HBO President Michael Lombardo said the True Detective season 2 finale was “enormously satisfying.” I think he really meant to say, “There are scenes with action.” That’s delightful, aside from the fact I don’t understand what half this action was about and why I should give a shit about the situations these characters found themselves in.
In fact, I’m still not sure why I should care that Woodrugh was killed in the season’s penultimate episode. I’m not entirely sure why I should feel anything over what happened to the other three main characters in the 90-minute finale. This was an awful episode that brought a close to one of the most lackluster seasons of television I’ve ever seen.
The dialogue in this episode, and really the entire season, was so bad that you have to wonder if somebody did this on purpose. Ray and Ani’s forced romance gave us such a corny, cringe-worthy scene as he giddily told her he was on his way to meet up so they can escape. Suddenly they’re all giggly in love? Then later as they’re arguing over how he can lose this tail and she’s worried she’ll never see him again, they’re showing all this emotion but it just seems so forced and silly. Watching all of this happen felt like it was a big “fuck you” to everybody who liked the brilliantly written first season.
And Vince Vaughn’s Frank Semyon has given us corny line after corny line this season, but they truly saved the best for last. From yet another argument with his wife that served no real purpose and ended with this bizarre “Today Was a Fairytale” agreement to meet each other wearing white, to his over-the-top Clint Eastwood routine on the phone with with Osip, he went out with some of the worst writing in the history of television. Again, it was like this was deliberately written to be horrible.
People seem to be blaming Vaughn for this character being so bad, but when you’re given dialogue that seems like they asked a teenager to sit around and write lines that a tough guy would say, I’m not sure how you can blame the actor. He made the best of it, but unfortunately his character was shit. “When the lights go out, that’s me.” Ok, Eastwood, give it a rest.
The story…yikes. In this last episode it was revealed that the annoying Mayor Chessani’s shithead son we only saw in like the second episode is the actual major player in this whole convoluted corrupt power struggle storyline. Apparently the paramilitary group that’s been around this year was working for him to accomplish something. I have no idea what.
After that was revealed, nothing really happened with this information until we see he becomes the mayor at the end. If I knew enough about that character to care about him, I’d probably think that’s bad. As far as I knew him, he was a rich, robe-wearing, party guy who showed up for like 4 minutes in literally one episode. But now this show is telling me he’s also this devious political guy even though I have no reason to be invested in this development.
Also, remember the jewel heist that happened during the 1992 race riots that came out of nowhere? The shop’s proprietors, a husband and wife, were murdered, orphaning their son and daughter. We were introduced to the son for all of 5 minutes before he was killed, but it was still long enough to learn he killed Ben Caspere and is the one who shot Ray and had the hard drive that conveniently erased itself so they didn’t have to explain why it mattered so much. That led to probably the most ridiculous moment of the season.
It was revealed that Ben Caspere wanted the whole jewel heist/murder to go down because he had been having an affair with the wife, and that daughter was actually his. By this point it became clear that this show was deliberately trying to be bad. The girl grew up and became Caspere’s assistant as part of the long con to kill him, and they had sex. This big reveal comes a shade under 40 minutes into the episode, and then is never mentioned again. At all.
Frank’s death march was a little much. We see visions of his mean dad and visions of other people who were mean to him when he was younger so we can see that he didn’t ever take any shit from anybody. Are we supposed to see how this is Frank being defiant to the end? Cool, I guess? If Frank weren’t a miserable dick with no personality other than being a massive prick to show how tough he is, I’d probably feel for him.
I felt nothing over the deaths of three of the four main characters this year. Ray, Frank, and Woodrugh all died and it was kind of like, “Hmm. Dang. Sucks to be them.” They were boring, miserable characters who didn’t seem to really like being alive anyways, so why should I have investment in their deaths?
It doesn’t help that the end was just dark for the sake of being dark. Woodrugh is killed, leaving his unborn child without a father. Frank is brought out to the desert and killed, but fuck Frank so whatever. Ray is basically the hero of the season and is brutally gunned down and his last message to his son isn’t uploaded, and the son he has with Ani will grow up without a father. Ani, Jordan, and that guy who worked for Frank all live on the run in Mexico. And all the corrupt politicians and power players win and nothing with the investigation is really resolved. They solved Caspere’s murder but that’s it. Wonderful overcompensation for the happy ending in the first season.
Dark endings can be really cool and well done, but not when they involve characters nobody cares about. If anything, I was happy that Jordan and Frank won’t be bickering for all of eternity. And I just don’t care about Ani. Good for Ray that he’s finally escaped from the pain of the world.
The one good thing is that Ray remembers his fatherly instincts by the end. It looked for a bit there like he was totally done with that, despite it being a pretty major part of the first half of the season. And then we find out he truly is Chad’s father, so that’s something to be happy with, I guess.
But honestly, this season got so absurd, I was waiting for the “siiiiike!” moment. I really thought this episode was a prank. I thought for sure when Ray died and they panned to his phone to show that his message wasn’t uploaded, we’d instead see Dick Butt.
Also, what was the purpose of the mysterious singing woman in Frank’s bar that Ray always used to watch? I get she sang songs about the pain of life that the characters are supposed to identify with, but whatever. There was no real purpose other than somebody thought, “This would be so cool and dark and mysterious!” Except it wasn’t.
That sums up the entire season.