Tuesday 20 February 2018

True Detective Season 2 Episode 6 'Church in Ruins' review - 'this murder investigation is not as interesting as the show thinks it is'

True Detective - The drama continues to focus on small, cloying details of a case that’s overshadowing the actors and characters
True Detective - The drama continues to focus on small, cloying details of a case that’s overshadowing the actors and characters

Chris Mandle

With each episode of its divisive second season, True Detective begins to see the wood for the trees. But like last year, the pressure for a neat conclusion throws the complex character drama off balance.


This episode of True Detective airs on Sky Atlantic at 10pm tonight July 27.

True Detective’s biggest mystery at this point is why the writers think the resolution of Caspere’s murder is more compelling than the people looking for the clues. Last year, the focus on the two men investigating the crimes became part of the show’s initial drive - cop shows often treat their characters so ham-fistedly that the odd couple of Marty and Rust held instant appeal.

But that hasn’t been the case this year. Not quite. While Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Taylor Kitsch and Rachel McAdams have grown into their characters, the notion of four leads, each with needlessly messy backstories, has made the show feel more crowded than a California highway, and the dynamic between the four has so far been pretty underdeveloped.

That said, this week follows up the renewed energy from last week’s very own ‘Avengers’ moment, where Ray, Ani and Paul were recruited into a clandestine operation to expose the corruptness in the city.

Ani was going to infiltrate one of the glamorous parties that front a murky prostitution ring; Ray and Frank were about to come to blows after Ray learned the man he killed wasn’t responsible for raping his wife, and Paul bit his lip ever-so-slightly while staring into the distance. Again.

Unfortunately, one of the most persistent problems with the show - apart from Vince Vaughn’s reverse-McConnaisance as he chews through his lines - is the insistence on focusing on the dull details of the Caspere murder, which looms over the episode like an unpaid utility bill.

After the cliffhanger last week, Frank and Ray sit down in one of the most overly-thematic-confrontations ever seen on TV (The coffee’s black! The mugs are black! Everyone’s wearing black! #Symbolism!), with the pair gently stroking guns under the table like they’re in a Tarantino movie.

Frank’s foresight to tuck a pistol in his dressing gown first thing in the morning notwithstanding, the two have an intense, whispery conversation about the bombshell but the whole thing has the tension of a wet firework when Frank reveals he didn’t know it was the wrong guy, either.

Elsewhere, Woodraugh’s investigation into the purple diamonds demonstrates that this murder investigation is not actually as interesting as the show thinks it is.

If political corruptness truly is rife in Cali, is this murder really worse than any others? What’s at stake, exactly, if this whole Caspere case doesn’t get solved?

It’s not necessarily a huge roadblock for the show. But it adds to the notion that the journey is always going to be more satisfying than any conclusion, which is frustrating when True Detective then chooses to focus on small, cloying details of a case that’s overshadowing the actors and characters driving the narrative.

Despite all this, episode six’s final segment is one of the season's - and the show's - most impressive.

Ani's disorientating infiltration of the party is easily season two's most arresting moment, from the grotesque string section soundtracking her descent, to the buffet of flesh-and-limbs greeting her as she stumbles wearily from room to room.

True Detective: What's up with Ray's vanishing moustache, and 7 other questions we need answered 

Compared to the blistering shoot-out in episode four, this is a tense, fragile confrontation as Ani’s senses meld and her perception becomes increasing distorted. The whole thing lurches back and forth as she struggles for control, and the final moments of the episode are wonderfully realised.

It’s this breaking away from the usual cop convention that makes True Detective shine. Despite having the consistency of a particularly lumpy batter in places, the show has a good idea where it’s going, even if it likes to over-embellish Ani’s knife skills or Ray’s fondness for hoovering cocaine.

Time, as Rust Cohle once said, may be a flat circle. But for these four heroes, it’s running out.

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