TV Review: True Detective (2×04) “Down Will Come”

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Remember that scene in The Wolf of Wall Street where the effects of the old quaaludes hit Jordan Belfort all at once and he immediately collapses into the fetal position, only able to drool and crawl his way to his car because he has no control over anything else going on at the moment? Yeah, that’s True Detective right now.

“Down Will Come” opens with Ani (Rachel McAdams) and Ray (Colin Farrell) trying to piece together why the car they thought could get more answers for them was set on fire. Ray warns Ani about stepping on mayor Chessani’s turf and the impending investigation when the dusts settles (“Who do you think’s gonna be first in the firing line?” he says to her), but Ani is unfazed. The same can’t be said for Paul (Taylor Kitsch), who just spent a night at his former army buddy/lover’s house and is dealing with a stolen motorcycle and reporters hounding him about his time with Black Mountain Security. Frank (Vince Vaughn) and his wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly) are still as fruitless as the avocado trees in their backyard. With Frank slipping back into drug boss mode, he is obsessed with having an heir to his legacy (he doesn’t want the baggage an adopted child would bring). He puts baby-making on hold to regain control of the nightclub Lux Infinitum, where drug runners will traffic their stuff and Frank will get big profit for it.

Ray picks up Paul to get him away from the reporters. After letting Paul “pick a cure” from his glove box (ranging from pills to vodka to Tums), Ray talks Paul through the tough time and even calls him a survivor. Paul starts to break down as he reminisces on how he just followed orders all his life until he lost his own identity (possibly even his humanity). Ray meets back up with Ani as the two follow and talk to Chessani’s daughter (Emily Rios). She tells Ani about how her mother died when she was a little girl, apparently hanging herself after Mr. Chessani put her a mental hospital. Despite telling Ani the doctor was Pitlor, the creepy physician in episode two, she warns her that her father is “a very bad person” and then rushes off. This is cause for Ani to visit her sister (who reminds her that she still a hooker) and her New Age guru father. It turns out he knew Chessani’s father, along with Ben Caspere. He also notes Ray’s green and black aura, specifically how it’s the largest auras he’s ever seen. Ani’s aura is getting worse because she got hit with a sexual misconduct complaint from that guy she dumped previously. Apparently, he was an officer and she was his superior, which means she’s not allowed back into her own home base.

Meanwhile, Paul’s ex-girlfriend tells him that she’s pregnant and keeping it. In response, Paul is…happy, and wants to marry her. Whether or not his proposal is heartfelt or hokey, he’ll take any form of good news he can get. On top of that, he finds recently pawned goods that belonged to Caspere that were stolen by a girl working for a pimp. The cops find the pimp, and they find more info on Caspere. Of course, Ray takes this info to Frank, who tells Ray that he’s looking for some extra muscle. The “more-soberish” Ray turns him down, looking to walk towards a lighter road, but Frank reminds him, “Sometimes your worst self is your best self.” With that in mind, Ray gives his father’s old badge to his son as a memento and a symbol for his future manliness. The next day, Ray, Ani, and Paul get a team together to raid the warehouse of the pimp, hoping to arrest him. Unfortunately, the pimp and his buddies roll with automatic weapons and start shooting. After the crooks try to drive away through a protest but end up crashing into a bus, a shootout ensues, leading to many casualties. The only ones left alive are Ani, Ray, and Paul, but that doesn’t mean the trio isn’t seriously shaken up about the mess they’re in.

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The shootout that ends the episode is the most exciting thing about season two so far, almost a quicker and dirtier version of the classic bank shootout in Michael Mann’s Heat. Episode director Jeremy Podeswa stages everything quick and doesn’t shy away from bloodshed. And this episode has done something damn near impossible: make me care about Taylor Kitsch. Until “Down Will Come,” Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh has gotten little character development besides getting the sexy eye and giving smoldering looks. The interest in his time with Black Mountain is getting bigger, and now with a baby on the way and a gay lover on his back (figuratively and literally, I suppose), waiting for everything to crash into each other is suddenly something to look forward to. It’s not making me praise it as Kitsch’s breakthrough moment, but he’s headed in the right direction. The dynamic between Kitsch, McAdams, and Farrell is still solid, specifically in the scene between Farrell and Kitsch. It’s nice to see McAdams’ Ani get dragged through the mud in the formal complaint scene and still walk off with her set still intact.

Unfortunately, Vince Vaughn has gone from “somewhat intimidating mob boss” to “bland stereotypical mob boss” in record time. Every scene he’s in is just him setting up ways to get rich off drugs. It’s not bad, it’s just so bland and typical. Vaughn’s got the character right, but it’s the most basic form of the character. The episode also tries to introduce little details about the case, but they trail off and are immediately forgotten. And that’s the main problem with “Down Will Come.” Everything is starting to collide with each other, which is fine. But whenever the show tries to be subtle about plot elements and clues to the mystery, it gets shoved aside for big character moments. It’s like the Lemmons Jordan Belfort took: nothing goes on in the beginning, then everything hits out of nowhere and leaves you stunned.

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This is the first episode of the season that I had to watch twice, because everything hits so fast and so suddenly, it’s all missed even if you blink. That being said, the show has more energy now than the entire season, and it’s about time. The characters and the story are starting to butt heads and appear to be heading for a collision course. Whether the result of all this will be a jaw-dropper or an ungodly mess is unknown, but for now it seems like True Detective just wound up and threw a fastball. Fingers crossed for a home run.

7/10

Jon Winkler is a 22-year-old movie/music nerd in Southampton, NY by way of Merrimack, NH. He loves watching, listening to, dissecting, mocking and talking about movies, television, music, video games and comics. He enjoys a good cheeseburger, believes CDs and vinyl are superior, likes to make people smile if they're having a rough day, and is rumored to be Batman (unconfirmed).