TV review: True Detective 2.4 – “Down Will Come”

True Detective Down Will Come McAdams

David Morse (as Ani’s New-Age mystic father, Eliot) was only in this episode for a few minutes. Ray and Ani pay him a visit at the commune where he indulges them with hints of the “cross pollinating spiritual movements” that manifested in his bucolic neck of the woods, decades earlier. He teases the possible connections between Vinci’s Mayor, Austin Chessani, the Dr. Jacoby-esque shrink/surgeon Irving Pitler, and Ben Caspere, the dead city manager. But really, Morse wins this entry when he tells Ray — without a hint of irony — that his aura is crowding the whole room. “You must have lived hundreds of lives.”

Silly as it sounds, that might be the most honest moment I’ve seen this season. Goofy? Sure. But Morse sells it because he’s freakishly amazing at that sort of Zen kookiness. We can see that Eliot believes it.

Writer and showrunner Nic Pizzolatto initially set out to create a story about “the secret occult history of the U.S. transportation system” with this second season. The occult part was ultimately sidelined, but indications of that intent still permeate “Down Will Come” — in that scene in particular. The series is halfway through, and I’m hoping these secret society threads lead us to some sort of Bohemian Grove debauchery at “Chessani’s Lodge” that perhaps mirrors the ominous nature of Carcosa.

Remember, despite the supernatural bent of the first season, The Yellow King was ultimately just a murderous, schizoid, redneck, movie buff who enjoyed fucking his sister. The complicity of those with real power (at the Statehouse and in the Church) was left to the imagination. In the end, it was all about the redemption of Marty and Rust’s friendship, after reconciling the events that ruined them. The themes of corruption, carnality, and ritualistic murder are back this season, with a thick layer of classic L.A. noir. And that’s got me wondering if the endgame is something similar to the first season. A redemption when the mystery is resolved, that leaves the corrupt hierarchy safely undiscovered.

But I guess everyone is wondering about the end now. “Down Will Come” spends most of its time expanding the plot. While Ray seems on the ropes, it is Ani that’s really in danger of career obsolesce. Chessani is obsessed with ruining her. The perfect opportunity arises when Mercer, Ani’s rebuffed booty call (who presumably isn’t into butt stuff), files a complaint, allowing Pizzolatto to comment on the sexual politics that come with a fraternally two-tiered justice system.

Frank is dealing with dead avocado trees. He’s also muscling his way back into his old drug dealing and extortion jobs, searching for his five million while trying to keep the real estate deal alive. Jordan has baby fever. But unless Frank unfucks everything else, that’s a non-issue.

Woodrugh still can’t deal with being gay, which is what he’s stewing over when he’s mobbed by platoon reporters asking questions about Black Mountain Security and war crimes. Ray helps him escape — like an older brother with whom Woodrugh shares burnout in common. Later, a hackneyed plot twist changes everything for Woodrugh (though his whole arc feels like wheel spinning).

And Ray? He and Ani find a watch at a pawn shop that leads them to Ledo, a pimp and drug dealer who they suspect of Caspere’s murder, and whom Ray hopes might have a clue as to where Frank’s money went. Unfortunately, Ledo graduated from the Michael Mann School of Bullet-Riddled Escape Plans.

There’s been a lot of talk about how much this season is lifting from James Ellroy’s novel The Big Nowhere. While not being terribly familiar with that book, “Down Will Come” marks the first co-writing credit of the series with novelist Scott Lasser. And not being familiar with his work, or that of veteran HBO director Jeremy Podeswa (so really fuck me, right?), I’m not completely sure why this episode feels like a course correction. But it does.

Pizzolatto has been methodically drawing together gossamer strands of (perhaps borrowed) silk, and with this episode those strands finally become a navigable web. It’s a mostly quiet entry, and while Podeswa doesn’t bring much more flair to the story or staging than his predecessors, he has a better eye for performances. Not to mention sticking the frenetic, blood-soaked landing. We’ve hit a nexus, and shit’s only going to get crazier from here.

The Pepsi Challenge that fans (including myself) have engaged in with True Detective is misguided. These are essentially eight-hour movies. And while the best that one can hope for out of a sequel is that it doesn’t diminish the joys of the original, with “Down Will Come” the creative forces behind True Detective have finally hit a sweet spot that makes this spiritual successor worthy of enjoying on its own.