The Last Stop
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The complete and utter disappointment that was True Detective season two came to an end with Omega Station, a finale so thoroughly drenched in an unearned melancholia it feels as if the entire season was opting for a swim in the lake and instead ended up drowning in the ocean. The title sequence is neat, intriguing, and imbued with a tension that is far more profound than anything the show has to offer. Every episode, from the good to the atrocious, suffered from that inherent lack of tension and not only that which was surrounding the central murder mystery. The characters themselves never truly felt germane outside of a few moments here and there, as if they were ciphers Nic Pizzolatto crafted out of a pit of despair and then occasionally, like plants, thrust them out into the sunlight. It was in that thrusting that the season discovered a confidence that its characters were truly well-rounded, these darkened columns of darkened humanity that still, somehow, somewhere, found a light on the horizon to draw hope from. Except it was a mirage, like the hopes that everyone would make it to the shores of Venezuela, having escaped from the morbid frailty of the existence they were leaving behind. The unfortunate quandary here is that somehow the show ran with that mirage and framed it as an impeccable piece of reality. That reality then manifested itself into a fantastic bout of idiosyncratic narrative turbulence, scattered throughout with mostly unnecessary overhead shots of darkened highways in a suggestion of a weightier tryst with philosophical metaphors than what one might see depicted on screen. The result was a jumbled mess of a story whose individual installments truly deserved no more than a five but garnered more partially out of pity and hope that some strong moments suggested a satisfying resolution. Ah, the exercise in vanity that hope can be.
If hope had to be tempered even further out of the sheer power of abject cruelty, the finale was for whatever reason stretched to the ninety minute mark, an extra thirty minutes that could have been better used, well, in the Game of Thrones season five finale for example. I’m not quite sure what drove Pizzolatto to garner such a lengthy script, but whatever the reasoning(s) behind that creative decision, it does the episode absolutely no favors. For a series finale that includes three shootouts and the most ubiquitous use of the word “fuck” outside of a Deadwood episode, Omega Station is almost unbearably dull, stretched from one scene to the next like the final piece of bubble gum you’re chewing gregariously in the hopes that there might still be some particle of flavor left in it. From the opening frame to the last, there’s the occasional flash of interest that is subsumed by the absolute dullness around it, a frustrating lack of intrigue from the characters that remain, and the utter bemusement on introducing new ones when the story should be wrapping up in the first place. The introduction of these characters perhaps wouldn’t sting as much if it wasn’t for Pizzolatto’s insistence that we forge an emotional connection to these random characters that just showed up and suddenly became integral to the plot. Some of those characters, such as the identity of Ben Caspere’s murderer, indeed were introduced earlier in the narrative, but were presented either off-screen or with such little attention that they carried little to no weight.
The morbid dullness that pervaded the rest of the episode sundered down into the central mystery of the season, its revelation being surprising, utterly predictable, compounded with narrative conveniences, and fittingly maudlin. The surprise factor was bringing in the two children from the ’92 riots, now fully grown adults, which actually amounted to something besides giving Paul a scene in which to actually do something resembling detective work. The factor ended there. Laura’s prostitution is expected because Pizzolatto apparently has a handful of professions he thinks women have after having a fairly tough life and about ninety-nine percent of that choice pie graph belongs to prostitution. Having Len (the brother) be Caspere’s killer was sort of predictable after a decent chunk of the suspects started to drop dead with as much impunity as the rainfall total on Mount Waikiki. But the subsequent problem with having Len become the killer doubles down on what was, in my opinion, Pizzolatto’s Achilles’ heel throughout this season. At first it seemed as if the dour atmosphere that was more stifling than a medieval dungeon would be responsible for the season’s downfall but it became apparent quickly and even more so in hindsight that the primary problem was the complete and utter lack of emotional construct. Having the adult Len appear in this episode isn’t a problem in and of itself, but when the entire mystery rests upon his shoulders, it’s a problem that we simply haven’t seen him to this point. We haven’t gotten to know him and his sister Lauren enough for their story to have their impact. Instead of the tragedy it should feel like, it comes across as nothing more than a convenient card for Pizzolatto play.
That convenience card combined with an overindulgence into nonexistent emotions relatively doomed the second season into an overextension of what the final bits of the first one felt like, clinical and predictable, two words any decent prestige drama rushes to avoid. While the lack of emotional construct aforementioned was a problem in and of itself, the season simultaneously double-downed on overhanded emotion, making the problem considerably worse. The show tried so hard to make the audience feel something, it constantly jumped the line from dramatic tension into a cartoonish buffoonery that could hardly be taken seriously, like the moment in Ani’s montage where a highway is unveiled in the honor of Paul Woodrough. At least that landed for about two seconds, unlike the manner in which Ray was dispatched. Perhaps Pizzolatto understood the criticism of the first season that Rust and Marty surviving was stretching the logic (amidst other problems there) and he overreacted. Knocking Paul out didn’t mean much considering how much of a cipher he was instead of an actual person. Here Frank met his maker and so did Ray, while Ani manages to find Jordan and have a child in Venezuela. The former died in the desert, walking past his life as he bled out into the sands around him. Pizzolatto’s obsession with masculinity came back in the form of Frank’s father, but that last minute stab at emotional drawing doesn’t work in any fashion. What does work is Frank seeing Jordan for the last time in the white dress they had talked about. It’s a moment that relatively works because for all of the cringeworthy dialogue, there was actual time spent with that relationship and it manages to elicit at least a pang of sadness.
Ray’s ending was unfortunately far more idiotic, framed as a shootout in a California redwoods forest in a scene that played like a parody skit on Saturday Night Live. Having accepted his inevitable death because he had read the script or lack thereof, he makes a final voice recording to his son on a sunny highway that manages to not send properly even by the time he arrives in the forest, which is at least a decent four hours’ drive. Data plans, I tell you. But it was the final nail of stupidity in Ray’s storyline, an idiotic ending to one of the handful of narrative aspects that worked this season and a shameful hand dealt to Colin Farrell. Pizzolatto did, to his credit, pay attention to the criticisms from the previous season but he either overplayed the answers to a ridiculous extent or simply forgot about them and went overboard. He crafted relatively complex female characters in Ani and Jordan, but rendered a good chunk of their characters arcs into motherhood and sexual assault. Even their relative escapes were patronizing in the extreme, where they had to be coaxed into leaving by their male companions because they knew better. Yet it’s an improvement over the first season in spite of the plethora of prostitutes, buoyed significantly by the performances of Rachel McAdams and Kelly Reilly, both significantly let down by the material handed their way. Vince Vaughn worked at sporadic moments as a gangster, but he was ultimately far too hampered by awkward dialogue to have much of an impact. The direction of Cary Fukunaga that became an inherent part of the first round’s successes was sorely missed here, the artistic, innate understanding his camera displayed of the surroundings lacking here outside of a moment or two. But the scripts were by far the greatest offenders, simply stumbling about until they were largely undeservedly astonished at their own brilliance. It was never my intention to write negative reviews week in and week out, yet the show never became something to write home about, excuse the cliché. Every so often, you could see the diminutive diamonds glimmering with a sense of purpose, a sense of passion for what lay ahead in the future. As it was, they were nearly always washed away by the sands that proved to be far too overbearing to be overcome. Thank you for reading.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Meta-joke one: “I don’t even know if it matters.”
+“I always have a choice.”
+Meta-joke two: “You can’t act for shit.”
+“I am the blade and the bullet.”
+Best line of the night: “What gave me away? The tits?”
+Frank killing Osip was a cool moment
+“You stopped moving way back there.” That was a neat framing device.
+Ray is Chad’s genetic father
+The railway Opening
+“We deserve a better world.” That at least we can agree on.
-The opening conversation between Ani and Ray was horrifying in its victim-blaming implications without ever bothering to actually try and understand them. The editing was also quite poor.
-The idiotic phone call between Burris and Ray
-“He was better than us.” Are you sure about that?
-The whole “gasp! film crew!” revelation really got on my nerves.
-Mayor and the overdose
-The masks are right up front, in an open window?
-Newspaper with “genocide”
-“The mystery… that no one knows…” And no one cares.
-“Well, I guess were saved each other’s lives.”
-The chorus music completely undeserved
-“Fuck” replacing actual emotion
-Mayor Tori Chessani
-So what happens with the corruption? Leaving the main thorough line of the story was an atrocious insult to the audience’s intelligence, having been built on absolutely no rhythmic evidence that would sustain such an open-ended
Title: Omega Station
Written By: Nic Pizzolatto
Directed By: John Crowley
Image Courtesy: EW