Saturday 17 February 2018

Too confused by True Detective? 5 reasons to stick with it for the final two hours

Rachel McAdams in True Detective
Rachel McAdams in True Detective
Ed Power

Ed Power

The latest episode of True Detective season two climaxed with a fever-dream descent into hell.


Officer Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) had infiltrated a Hollywood hills sex party, where the horrors awaiting her played out like a nightmare mash-up of Eyes Wide Shut, Mulholland Drive and Dario Argento's Suspiria. It was ghastly and mesmerizing – and might just be the moment the troubled second series of the greatest, weirdest show on TV redeemed itself.

Ani had blagged her way into the orgy by posing as a high class Russian call girl. But her hopes of a clean get away were compromised when, along with the other women, she was required to ingest a triple strength ecstasy tablet ("puts you in the mood" giggled one of the ladies). The walls of reality came tumbling down, accompanied by a baleful red colour scheme evoking Dante's Inferno/ a mid-period Prodigy video. Amid the uncanniness, Ani suffered a vivid flashback to her unconventional hippy childhood and the Rasputin-like cult leader we are given to assume abused her.

Book-ended with grim cuts to bare-bottomed middle aged millionaires cavorting with prostitutes, the sequence pushed at the boundaries of decency – yet was absolutely mesmerizing for it. So powerful was the scene, the viewer may have briefly overlooked TD 2.0's often incomprehensible plot and self-parodying dialogue (much of it uttered by a tired and jowly Vince Vaughn). Have we turned a corner? Here are five compelling reasons for arguing in the affirmative.

1: We're Done With Back Stories

Season two's early episodes were sandbagged with endless exposition as TD creator Nic Pizzolatto sought to establish the motivations of his rogue's gallery of protagonists. Frank Semyon (Vaughn) was a mobster trying to go straight while wrestling with infertility issues (and a blighted avocado patch); boozy cop Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) was locked in a custody dispute with his ex-wife and fatally indebted to Semyon. Though the acting was generally great, eventually the endless circling around the same themes of lost innocence and pre-determined destiny turned claustrophobic. That's all behind us now.


2: Vinci Is A Great Setting

As anyone who has spent longer than five minutes in an industrial estate will attest there is something creepily dehumanized about the sort of clanking in-between zone where smoke-stacks outnumber people. Exploiting the existential disquiet such locations engender, Pizzolatto was inspired to set True Detective season two against the backdrop of Vinci, a factional greater Los Angeles "city" with a population of less than 200. It's dank and horrible, a unsettling vision of industrialization run amok.


3: Ani Used Her Knife

Since the starte of the season, TD has teased us with glimpses of Bezzerides' facility with a sharpened blade. This week she at last put her prowess to use. A (perhaps unintentionally) hilarious early scene saw her wildly stabbing a man-sized dart board in her living room – later she neatly sliced a heavy while trying to escape from the World's Scariest Sex Party. It was awesome.


4: Finally – some pay off for all those empty exchanges between Ani and her hippy-dippy dad

That Bezzerides was scarred by her childhood was clear from episode one. But the MDMA-mediated visions she experienced this week suggest the roots of her trauma go beyond inappropriately slack parenting by her annoying father. That creepy bearded weirdo riding out from the canyons of her subconscious was obviously a sexual predator – what remains to be elucidated is whether his assault on the young Ani had anything to do with the suicide of her mother. We're trusting that Pizzolatto will furnish an answer before the end.


5: With Two Hours Left, True Detective Is Still Building

Season one was universally adored – nonetheless, the awkward fact is that, after the eerie heights of episodes four and five, the series petered out. This time, the momentum has built incessantly and there are reasons to suspect the finale will avoid the damp-squib qualities that finally took the shine off TD 1.0.

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