It’s Already Here
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
That expression on Ani’s face was the best thing about this episode yet ironically it encapsulates everything I’m feeling about the show right now. Rarely have I been so monumentally disappointed by a second season as this one, which feels ever more like an absolute failure of literary intellect. There’s no weight to anything and even when there is a slight glimmer of hope towards that, the show seems determined to thwart those hopes that would otherwise become its saving grace. The first half of the second season’s fourth episode seemed to be gearing towards becoming easily the best episode yet and then it simply fell off the cliff in the final denouement. That self-defeating tendency can be derived from this season’s extreme drowning in a melancholic dread whose aura is so powerful it simply overwhelms everything else. Everything is sacrificed for the sake of going upwards and over to the most gratuitous, problematic points simply for the purpose of keeping that aura intact. Poetic unity is a fantastic tool to keep tonal balance intact, but it can’t function at the cost of internal storytelling logic. It doesn’t matter if something fits into the atmosphere and mood of the story if it doesn’t make any sense in terms of narrative. The extremely irritating overhead shots of highways are a prime example. Last week there were only two and that contributed at least somewhat to my slightly increased goodwill, but director Jeremy Podeswa contributes at least six, where one of them is aptly emblematic of that poetic unity problem this season is uninvited with. It’s a beautiful shot of a dark oceanic highway, heightened significantly by the blue-dominated cinematography, but it’s a completely unnecessary shot. The scene before it has nothing to do with it nor does the scene following it. It’s pretty but a complete waste of time.
If story logic being sacrificed for poetic logic was the only problem in this episode, I would let it slide a bit more, but that unfortunately isn’t the case. Pizzicato’s script is the first one he shares and it looks like the only one he will do so for the rest of the second season. Having been largely unfamiliar with Scott Lasser’s work, I can’t point to which areas of the episode seem to be his influence or otherwise, but the sheer quantity of narrative mishaps here is overwhelming. The episode manages the unenviable feat of imbuing poetic logic with the complete lack of subtlety that has dogged this entire season so far. Everything not only has to be dark and moody to the point where even Rust Cohle looks like the life of the party, it has to over exaggerated and pointed to the point where it no longer resonates with the audience. When Paul’s girlfriend Emily tells him “I guess I love you, too,” that’s not a piece of dialogue that had to be uttered. It was blatantly obvious from her body language and well, the scene as a whole. But even if I give that a pass despite it getting under my skin significantly, there isn’t an excuse for how utterly poorly the shootout at the end of the hour was executed, pun intended. Nearly everything was a grandiose, convoluted mess that took more pleasure in the carnage it was unleashing than anyone locked in the same room as Joffrey Baratheon. You could essentially hear the camera yelling “See? See? Oh, and here’s a bus, and then there’s these protestors, and a random passerby. And they’re all dead!” The final scene is the best of the episode, mired in quite introspection but it unfortunately clashes with the blathering carnage that came before it.
Seeing Rachel McAdams lead a bunch of men in a police unit with guns ablaze was pretty sweet, especially considering the ridiculous weak-willed crap her former lover handed her via a sexual harassment claim. She was right about her male colleagues and supervisors being treated significantly different, regardless of the patronizing “honey” her supervisor threw her way. It’s a nice juxtaposition to where she was asked to potentially seduce Velcoro last week and there wasn’t dialogue to make it obvious. The moment when a senior officer just jumps slightly and gets shot in the head is a viscerally sudden, shocking moment that works because it feels germane to the entire affair, something the explosion does not manage to do. Speaking of the explosion, there is a drug cartel member who is shooting with what looks like unlimited ammunition who by all accounts should have been burnt to smithereens in the explosion but with the help of some truly awe-inspiring psychic powers shows up two seconds later, firing from the level right below. The protestors caught in the crossfire was an overcrowding touch that was completely unnecessary and while their fear of the loss of bus lines is perhaps interesting if irrational, everything on hand seemed staged. The arrival of the civilian bus into the melee was the simple icing on the cake, if you prefer your icing to taste like plastic and the cake to taste like cardboard. Oh, and we forgot the cherries in the cartel leader shooting into the bus dozens of times and then blowing out a civilian’s head in what was possibly the poorest hostage taking on television.
In hindsight, the takeout with Ray’s death rings even more hollow this week. This was the appropriate moment for him to be injured considering the stretch of believability that our three known characters are all alive. Ani and or Paul leaning over his injured, barely breathing body would have fit in neatly into the atmosphere and story, but that card was played way too early and recently for it to work yet again. Yet the three of them standing amidst the cartoonish carnage at least was imbued with an introspective, quiet carnage that forced the trio to understand the sheer theoretical gravitas of what was around them. It’s embarrassing, frankly, that once again True Detective’s strongest moments are exposing the corresponding weakness of everything else around them. Ani struggling with her ammunition running out rang true, but hollow compared to the window sniper’s unlimited ammunition. Taylor Kitsch gets his first genuine emotional reaction at his self-shame after his one night stand, but that’s invalidated by the scene in the diner and the reporters who accost him literally out of nowhere. Frank’s gangster-esque scenes are more entertaining than they really have any right to be, but the background buildup has been exceedingly poor. The water contamination of farms was a neat bit of plot that is sure to get lost in the narrative jumble this season has become. We’re halfway there, if that’s any consolation.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“I think we fucked up.”
+“Ooh, the mayor of the Shitberg Landfill is gonna get me?”
+Ray’s glove box: “Take a cure.”
+Ray using the cop lights to cut through traffic was a nice touch
+Ani and her sister had a nice conversation. Any Ani scene, frankly, is at least a notch above everything else
+More meta commentary this week: “Jesus, that’s some fucking coincidence.”
+“You must have a hundred lives.”; “I don’t think I can handle another one.”
+“Trust takes time.”
+“With friends like these…:
+The scene between Ray and Chad, coupled with the latter’s “Are you going away?” was legitimately bittersweet
+“People take chances.”
+/-Frank as a gangster ass is fun, but is completely void of any emotional construct
+/-“Everybody wants to go straight to the top.”
-The tree metaphor with Frank’s erectile dysfunction is one of the most subtle moments of symbolism yet, and that’s saying something
-The schizophrenia line
-Who else was disappointed by Ani not using her knife?
-Why the freeze frame?
Title: Down Will Come
Written By: Nic Pizzolatto & Scott Lasser
Directed By: Jeremy Podeswa
Image Courtesy: Grantland