I Welcome Judgment: Your Weekly Review of True Detective Season 2

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Dramatis Personae

Colin Farrell as Detective Raymond Velcoro, Vinci Police Department

Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon criminal and entrepreneur

Rachel McAdams as Detective Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department

Taylor Kitsch as Officer Paul Woodrugh of the California Highway Patrol

Season Plot:  Upheaval ensues when city planner Ben Casper disappears just days before he was supposed to present plans for a multi-billion dollar light rail project.  When he’s later found murdered by the side of the road, his eyes chemically burned out, the crime brings together a disparate group of characters including a corrupt Vinci city detective, a highway patrolman with a tormented past, a career criminal trying to go straight, and a County Sheriff’s department detective with a gambling problem.

Episode 1:  “The Western Book of the Dead”

Although the end of season five of “Game of Thrones” left a distinct vacuum in my heart, there’s no better way to try to fill it than with another excellent drama.  Enter “True Detective.”  If Sunday’s night’s premiere is any indication, the follow-up season to the anthology series looks to be just as entertaining.

Unlike last season, this year drops the flashback motif and jumps from Louisiana to the Los Angeles, California area.  Whereas last year began with the horrific crime that set the tone for the season,  this season chooses instead to examine its primary characters first.  The actual crime doesn’t occur until the end of the episode.

And what a cast of characters it is.

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First we have Colin Farrell as Detective Ray Velcoro.  A corrupt alcoholic with some severe anger issues, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that he’s the first person we are treated to.  While on the outset, Farrell’s character may seem stereotypical, Velcoro is far from that.  He’s fascinating and contrary.  Here’s a guy that’s desperately fighting for more visitation for a son who may or may not be his (his ex-wife was raped and subsequently got pregnant; Velcoro refuses all suggestions of a paternity test) yet he publicly berates his son, forcing him to reveal the name of the kid who bullied him.  Velcoro then proceeds to go to the kid’s house and beat up his father.  To say that Farrell’s character is on the verge of a full psychotic break is not the far-fetched.

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Velcoro also happens to be a very corrupt cop due in no small part to his connection with Vince Vaughn’s character Frank Semyon.  Semyon has Velcoro deep in his pocket partly because he revealed the identify of the rapist of Velcoro’s ex-wife.  At one point Ray goes to the house of an investigative reporter trying to break a story on corruption in Vinci, and proceeds to beat the feces out of him.  All of this is at the behest of Semyon.   Yet surprisingly, Semyon comes across as a compassionate and caring career criminal.  He’s generally concerned for Velcoro’s health as he feels Ray is drinking and drugging himself to death.  Vaughn’s Semyon desperately wants to get out of the criminal racket and sees the investment in California’s light rail as the road to legitimacy, even if it is with the Russian mob.  But Casper’s disappearance and murder threaten to jeopardize all that.

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Semyon also runs a prominent casino that Rachel McAdams character, Detective Ani Bezzerides,  happens to frequent.  This is a colder and grittier turn for McAdams who’s usually regulated to romantic comedies.  However, she fits this role like a glove. Tough, independent, and aloof, Ani has some serious hangups regarding sex and family, in particular from her hippy-dippy father who runs a Esalen-style spiritual retreat.  Played by character actor David Morse, Ani’s father hates confrontation and seems indifferent to the plight of Ani or her sister Athena, whom Ani discovers is doing online porn and is herself a recovering drug addict.  Oddly enough, Ani ends up confronting her father only due to the disappearance of a Hispanic woman in her father’s employment.  Whether this will have a bearing on the main crime of Ben Casper’s murder remains to be seen–but I suspect it will.

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Which brings us to the final main character, highway patrolman Officer Paul Woodrugh.  Like the other two police officers, Woodrugh is also a scarred individual both emotionally and physically.  A former member of the army, he’s clearly suffering PTSD and takes Viagra due to erectile dysfunction.  He’s also suicidal attempting to drive his motorcycle at high speeds with no lights.  It’s in this manner that Woodrugh happens to come upon the murdered corpse of Casper by the side of the road, almost by accident.  Kitsch is the one actor I’m not sold on so far.  I’ve never been impressed with him as an actor in general and he definitely didn’t light the world on fire in this first episode.  Having said that I’m intrigued to find out more of Woodrugh’s back story, especially how he received the scars on his shoulder.  I may be grasping at straws too early here, but I believe there is a significance to Paul discovering Casper’s body.

Casper’s murder not surprisingly is the most intriguing part of episode one.  Casper was in a position of power as the City Manager.  He’s the one that spearheaded the light rail plans, including the Russian’s mob’s involvement. So on the surface the murder appears money related.  However, the fact that his eyes were burnt out with chemicals suggests that this murder was much more personal.  Compound that with the fact Casper owned an almost bacchanalian apartment, replete with all manner of sexually charged pieces of art and the idea of this murder being merely about money flies right out the window.  Oh and let’s not forget about the crow mask that the driver of the car that was carrying Casper’s body had in the passenger seat.  What the Hell was up with that?

In the final analysis, season two of “True Detective” picks up where the last season left off, albeit in tone not in plot.  This season is shaping up to be dynamite and I’m already jonesing for next week.

Best Scene:  Velcoro’s confrontation with his son’s bully and subsequent pummeling of the bully’s father.

Best Line:  “You ever bully or hurt anyone again and I’ll come back here and buttfuck your father with your mom’s headless corpse on your God damn lawn!”

On a scale of 0 to 10 Colin Farrell mustaches this episode rates a 9.