Well, that was predictable. After weeks of hand-wringing over not just what would happen at the end of “True Detective” Season 2 but what was currently happening on the convoluted series, the finale, “Omega Station,” spent its extra half-hour confirming things we’d all come to suspect: Laura and Leonard were responsible for Ben Caspere’s death. Jordan wasn’t going behind Frank’s back this whole time and was, instead, a loyal, passionate yet largely wasted character. Tony Chessani was one bad — and sneaky — dude, killing his papa before stealing his job. Finally, in response to who else among the remaining main characters would die, the answer was predictably “everyone but Ani.”
While some may not have been sure both Frank and Ray would bite it at the end of Season 2, events early in the episode made sure we knew what was coming. Frank did his part by making a romantic-if-cliched plan to meet up with his wife, thus confirming the tried-and-true TV trope that if you promise to meet with, come back to, or simply see your lover in the future, odds are you yourself won’t live long enough to make such an assurance come true. Ray, meanwhile, saw the clear road to happiness with his own lady love (Ani, who I’m still not buying as having any believable romantic interest in Ray) and instead chose to make “one last stop.” That eye-rolling salute to his son better have been worth it to Ray, because it sure doesn’t feel like it from this side of things.
All this played out far too slowly, with too much extra dialogue to fill the gaps of a story that could’ve been more effectively wrapped up in the standard runtime. Asides like Frank asking Ray if Paul was his “buddy” didn’t need an answer from Ray. We knew as well as Frank did the basis of your relationship with the deceased as well as how and why you’d have to honor your “friend’s” death. The same goes for Frank and Jordan’s parting. After spending too much time watching these two trade unproductive barbs this season, her repeated assurances that she wouldn’t leave only to give in after she realized “that was never our story” wasn’t as romantic in the moment or tragic in the end. A lot of talk without much action shouldn’t be how we remember the season finale, even if it’s how many will remember the season as a whole.
Cracking the Case
Well, you all called it. In last week’s poll asking “Who killed Ben Caspere,” one prime suspect was left off the list, and she — and her brother — is exactly who killed the corrupt Vinci city manager. Technically it was Leonard, not Laura — who went by the name Erica when she was first introduced on the show — who took revenge on the man who orchestrated the death of her parents, even though she had more motivation after being forced into prostitution (guess who was at all those orgies?) in addition to watching her parents be executed. Laura and Leonard — the two kids orphaned by the ’92 jewelry store robbery set up by Caspere with the knowledge of Chief Holloway and executed by Burris and Dixon — murdered the Vinci city manager out of revenge for their parents’ deaths, just as we all rightly suspected last week (or earlier).
Only two true surprises occurred in the season finale, and I’m not counting Ray and Frank’s deaths. The first came when we found out Ben Caspere fathered the two children he then orphaned in the shootout. Turns out Laura and Leonard’s mom had been seeing Caspere for years “and she knew things.” She threatened Caspere with what she knew, so she had to be taken out. The second shocker — though that word may be too extreme — came when Ani took the baby from Jordan after we found out Ray had more than one son. The paternity test confirming Ray’s deceptively ginger first-born was his own flesh and blood would be a legitimate twist had it not been done to further manipulate our feelings about his death. The same argument could be made for the child he had with Ani, but at least that wasn’t alluded to before it happened.
The Truest Detective (Episode MVP)
As much as I’d like to give this to Ani, the only detective to survive and the most reliable character throughout the season, I feel compelled to throw some love toward Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro. A put upon soldier pushed past his limits, Velcoro exceeded low expectations set after a rocky introduction in the pilot, and Farrell was a big part of that. Despite an unsatisfying conclusion and plenty of potential stumbling blocks on the way there, Farrell remained fully committed to the character throughout. You could see the fear and adrenaline unevenly mixing in his blood as he ran through the forest, and you could hear it in his voice during his final phone call with Ani. Combine that with two horrifically bad lines — “Where is Bezzerides?” “In a better place” (his last lines), and, “You’re gonna need a restraining order.” “No. No, I won’t.” (what passes for flirting on “True Detective”) — and you have “True Detective” Season 2 in a nutshell: fine thespians trying to overcome a weak script. Farrell wasn’t the only one to do so, but he may have been the most impressive under the circumstances.
I wouldn’t say I’ve been eagerly awaiting Ani and Frank’s first scene together, but I was certainly curious to see how it would play out. Ani, the ever-vigilant detective true to a strict code of honor (aka, the truest detective) and Frank, a mobster through-and-through who’s nonetheless loyal to those who matter, seem like they could be combustable foils, and that explosion could blow up in ways both right and wrong. While not a catastrophe, their interaction also had less impact than I’d hoped. Sure, Ani and Jordan ended up being a formidable feminist tag team because Frank tasked his second cop “buddy” with making the meeting he couldn’t, but we never even got to see the two meet (via a scenario I can only imagine as the opposite of “You’ve Got Mail”). Their inherent distrust in one another was quickly abandoned in favor of their friendships for Ray, which was as necessary for the story as it was boring to watch unfold. But hey — at least there was a bit of humor in it.
Murder Mystery or Character Study?
After spending seven weeks weighing each episode on this scale — murder mystery vs. character study — it turns out “True Detective” Season 2 was neither. For it to be a mystery, audiences would have needed to enjoy piecing together the clues, rather than waiting for missing bits of exposition to drop heavily during long-winded back-and-forths. While there were times the rampant confusion over what was happening on “True Detective” was overblown, it would be hard to argue anyone was engaged with the mystery for the right reasons. In the end, it was a simple case of revenge and everything surrounding it — from the rail corridor to the bird mask — was just filler thrown in to add unfounded complexity. In other words, Season 2 was filled with poorly chosen red herrings, and what did matter lacked the dramatic heft of better stories.
There’s a stronger case to be made for Season 2 as a character study, but all that went out the window when Ray and Frank ended up dead. Ray died because he wanted to see his kid one last time, not because of any heroic attempt to avenge Woodrugh’s death or make up for his own past behavior. Sure, he helped Frank take out Osip and a few other suits at the top of the food chain, but letting Burris walk shouldn’t have been an acceptable ending for a man trying to set his record straight (or Ani, for that matter, who was always looking to use those knives for justice), and don’t get me started on his fatal flaw being spending time with his son. Frank met his maker for an even more ridiculous reason: drug dealers were upset he burned down a club where they sold drugs. So Frank’s mortal sin was… what? Forgetfulness? He died because he forget to pay off one more group of bad dudes on his lengthy list of pre-Venezuela trip buyouts?
Both deaths weren’t strongly connected to the over-arching mystery, nor were they justified punishments for two men trying to make things right. Had either of them died for Woodrugh, Jordan, Ani, the case or some other moral coda, their deaths may have held meaning. Instead, they were frustratingly hollow, merely adding false drama to a season finale lacking anything real. Nic Pizzolatto needed a strong kicker to end a weak season, and killing off characters — who won’t be coming back next year anyway — is the easiest way to do so. The same advice could apply to Ray, Ani and Frank as to their creator: the easiest way out is rarely the right way.
– So glad Paul Woodrugh will forever be riding on his memorial highway, probably at night and without headlights as he fights back the demons of his own sexuality.
– Did anyone else see that distractingly large black bird on a billboard after Frank was captured? Had it happened before he was grabbed, it could have worked as ominous foreshadowing (black birds are bad luck in “True Detective”). After, though, it didn’t seem to make much sense.
– So Frank and Jordan, both desperate for money, just parted ways with their wedding rings, or did they go get them after Frank stopped being a “bad actor”?
– Also, we’re just never going to find out who attacked Ani? After spending so much time looking at old photos with her dad and then seeing the man’s face for the first time during the orgy, it really felt like he’d play some part in the end of this story.
– What do we think happened to Laura/Erica? Sure, she got on a bus, but did she escape the lengthy reach of these powerful people? I guess her ending is as final as Ani and Jordan’s: eternally on the run, as lost as ever in the crowd.