Anthology shows are strange things, because no matter how good or bad a season is, there’s always the possibility that the next one is going to be an entirely different thing. Each season is like a new show being put together. That means that every season has to be given a certain grace period before you can start making hard and fast judgments on things like how well the plot is working and the chemistry between characters.
Now, three episodes into True Detective’s second season, there are a few things I think we can say that we Know. The first is that the show should let its True Detectives spend more time riding in cars talking to each other. Maybe it’s the fact that those long SoCal highways don’t offer our characters any distraction from their partners’ bullshit, and while riding together, they’re actually forced to interact with each other. All I know is, that when Woodrugh asked Bezzerides, “Is that a f**king e-cigarette?” I wanted to hear the next part of that conversation. I don’t think that many people would disagree that this season is bleaker than the last, and scenes like this remind us that these characters are actual people and not just a collection of pensive looks set to industrial noise.
The second thing I Know is that the dialogue Nic Pizzolatto wrote for Vince Vaughn may be beyond the man’s ability to believably deliver it. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad actor (who among us can say they never cracked a smile while watching Dodgeball?). It just means that this hoity-toity nigh-Shakespearean dialogue can sometimes be tough to get through. Some actors do it really well (just about everyone on Deadwood). Others, well, not so much.
As a matter of fact, stepping back and looking at the show as a whole, I’d probably say that Vaughn’s storyline is the most convoluted and the least interesting. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m completely uninterested in it. I just feel like I’ve seen it so many times before. And if Vaughn’s decent back into gangster-dom isn’t that compelling to me, then all this bullshit about his land deal gone awry is like a bunch of white noise. Although I will say that I enjoyed watching him smack Danny around. Aren’t grills just completely ridiculous?
In a move that should have surprised no one, we saw that Ray Velcoro surprised his brush with a contrived cliffhanger from last week’s episode. Miraculously. It seems like this couldn’t have come at a better time for him. This, coupled with his ex-wife’s promise to file for sole custody seems to have evoked some sort of change in him. He’s drinking water. He giving Frank some straight up guff. Is it possible that vision or dream or whatever he had of his father at the beginning of the episode has inspired him in some way? Ray’s relationship with his dad doesn’t strike me as too similar to son/dad relationships we’ve seen with similar characters. Sure, neither are men of many words, but there doesn’t seem to be any underlying hostility to their relationship. They mutter a few words to each other, Eddie talks about the old days, but it doesn’t devolve into a, “I LEARNED IT FROM WATCHING YOU!!!” craziness. Maybe this change we’re beginning to see in Ray’s behavior is him trying to be a little more like his dad. Maybe not. But it’s interesting to think about.
Also interesting is the timing of Ray’s change and the solidifying of his partnership with Bezzerides. The Feds really, really, really want to take Ray down, and Bezzerides seems to be developing some loyalty to him. The fact that he saved her life while they were chasing down that perp I’m sure isn’t going to hurt things between them.
Ray’s injuries kept him on the sidelines for part of the episode, so we focused a bit more on Bezzerides and Woodrugh. Like so many other things this season, I’m unsure of where exactly we’re being led with Woodrugh and all of his secrets. These last two episodes have dropped small hints that he’s gay. This week the show threw us a few scraps about something that happened to him while serving in the Middle East. While I feel like we’re beginning to understand the rest of the show’s characters, Woodrugh still feels like a mystery. But just like a pair of headphones that’s been in my pocket for too long, I’m sure the show will find a way to shake all the tangles out.