I feel like I can call you Nic at this point. I feel like I know you. I know you are a talented writer, with a penchant for dense, stylish noir prose. I know you have delivered two vastly different seasons of True Detective, one universally lauded, the second universally befuddling. I admire what you tried to do in season 2 of True Detective, deliver an Ellroy-esque narrative labyrinth of broken people and dreams. It didn’t always work out, did it? I mean, sure, things got incredibly strong and promising with each passing episode, reaching new heights in the penultimate episode last weekend. And then, well, was there any other way to end this bizzaro second season outside of delivering a wild-ass mess of action and self-satisfying seriousness over ninety minutes? Probably not.
I like the way “Omega Station” began and ended, Nic. The opening scene reminded us why we are watching this whole thing in the first place. The cathartic pillow talk confessional between Ray Velcoro and Ani Bezzerides was emotionally fraught and continued to strengthen the two characters I feel you cared about the most in the writing room. Bravo with Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams, they really kept this whole thing afloat. They started things off in “Omega Station” with promise, but then we had to sit through that second act.
The midsection was heavy and aimless. Then again, that midsection dealt with the Caspere murder and corruption and the whole diamond heist from 1992 or whatever, and let’s be honest, nobody cared about that. You didn’t. The entire murder mystery was a red herring, from the diamonds to the murders to the hard drive, which had this magical security feature where it erased itself. Thankfully, that entire plot was wrapped up with still an hour left to go in the season finale. That left plenty of time for us to get back to what anyone cared about: Ray, Ani, and Frank.
Boy, getting Vince Vaughn to a place where he handled the character of Frank Semyon with some aplomb was quite the chore, wasn’t it? I didn’t think Vaughn could ever manage to pull off Frank Semyon the way he needed to, but eventually he began slipping into this role once you gave him more to do than stand around and scowl. When Frank sends Jordan to Venezuela, promising to meet up with her in two weeks, we all knew that wasn’t going to happen. Frank even knew, and it made these final scenes with the gangster with a heart of gold carry plenty of weight. Frank’s death scene was Homeric, Shakespearean, Ellory-ian, as he was done in by an enemy he had ignored. Though his trek across the desert as he bled out, running into the ghosts of his past, was a bit heavy handed, you must admit.
And Ray, poor pitiful Ray. Colin Farrell deserves an Emmy nomination for his performance this season, though I feel he won’t get it. The gauntlet of emotions you sent this sad sonofabitch through was incredible. I held out hope for Ray after seeing him smile when he tells Ani he is on his way, and the two will escape to Venezuela together. But I knew True Detective isn’t about unexpected happiness, so I knew down in my heart of hearts Ray would die unceremoniously, having let everyone in his life down. Poor bastard.
Nic, I feel like the scene where Ray makes an ill-advised trip to see his son on the playground one last time was a touching moment, mishandled by the fact you had Chad Velcoro sitting with some friends at a table on the playground with his grandfather’s blocked police badge. That has to be a pain in the ass to carry around, and why set it on the table? Oh, right, so Ray can see it and understand his son still loves him. Oh yeah! HIS son! Turns out Chad was his kiddo all along, we found that out as Ray was being gunned down among the redwoods (which was predicted by his father in the purgatory Conway Twitty concert in episode three).
As for Ani, well, now she has to carry Ray’s child around Venzuela and having to hang with Jordan. It’s an odd pairing, but hey, they’re the only ones who made it out alive. The men had to handle man shit, leaving the women to fend for themselves and be moms. Dancing on the razor’s edge of sexism here, Nic. But it’s okay. Ani deserved a fresh start, her demons were not as self-imposed as the dude’s demons. Too bad she has to talk to Jordan all the time, maybe she won’t be eating lemons and making those faces during their conversations.
Like I said earlier, I admire what you attempted with this new True Detective. I might even argue more of it worked than did not. But that would be an uphill battle. If you ask me (and you most certainly are not), I think your reach far exceeded your grasp here. There was a way for this second season to be even better than the first, but its belly was too full on exposition and storylines on top of storylines. So much was going on, and so much of what was going on didn’t make a damn bit of difference. You had three compelling characters, plus Taylor Kitsch, but you had very few tangible things for them to do. Bring in reinforcements for season three of True Detective, a few “no” men to tell you what works and what doesn’t. Maybe that will help you streamline your convoluted ideas.
Regardless, I will be there waiting for season three of True Detective, wearing a white suit and a red rose.