Sometimes, life at home can be just as bad as life in the field.
“Other Lives” takes place two months after the grisly shootout that concluded the last episode, and nobody is doing very hot. Ray (Colin Farrell) is without a mustache and his previous job. After the shootout, he quit Vinci PD and became a private consultant (while still working for Frank, of course). Speaking of Frank (Vince Vaughn), he’s now knee deep in the dirt running drugs and girls through his club. Ani (Rachel McAdams) has been downgraded to the evidence room and must attend sexual harassment seminars after that complaint she got from her subordinate. As far Paul (Taylor Kitsch), he’s getting ready to spend the rest of his life in a lie with his baby mama and a cushy job in insurance fraud. More so, the Caspere murder case has been closed after the shootout, but many believe there’s still some dirt to be dug up. This leads to a confidential investigation back into the case led by Ani, Paul and Ray.
Of course, Ray is not a big fan of things he buried getting dug up. He clearly just wants to put the Caspere case behind him and move on, but that’s not happening. He also wants to put the hearings between him and his ex-wife about their son behind, but she’s demanding supervised visitations and a paternity test. Fortunately, one of the higher-ups in the state PD who orders the investigation says she can help Ray keep custody of his son. He also finds out that the man who raped his ex-wife (and who might be his son’s biological father) was just caught recently, making Ray question who it was that he killed many years ago on Frank’s tip. With that knowledge (not to mention searing rage), Ray goes to rough up Dr. Pitlor (the creepy psychologist/cosmetic surgeon from earlier) for information. Pitlor spills the beans that he may have given some high-end female companionship to Caspere and Tony Chessani, who would use the girls to *ahem* service some well-established people and film them for later blackmail use. But Ray remains driven, knowing that he can’t lose the connection to the only thing he holds dear in his life, even if a blood test proves him wrong.
Paul would probably love a paternity test right now, as he slowly realizes the domestic bliss he thought he wanted may turn into a living hell. On top of that, he finds out his sleazy mother isn’t too happy about her special son wasting his life with some random girl. Mommy dearest also used up Paul’s secret stash of $20,000 he got while in Afghanistan. At this point, involvement in the investigation is the only thing keeping him sane right now. He and Ani look into a missing girl (mentioned in episode one) who appeared to have had some purple diamonds in her possession that look awfully similar to ones found in Caspere’s safe deposit box. It turns out the girl made an outgoing call from a shack in the middle of nowhere that matches the coordinates of a place Caspere visited before. Ani and Paul investigate, only to find a chair with broken restraints on the arms and blood everywhere.
On top of dealing with dirtier business, Frank still can’t make an offspring with his wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly). Though it’s not entirely his fault, as Jordan reveals she’s had three surgeries in the past that confirm her infertility. She keeps bringing up adoption, but Frank doesn’t want to give some unknown kid the shot at a happy family he never had growing up. Jordan doesn’t approve, wondering whether or not she can deal with this new shade of Frank. However, Frank eases up and spends some intimate time with Jordan in hopes to prove his love to her. That gets interrupted when a still pissed-off Ray bangs at Frank’s door demanding a chat.
We may have three episodes to go in this whirling dervish of a season, but it’s hard not to be already exhausted from True Detective. With all of the rushed story development, loaded dialogu,e and character backstory, watching this season has been more like cramming for an exam than getting invested in an engrossing story. Last week’s shootout built up great anticipation to see what would happen after such catastrophic events (at least for this show). “Other Lives” may have made the worst possible decision of the season by completely skipping over the immediate aftermath of the shootout and skipping ahead two months. Would it be interesting to see the physical and emotional toll the shootout took on the three cops, not to mention how it was played out in the Caspere case? Apparently not, because True Detective thinks that audiences just want to watch the leads grimace and sulk their way through scenes. It would’ve made more sense to just see how the immediate events following the shooting affected the case instead of just having a period of time with the case closed then reopen it with the quiet snooping. What’s the point?
Thankfully, the episode is nearly salvaged by Farrell and McAdams powering through the clogged plot. Farrell continuously makes Ray’s descent more sympathetic, both as a driven man at the end of his rope and as the poor sap trying so hard to improve despite getting knocked down at nearly every turn. When Ray finds out he failed to eliminate the man who raped his ex, there are equal parts anger and heartbreak in his eyes. You can’t tell if he’s more angry for not catching the guy sooner, or disappointed for basically lying to the mother of his (possible) child. McAdams still has plenty of balls as Ani, but is also given scenes to show some humility. Ani walks on the beach with her sister, realizing she’s hit near-rock bottom when her sister says she got into the California Institute of the Arts, but Ani needs to get into one of her sister’s old sex parties for a stakeout. Vaughn gets some of that too in the tender moments between Frank and Jordan, but those scenes mostly belong to Kelly Reilly (one of the unsung heroes of this season). And, as I’m sure was stated in his contract for the show, Kitsch is there to look attract and act frustrated. One note from him, zero care from the viewer.
“Other Lives” isn’t a god-awful episode, but it may be the worst way to move the season forward. Now we’re talking about who Caspere was connected to, who Paul’s father might be, how involved the Mexican gangsters are (yeah, they kind of just pop up from nowhere) in Frank’s work, and so on. At this point, it’s uncertain that season two will come down for a smooth landing by its end in three weeks.