things played."
So now the running theory is that Geldof's actions imply collusion between the Vinci powers that be and the state. Ray is suspicious of Davis — who not long ago pressured Ani to come down hard on Ray and turn him — and with good reason. If the state attorney had his hand out for money — which is just what Ray warned Ani about at the beginning of episode four — then why should David be any different? She plays it straight, like she's doing this for the right reasons.
Davis is putting together a secret investigation with the stated goal of finding Irina Rulfo, woman who pawned Caspere's stolen goods. She didn't die in the attack.
It's the same idea as before: We're saying this, but we really mean that. We're saying we're investigating Caspere, but we're really investigating Vinci (but we're really, really holding our hands out, even if not everybody knows it).
The real purpose is to find out who really killed Caspere and uncover the collusion, which could span from Vinci to the state. Ray's not a cop, but she's checked: He as a private investigator's license. She has to power to detail him as a state investigator into a missing person. These three, she says, can fly under the radar, so the investigation doesn't get shut down again.
Ray says he's got a job, thanks but no. Will that get him his son back, she asks. Now that she mentions it, Ray happens to need money and help! How fortuitous! She says she knows it's not looking good for Ray, and that's certainly the indication that the magistrate gave. The State Attorney's office could intercede, she says, provide recommendations and testimony to Family Services. Again, it's the same as before: Help me, and something good could happen.
"I could make sure you keep your boy," she says.
He mentions that they never found the camera and the hard drive — the ones he found at Caspere's Los Angeles sex house right before he got shot in episode two. (Remember this.) Whoever was in the raven's mask took them. Also, he doesn't have the sense that the person who shot him was at the shootout last week.
Ani says she wants investigate the land up north and those "hooker parties" because there's a lot of money there. "If it's a place, deals go down, we need to look at it." Ani's taking vacation time, and Davis is making her a "confidential investigator."
"Think it over, Velcoro. Never too late to start all over again."
Paul says he'll follow the diamonds — why Caspere had them, why they're missing, why the missing girl had photographs of them.
That leaves Ray. But why him? He's out of the system, but he knows the system. "Properly motivated," Davis says, "you're a good bet to get the dirt."
"Think it over, Velcoro," Ani says. "Never too late to start all over again."
Boy, if that isn't a central theme of this season, then nothing is.
"You let me keep my kid," I'm in, Ray says. But didn't she think he was the worst of the worst not too long ago? Yeah, she admits. But she found out that the "rumor" about him killing a guy was just that.
"How'd you decided it was just a rumor?" Ray asks.
"I thought you knew," Davis says. "They caught the guy. I assumed maybe your ex told you."
So this is what Ray's ex-wife was talking about earlier in front of the magistrate, when she said, "I trusted you."
"What do you mean caught the guy?"
"A few weeks ago, guy got pulled in for sexual assault in Venice. DNA matched six unsolved rapes, including your ex-wife's kit. He'll get life, sounds like."
That means Ray, who did kill someone, killed the wrong man. He's shaking. His world is coming undone. There's even some sort of filter on the camera, contorting his head.
It's beginning to look a lot like Frank might have set Ray up a dozen years ago. Why? Maybe he wanted a cop on his team. Or maybe he was earnest and got the wrong man. Maybe.
Frank and Jacob McCandless in the latter's office
"A waste removal service poisons park and farmland along the central valleys. A major California landowner committed to real estate development steps in."
Frank meets Jacob McCandless in what I presume are the Catalyst Group offices.
"My position is you people owe me some land," Frank says. McCandless says it'd be hard to convince his board of directors of that.
Frank looks at a map of the California High-Speed Rail Authority's, which span all the way to 2028. Then he begins his attempt at extortion.
"Imagine word of how that corridor's gotten bought up over the past five years," Frank says. "How exactly it came to be so cheap."
"I can't see being of any interest," McCandless says. "A waste removal service poisons park and farmland along the central valleys. A major California landowner committed to real estate development steps in. You're reaching."
Except, of course, Frank isn't. He ran the waste disposal company that poisoned the land. He poisoned the land with Vinci waste. That made the land undesirable and cheap. And Catalyst, I presume, swooped in a bought land nobody wanted over a five-year period.
Frank points out that the waste disposal company is dissolved and that the guy who bought it from him ran himself off the road. Does McCandles know anything about that?
"There might still be something for you," McCandless says, miraculously changing his tune. "Why I called. Let me ask: Have you ever heard of Caspere possessing a collection of films? Home movies. A hard drive full of them."
The cops never found that hard drive. Do something for them, McCandless says, and Frank could get back in the corridor. So why not investigate? Maybe even start with the Mexicans — if Frank thinks they're the ones who did it. Frank leans forward, smiles for a moment.
"Five parcels. Gifted, I find that hard drive."
McCandless nodds. Franks stands up to leave.
Ray and Dr. Pitlor
Dr. Pitlor, the creepy-looking mental health professional who treated Mayor Chessani's deceased wife and the deceased city manager Ben Caspere — sits in his office reading Carlos Castaneda's A Separate Reality.
What's that about? Check out the book's description, directly from Amazon:
"A man of knowledge is free…he has no honor, no dignity, no family, no home, no country, but only life to be lived." – don Juan
In 1961 a young anthropologist subjected himself to an extraordinary apprenticeship to bring back a fascinating glimpse of a Yaqui Indian's world of "non-ordinary reality" and the difficult and dangerous road a man must travel to become "a man of knowledge." Yet on the brink of that world, challenging to all that we believe, he drew back.
Then in 1968, Carlos Castaneda returned to Mexico, to don Juan and his hallucinogenic drugs, and to a world of experience no man from our Western civilization had ever entered before.
Again, I have to return to Mayor Chessani's quote from episode two, which still sounds moonbat crazy but might be starting to take shape.
"My son, I fear, is losing his mind, like his dearly departed mother," Chessani said. "Some people can't handle the deep trip. I fear he is a destroyer. In my day, you understand, it was about consciousness expansion. Tracing the unseen web. Children are a disappointment. Remain unfettered, Frank."
The deep trip? A destroyer? The unseen web?
Chessani's talking about nothing anyone understands as nonchalantly as if he were talking about how birds have wings or cars have wheels. It's code. And we learned last episode that he spent time in the commune with Pitlor, who also seems like a moonbat.
Now Pitlor's reading a book about, in part, expanding consciousness with hallucinogenic drugs. And "non-ordinary reality." This could the be thread.
The door to Pitlor's office opens. It's Ray. How can he help Ray?
"Your compensatory projection of menace is guarantor of its lack"
The last time we were here was in episode two, when Ani and Ray interviewed him about Caspere. As they walked to Pitlor's office, Ray saw a bandaged woman in a room. "You do surgeries here?" Ray asked. "Only cosmetic," the employee walking them to the office answers.
"Oh, I'm here to help you, doc," Ray says. "I'm here to help you keep all that cosmetic work intact." Ray now has gloves on. The last time he had gloves on, he beat the piss out of that reporter who wrote the story about Vinci corruption.
Pitlor says he fully cooperated last time. Ray says maybe he didn't ask the right questions and, in one sweeping motion, knocks everything off if Pitlor's desk.
"You and Chessani, girls, human trafficking," Ray says.. "You do their implants, nose jobs."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Pitlor says. "I'm a psychiatrist."
"With a secondary concentration in reconstructive surgery," Ray says.
Ray shows him the photograph of Pitlor and Chessani and others standing next to a river in the early '80s, says he knows more than he's letting on. Tells him to talk. Pitlor is calm again, trying to use words to fend off Frank's aggression.
"Your compensatory projection of menace is guarantor of its lack," Pitlor says to the man standing above him who, just a couple months ago, beat a man senseless in front of that man's son with brass knuckles. "And it says something about the depths of your misperceptions."
So Ray punches him. Twice. For the first time this season, Pitlor's sunglasses are off. His nose is bleeding, probably broken. Pitlor reaches for the phone, and Ray hits his arm. Pitlor wails in pain.
Ray picks him up and tosses him across the room, into one of the chairs he sat in a few months ago. It shatters with the force.
"Kind of day I've had," Ray says by way of explanation, "seeing you pop a few stitches might start to make up for it. Pin-eyed motherfucker. Hooker parties. What you'd call affluent men. Caspere attended. Go."
Pitlor says he just does work on girls, makes "eights into 10s," make sure they have the right prescriptions. Nothing more.
Frank hits him in the side twice, probably cracking some ribs, picks him up, scares him more, and Pitlor, spit running down his chin, starts to talk.
"The parties are a safe place, a conclave for men of influence," he says.
Ray wants motivations.
"Caspere concocted the idea of the parties with Tony Chessani," Pitlor says, referring to the mayor's possibly schizophrenic son who described himself as a high-class party planner. "Tony's a pimp with political ambition. His father doesn't participate in the gatherings. Tony's service makes him friends with those men of affluence you mentioned — lays the groundwork for deals that Caspere facilitated."
"What else?" Ray asks.
"I think both men used the occasions to compile potential blackmail material on their guests. Rumored Ben had footage of various important people. McCandless.""Who?"
"He's the president of Santa Clara Railroad Company. It's smaller now, called Catalyst."
Ray asks about Mayor Chessani's first wife, who Pitlor put in a mental hospital. Pitlor swears he did everything he could to help her. We also learn that her name was Helene.
"Certain traditions of the Chessani patriarchs she had a difficult time with. They are," Pitlor pauses to think, "you might say a highly inventive family."
Ray moves forward toward Pitlor, and the scene ends.
Ani and Athena
Two sisters walk along the beach. Before we explore the present, let's explore the past.
We first met Athena in episode one, when she had green hair, and she was doing webcam porn. Ani, who led a police raid on the house, found her sister there and confronted her, accusing Athena of being on drugs. Athena, incensed, swore that she was clean and that she wasn't doing anything else — like prostitution.
We next met the two in episode four, when they spoke of their mother. Athena's hair was blonde. She wasn't doing porn anymore. She's out of that world. The sisters shared a tender scene — or at least as tender as Ani can be — and they spoke of their late mother, who used to carve things out of wood.
In episode five, they're walking along the beach, picking up driftwood, probably so that Athena can carve it like her mother used to.
Ani wants Athena to contact her old friends, the kind who might work as hookers at high-class parties. Athena resists at first. As is the True Detective style, they spend a few moments talking to each other about different things.
Ani persists, says that there's a missing girl and "other stuff." Athena says that she talked to their father, Eliot, the one who runs the commune, and that he said Ani won't call him back. She's never talked about the shooting that happened three months ago, Athena says.
"I'm busy," Ani says. "Work." Which is, of course, malarkey.
Athena said she had to weigh hanging out with her sister with the probability that she'd just get lectured, which is a callback to episode one. Ani says she's in no position to give lectures. Athena says she's been accepted into CalArts, another sign that she's pulling her life together. Ani is happy, looks down, kicks some sand and says she should buy her sister dinner. She has feelings, for sure. She just doesn't know what to do with them.
"For a place you hate, you never really got that far away."
"Maybe I can reach out to a couple of the girls that I knew before," Athena says.
"For the straight up purpose of getting me into that party, OK?" Ani says.
"Aren't you supposed to be behind a desk?"
"I just started my vacation."
"Going anywhere special?"
"Yep," Ani says. "Guerneville." That's the city around which their father's commune, Panticapaeum, is located. And it's where they grew up.
"You homesick? For a place you hate, you never really got that far away."
The scene ends.
Paul casing pawn shops
Paul is doing what he said he'd do: trying to track down Caspere's missing blue diamonds. The idea is that someone tried to pawn them, so he's doing what he and the late slacker Teague Dixon did: going to jewelers and pawn shops.
Someone in one shop explains that "an excess of boron produces the color" of the unusual diamonds.
"And the cut, octahedron, these must almost certainly be stolen," says the man behind the counter. "I told the other policeman the same."
"What other policeman?"
The one who was here a few months ago with pictures of identical diamonds. "I told him I read the pawn sheets regular, and I haven't seem them listed," the man says. "He tells me they don't want the stolens on any sheets." Which is, of course, ludicrous. He left a card.
He was "a portly man, smelled like bourbon." Also farts. He was the late, lazy and officially mysterious Teague Dixon.
That's twice we've heard about Dixon in this episode. Lieutenant Burris asked Ray about him and alluded to the pictures he took of Paul and his army buddy and sometimes sexual partner.
Ani and Paul, driving in the countryside
Ani and Paul drive through the California interior. They're on their way the address that Elvis, Ani's former partner, tracked down. It belongs to the last place from which Vera, the missing sister of the woman who appeared in episode one and again earlier in this episode, called.
It's up north, Elvis said earlier in the episode. And when Ani was talking to her sister, she said she was going to Guerneville. That's real California town. And Caspere's GPS coordinates put him in the area, too.What Paul sees.
Paul explains the Dixon problem.
"Thing, is, when Dixon came around about the diamonds, it would have been before we found the safety deposit box."
"So he knew about the diamonds before we found them," Ani says.
"And in which case, why not put them on the hot sheets?"
Ani says there used to be a commune here, on the River Valley. She doesn't mention that it's where she was from.
Paul sees two people: on the driver's side a man in a purple shirt riding a bike and, on the passenger's side, a man dressed as Jesus carrying a cross. Both look directly at Paul, too.
Gena and Ray
Ray and his ex-wife, Gena, stand side-by-side overlooking smoggy downtown Los Angeles.
Gena says she doesn't understand. Why would Ray make up a story about killing her rapist? She found out a few weeks ago that they caught the guy. He's a serial rapist.
The accusation hurts Ray. You can see it on his face. He hesitates, manages only a few croaking noises in response.
"Why? Why would you do that? So that you could make me think that you were protecting me or something?"
"It's," Ray stumbles. "It's not what I —"
"That ruined everything, Ray. That ruined you."
She's having the paternity test, she says, because she needs to know, so she can "put it all where it's supposed to be. I don't want to live this fantasy with Chad with you anymore. He should have the truth when he's ready. This," she sighs, "This fake story where we made a family has to end."
She starts to fight off tears, and she walks away.
"He set me up," Ray says. "Frank."
"I don't know what that means, Ray."
But we do. Ray's drawing the same conclusion that we did: That 12 years ago, Frank told Ray a lie, saying he found rapist. Maybe he did it because he wanted a law enforcement official on his team. Maybe he did it because he wanted this guy eliminated anyway. Maybe it was a little of both.
Or maybe, just maybe, Frank did it because he thought it was the truth. Maybe Frank was deceived. Maybe not.
Before we move on to the next scene, let's acknowledge something: Ray didn't dispute Gena's accusations. Ray told Gena what he did. We know that because of his speech in an earlier episode where he said he had the right to do it "by any moral law." But Gena knowing that also makes her, in some sense, complicit in the murder.
You could argue that it was the right thing to do — even if it wasn't the legal thing to do — but even if that's true, it doesn't mean that it worked out well. That was, as I've written before, the pivot point in Ray's life — the point of no return, the point where the decent man became indecent. He's been in a 12-year spiral out of control. Only within the last three months or so has he begun to possibly change that, as evidenced by his drinking.
The important part, though, is that he didn't admit to murdering the man. He let Gena walk away thinking that he'd made it all up. Maybe that's because he just couldn't admit it, couldn't say it out loud. Or maybe that's because, as I'd like to believe, he knows this is the chance to unburden her. If she thinks it was all a lie, then she doesn't have to carry that cross anymore.
Jordan and Frank at home
Jordan and Frank are a couple again.
Lying in bed, they talk. He seems to be open to the idea of adoption now.
"We both could have used different parents"
"It meant something to me, what you said," Frank says. "I want to thank you for telling me that."
"We both could have used different parents," Jordan says, smiling. We don't know the first thing about her childhood or parents.
"Don't worry about kids now," he says after he rolls onto her and kisses her. "This is between you and me." It's an extension of what he talked about earlier — there is a plan, and children are a part of that plan, and we're going to get there, but just not right now at this moment.
Ani and Paul
They've arrived at the destination, a stone cottage in the California wilderness.
It's deserted, and it looks like it's been that way for a while. The furniture inside is covered with sheets to keep the dust off. It seems fairly nondescript except for one giant clue nobody mentions. The chandelier is the same chandelier from the missing sister Vera's photo.
Paul asks Ani if she wants to call the local police to see if they can get them inside, but before she can answer, she notices vultures — or their equivalent — cawing and flying above. And the one thing we know about vultures is that they circle the dead. (See also: cartoons.)
Here's that could be nothing but probably isn't a coincidence. The invitation to the party that the missing woman, Vera, send to her sister had something like a logo on it: a sun rising or setting behind two mountains. They're drawn in simple shapes: two triangles and a circle. The shed into which Ani and Paul walk has a triangle painted to the left of the door. Compare them in the image slider below.
The same symbol? They walk into a small wooden cabin, presumably in the backyard of the stone cottage. Inside is a chair with duct tape on the arms, covered in blood. The walls are splattered with blood, too. "Arterial spray," Ani says. Someone's throat was cut.
Jordan and Frank (and Ray)
The now-happy couple sits in bed, post-coitus. They're sharing a joint.
Frank looks up, notices that there's no water stain on the ceiling. Things are looking up. Jordan even says she likes it here in their modest new home, but that's a bridge too far for Frank. He'd rather she didn't think that. He has aspirations, and he tells her in the vaguest way about McCandless — which is, in short, a ticket to getting back to wealth. She says they should sell the club, Lux Infinitum.
"Buy a farm," Frank says. "Grow organic produce."
It's a joke, and they both laugh. He says she's not cut out for farm life. They giggle and kiss. Things are looking up.
He worked on a farm, he says, when he was a teenager. We're learning that information at the same time Jordan is. It's another thread in Frank's past — one she doesn't know about. After he told his story about smashing rats to goo in the second episode, she said she sometimes wondered how many stories he has like that, that she doesn't know about. Plenty, I'm sure.
""There's something I might be able to do for him. If I can, we can get it all back.""
He says she doesn't want to grow anything, trust him. Last episode, we saw what happened when he tried to grow avocados. That didn't work out. Also, that hit a bit too close to her not being able to have children, so it gets a little awkward for a moment.
He kisses her an apology, and she asks about McCandless.
"There's something I might be able to do for him," Frank says. "If I can, we can get it all back."
"Do you trust him?"
"I trust self-interest."
Then someone's pounding on the door, and it startles Frank. They continue pounding pounding. And pounding.
Frank gets up, puts on a bathrobe. Yells at the door that he's coming. He pauses, grabs a gun out of dresser, cocks it, walks to the door. He checks the door carefully, puts the gun in his pocket. He opens the door.
"You got a fuckin' problem?" Frank asks.
"You alone?" Ray asks.
"Yeah," Frank lies. "Why?"
"You and me need to talk," Ray says.
The camera cuts from Ray to Frank and back to Ray.
Smash cut to black.
Speculation and conclusions
Word is that hard work pays off, and that's doubly true for the second season of True Detective.
This season is difficult, probably by design. Put differently, it lacks a lot of the simple enjoyment and wonder of season one. It's not as good in many ways, but I am enjoying it — immensely, in fact. Here's the thing, though: I'm enjoying it because of all the work it demands of me. This is not a sit-back-and-watch show. It's a lean-forward-and-take-notes-or-you'll-be-lost show. Those notes and that hard work are paying off. I stood up and cheered when I saw the chandelier this week. It's genuinely exciting to figure things out.
So what happens next? Hell if I know, but I've got some educated guesses.
I ended last week's watchthrough with what I called "wild speculation." I hesitated until the last possible minute. I didn't know if it belonged for a couple reasons. First, these watchthroughs are generally about laying out facts and drawing conclusions. My theory that Eddie Velcro is the man who shot Ray isn't so much based on, you know, facts. It's just a line of thought that I followed from its spark to the most logical conclusion I could make. I still find parts of it convincing. Others, not so much.
Also, by playing speculator, I run the risk of being wrong publicly. I can live with that. So let's do it again.
Reassessing previous speculation
In this this week's game of Clue: True Detective Edition, I'm inclined to see Tony Chessani in the mask with the shotgun in the living room. That kid's a rotten shit.
Or possibly Pitlor. Let me explain.
If Pitlor was telling the truth — and I'm inclined to believe he mostly was, what with the fear that overtook him when he faced Ray and the scene in which he met with Tony absent the mayor — then it might be that the Chessanis are dirty in more than one way. Dad is a political crook. Son is blazing his own horrible path in the private sector. At least for now. Maybe dad is in his way. Either way, Pitlor's something like Tony's partner.
And it also offers pretty solid motives for why Caspere's dead and the person in the raven's mask was so interested in the footage on the hard drive in Caspere's sex house. Try this on for size:
- "Caspere concocted the idea of the parties with Tony Chessani," Pitlor told Ray. "Tony's a pimp with political ambition. His father doesn't participate in the gatherings. Tony's service makes him friends with those men of affluence you mentioned — lays the groundwork for deals that Caspere facilitated." (Pitlor's in a position to know this because he was Caspere's therapist, remember.)
- "I think both men used the occasions to compile potential blackmail material on their guests. Rumored Ben had footage of various important people. McCandless."
Based on that, it seems reasonable to assume that:
- The blackmail he's referring to is videotape of powerful people engaging in depraved sex acts at Caspere's Hollywood house. Well, that and high-priced call girls like the elusive Miss Tascha.
- At least two people knew about the hard drive recordings: Caspere and Tony Chessani, who devised the whole party scene to grease palms and blackmail people of influence.
- Thus, the reason the raven took the hard drive was because he knew what it contained.
Of course, that theory doesn't explain one Grand Canyon-wide problem: If Tony (or the raven) knew about the hard drive, why did he wait until Ray got to the house to extract it? Why would he leave it there after killing Caspere there?
Blackmail is also a solid explanation for two other things mentioned in passing. Catalyst Group leased Caspere's car and paid for his Hollywood sex house. Caspere could have blackmailed McCandless (who, based on his interest in the hard drive, probably took advantage of more than the sex swing in Caspere's Los Angeles house) into doing that. Either that, or McCandless was in on the whole blackmail scheme, which seems less likely. The scheme sounds more like it was intended to trap guys like McCandless than bring them on as co-conspirators.
And if the missing sister, Vera, was working the parties and knew too much, then she could've been murdered in the shed by those in charge — presumably the same people who murdered Caspere.
And Frank's dead henchman, Stan, might've learned too much from Blake, and that cost him his life. Remember that his eyes seemed burned out just like Caspere's.
Speaking of, what was the torture all about? The most obvious explanation is Frank's: Someone was trying to get Caspere to tell them where the $5 million was. Maybe they got it. Maybe not. But they seemed to have covered their tracks with the Mexican drug and hooker gang. Finding the missing woman who pawned Caspere's watch will likely surface a connection between the killers and the gang.
And what's Pitlor's connection to Tony Chessani? Well, he seems to provide him with hookers after he performs plastic surgery on them. He was also Caspere's therapist, where he could have learned about the scheme. Despite his statement that the reputation of his clinic relies on his discretion, who's to say that he didn't learn all of the bad things that Caspere did and then told Tony? Maybe they hatched the plot together.
And, now that I think of it, the man in the morgue in episode two said that Caspere's eyes were chemically burned out, perhaps with a medical eye dropper. Pitlor would have access to those and the medical knowhow to administer it with precision. Did he provide them to the killer, or is he the killer? Again, should we be thinking in terms of multiple killers?
Maybe Ray's line about the riot shells was misdirection. Or maybe his father, Eddie, is entwined in a way I haven't worked out. He's still the only character I can think of with any reason to shoot Ray Velcoro with rubber bullets. He's the only one with any vested interest in keeping Ray alive.
So who the heck is the person in the raven's mask?
There are only two ways someone could have known that Ray was Caspere's Hollywood sex house within minutes of him walking in, right? Either the shooter was watching the house or he (yes, "he" is an assumption) could have been tailing Ray. You know, like Ray tailed Blake in this episode. You know, like cops do.
There's a third possibility: It could have been coincidental timing, which would be so dumb.
Let's step back. Who knew Ray was going to the house?
- Frank, because he sent him
- Potentially any of Frank's henchmen, like Blake and Nails
- Frank got the information from a prostitute who worked for Danny Santos, so those two are in play
- And there's anyone everyone above might have spoken to
I'm not sure that brings us any closer to the truth, but it is a nice bulleted list!
Let's say Frank told Blake, his seemingly untrustworthy redheaded henchman. We learned this week that, when he's off Frank's clock, he associates with Tony Chessani and Pitlor. There's no particular reason to assume that this is a new relationship. In fact, Blake disappeared for what seems like a few days around the time of Caspere's murder, which Frank complained about in episode two. And when Blake returned, he brought news that one of Frank's other henchmen was dead. That's valuable information to have. How did he get it? And where was he? And why?
What if Blake was working with Caspere, Tony and the Russians? What if they decided to make a quick $5 million by killing Caspere and pocketing Frank's money? Edge Caspere out, frame some Mexican gangsters, and politics will take care of the rest. They even have millions to pay Geldof the state attorney to drop the case and fill his war chest for his gubernatorial bid.
Again, what did the shooter want at the sex house? The hard drive filled with powerful people doing nasty things, right?
Who wants that hard drive? Jacob McCandless. So we can eliminate him. Who else knows of the hard drives existence? Ani and Paul and now Davis. Caspere did. Probably Tony, too. Pitlor, maybe.
That the hard drive was still there after Caspere's murder implies that the killer didn't know of its existence, though. Osip wasn't in the country when the murder took place, as evidenced by his arrival in episode one. So we can pretty safely eliminate him, too. But Osip almost certainly knew Caspere was dead, given his demeanor in episode one. And that means he was in on it. I'm willing to bet that he provides the Russian women to Tony and Pitlor.
That Caspere died in that Hollywood sex house and the killer(s) left behind a pool of blood implies that he was held in one place, and that gels with what the coroner said. We know he was tortured. And there's a chair with blood everywhere at the end of episode five, too. Could be that the former is a surgical way of doing things (Pitlor) and the latter the mark of an amateur who, instead of torturing, just slits arteries (Tony). There weren't bloodstains on the wall of Caspere's house. Amateur could imply young.
I'm also assuming that the person who drove Caspere's corpse is the same person who shot Ray. It could be that there are two raven masks, but what are the odds? More interestingly: Because the mask obscures the wearer's face, it could very well be two different people underneath it, Scream-style.
Now let's throw one more Pitlor quote into the mix:
"Certain traditions of the Chessani patriarchs she had a difficult time with. They are," Pitlor pauses to think, "you might say a highly inventive family."
He's referring to Mayor Chessani's late wife. Caspere's death was nothing if not inventive.
I wonder if the Chessanis are so into hallucinogenic drugs that they could drive people insane. I wonder if that's what happened to the mayor's dead wife and perhaps his son, too. Maybe that's what the mayor meant when he said "Some people can't handle the deep trip."
What if those "traditions" extend far beyond unscrupulous politics, beyond drugs and hookers? What if all those animal masks and these rumblings of commune lodges and this weird talk about consciousness and destroyers is really about some sick secret society pagan blood sacrifice stuff?
Or what if Tony Chessani, who grew up in a house without rules and was driven insane by drugs, decided to blaze his own path? What if he's behind it all — the murders of Caspere and presumably Very, the parties, the blackmail and even more?
And what if Mayor Chessani knows it but has to protect his disappointing, wayward son who went crazy — possibly even schizophrenic like his mother — before he could relegate him to some club up north? It wouldn't be the first time he saved him from trouble. But this time, he won't have Frank to help him out.
And the mayor already made it abundantly clear that he's not a big fan of his son, as he said in episode two.
Tony, yeah. My son, I fear, is losing his fucking mind. Like his departed mother. Some people can't handle the deep trip. I fear he is a destroyer. In my day, you understand, it was about consciousness expansion, tracing the unseen web. Children are a disappointment. Remain unfettered, Frank.
Now, that could be general displeasure or it could be referencing something more recent. Something he knows about. And maybe his son is resisting.
My farkakte offspring, I will set up with a club in Oakland. Let him be a boy prince elsewhere.
Farkakte. That's a Yiddish word meaning "lousy, messed up, ridiculous." The Chessanis have a dynasty, and he's sending his heir away. Maybe the dynasty is ending, and the mayor knows it.
And that's not all he knows.
"State attorney will get his piece, Caspere will get closed, the world will turn uncaring of our struggles," Mayor Chessani told Frank when the latter was freaking out about Caspere and the possible ramifications and who might come after then next.
Mayor Chessani played it cool. He explained what would follow. And that is precisely what happened.