‘True Detective’ Season 2 Episode 4 Recap: A Protest and A Shoot Out

By Courtney E. Smith

Are you noticing that every week a new lyrical stanza from Leonard Cohen’s “Nevermind” plays, foreshadowing the story arc for the week? This week it’s “ghosts like you” and “I live among you, well disguised.”

Frank still can’t get his wife pregnant and he can’t grow avocados either. This man is on a hell of a run with the bad luck. His diatribe when his wife brings up exploring adoption is another one of the disconnect moments for this character, other than the bit about not taking on another man’s misery. He’s cold, but it melts when his wife implies that it’s her fault for having a past abortion. That seems to give him some relief and he says she should take some more tests to find out, whatever they’ve got to test her with.

Meanwhile, Paul is living his worst nightmare. He wakes up, hungover and in his boxers, to find he’s spent the night with the more-than-a-friend from the service who he slugged last week. When he returns to his hotel, his bike is gone and there are a crew of reporters and cameras there, looking for answers about Black Mountain. If seems for a moment like this will all be only a dream, because who has that many disastrous things happen at once? Paul, apparently. Abortion makes its second appearance when his girlfriend tells him she’s pregnant (“But you’re on the pill?” “It’s not 100%.” This child is the second coming of Christ.). Far from being the thing that ruins his day, this makes everything okay for him. Finally, a lie big enough to hide who he is. For awhile.

TrueDetectiveS2EP4

(Lacey Terrell for HBO)

Back at the investigation’s unofficial headquarters, Ray is giving Ani something to think about by warning her that Mayor Chessani wants her to go down and he’s likely to get it. Ray points out that the city of Vinci has been run like it is for a century and the state attorney is likely just looking for a bribe to call off the investigation. When it all comes through, Ray thinks Ani could go down with the case just because the mayor asks for it. She’s a dispensable member of her unit, he theorizes. He makes a good point.

Frank, once again the owner of a strip club, is going around town and taking meetings with everyone who can get him money. Ukrainian drug dealers with an insane pastry shop, a guy who bought an apartment complex from him, a producer/financier who her wife used to date. The result: the lack of a child and the ramp up in activity that should be beneath him is eating at his relationship with his wife.

Coincidence of the century (or leading plot point): Ani’s father knew Dr. Pitlor, the Chessani family and the Dead City Manager. The first two were in his cult (it’s a cult right?) in the ’80s and the later came to some retreats recently. The thing showrunner and writer Pizzolatto wants you to leave this scene Googling, however, is what it means that Ani’s dad says Ray has a huge aura that’s black and green. Here’s the explanation I like best: green is for the fact that he’s healing from wounds, both physical and emotional, and black means he’s protecting himself from all the outside influences that would gather to attack him. Anyway, this stunning coincidence reveal follows a scene in which the current Mayor Chessman’s daughter outs him to Ani as a bad person and connects the dots by revealing that Pitlor treated her mother for schizophrenia after he father committed her. While this goes down, Ray stands in the corner and makes a slight face to dissuade her in a half-assed try at throwing the investigation off course. In reality, he’s slipping further and further away from caring about the city of Vinci’s agenda.

And yet, when Frank offers him a place in his organization, suggestion it’s time to “put this cop stuff to bed,” Ray passes. He’s got a taste for the virtuous man he once was, working with Ani. This week’s episode opened on the two of them looking at the burned out car the man with the white mask left them in the last episode. It seems like Ray, just like the viewer, wants to know where this story is going.

TrueDetectiveS2EP4_4

(Lacey Terrell for HBO)

 The main thrust of the action in this episode is Paul finally getting a lead on a Mexican pimp and one of his prostitutes who may be involved in a sex ring that the Dead City Manager had a relationship to from a pawn shop tape. Ani is newly suspended from duty, except for her special investigator status on the state case, and so she doubles down on that part of the job. They get together a SWAT team to go into take the business in Vinci. It goes worse than anyone could have anticipated. In a series of scenes that make the argument against automatic weapons former eloquently than any speech could, they manage to get their entire squad and a set full of civilians at a protest killed. The carnage is extreme. Paul, Ani and Ray are the last three standing in a sea of dead bodies. If nothing else, it levels the desperation playing field between our three cops and Frank.

Lingering questions: 

What does this mean for the investigation? A disaster this enormous would normally mean a change in leadership. It will give the state a black eye. Ani is in a bad position already, because of her suspension. Does the case proceed if Ray is the lead investigator?

What kind of connection do all these people have to Ani’s family? It seems like her father didn’t give her much actual information about their association with his cult.

Where is Frank going to intersect with everyone? You know it’s coming but he’s only got a real connection to Ray. What’s going to be the thing to spark him pulling in line with Ani and Paul also? Their interests are aligned, although they’re looking for different outcomes.

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