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True Detective Season 2 Episode 2 ‘Night Finds You’ Review: Hotline Vinci
Last week’s sole focus was character development; it spent time delving into the private lives of our three shady cops and former gangster instead of starting with the crime. However, in the final scene the body of Ben Caspere was found – surely meaning the plot was ready to kick-start? So everything was set up to send these four morally grey characters into a whirlwind of corruption and shocking twists in this episode, right? Well it did, eventually, but first we had to wade through a pit of heavy handed info-dumping and clunky character interactions before we could say: wow, that’s the True Detective we love and know.
On paper the episode promised so much. Velcoro, Woodrugh, and Bezzerides are tasked with keeping a close eye on each other while try to solve Caspere’s murder despite being under-qualified for the case. Perhaps they’ve been chosen by the state because of their inexperience and naivety so, when they find whoever killed Caspere, the state could try and blackmail Vinci’s mayor, Austin Chessani to cash in on some of the income too. Sounds like something which could compete with the likes of Chinatown going by that, but unfortunately everything feels sloppy and, well, lazy.
The whole episode felt like Pizzolatto wanting to get a back story and plot set up quickly and out of the way as soon as possible, meaning we had to lay witness to stilted dialogue – in particular two underdeveloped car scenes between Velcoro and Bezzerides talking about e-cigarettes and feminism, which felt forced and didn’t spark any kind of chemistry between the two, but it is still early days though.
Another clunky sequence was the lazy exposition spouted between Semyon and Chessani which literally felt like the creators said: ‘Info dump as fast as you can, but make it sound like you’re mumbling something crucial so the audience is fooled into thinking they just said something interesting.’ It just came off as your average run-of-the-mill cop show.
It’s such a shame because this episode had great potential, a chance for chemistry and tension between the leads – each character not knowing who to trust, but because of this needless info-dumping, ‘Night Finds You’ created a problem for itself in other areas.
If you’re going to info dump, it leaves little room for any character development (which the show is best at.) Character development has been relegated to meandering speeches about horrific pasts i.e. the opening few minutes with Semyon lying in bed recounting the time he was left in his basement by his Dad, and arguments telling us who they are i.e. Velcoro and his ex-wife. It all means – I’m going to have to bring out the old storytelling cliché – Pizzolatto is telling us, not showing us.
That’s why it’s hard to judge the performances. You can see Vaughn struggling with the dialogue in this episode. When his character starts with exposition you can literally see his face and eyes become more confused the more info he drops. Vaughn is a lot stronger when he meets up with Farrell, and in the more active scene when he’s threatening the businessman for money.
Farrell, too, struggles with expositional dialogue. However, he is stronger in the quieter moments when his gestures and eyes do the talking, particularly when he and Semyon meet up in the bar.
McAdams fares better with the dialogue; she appears to have fully inhabited the no-nonsense Bezzerides. She hasn’t had enough meat to chew on yet in terms of emotional moments, but that will come.
Taylor Kitsch’s, Paul Woodrugh feels to me like the most intriguing character at the moment. Kitsch plays him with a menacing air and purposeful stiffness that makes him an unnerving presence when on the screen. His ‘Black Mountain’ days, his now clear sexual orientation, and the strange relationship with his mother – which could lay clues as to why he is the way he is now. It all adds up to making one mysterious character, meaning for me, he is the biggest mystery this season alongside Caspere’s murder. The tension in his scenes were what held the meat of this episode together all the way up until that final shock of Farrell meeting Vinci’s very own Hotline Miami, and being propelled against a wall from shotgun fire.
Those two plot threads were what made True Detective feel like True Detective. It’s just a shame Pizzolatto wanted to wade through the complex weaving of the character set ups and plot set ups so he can get the ball rolling as this episode felt like a missed opportunity to build some tension between the characters.
Even the direction wasn’t as imaginative as last episode. Justin Lin, who directed the premiere, just keeps using the same aerial shots of highways which have become monotonous. He goes for establishing shots that aren’t digging deep enough into the soul and rhythms of Vinci like what Cary Fukunga did with Louisiana in season one. However, the score by T Bone Burnett and Lera Lynn (who is the singer on the guitar in the bar) has been the highlight of the season so far: it’s mixture of jazzy beats and slow guitar melodies keeping that dark atmosphere topped up.
Hopefully the real mystery and chase for Caspere will begin now, and maybe things will take a turn for the bizarre, which is what T.D. does best: embracing its own weirdness. If Pizzolatto is brilliant at one thing, it is that he can set up stories to seem like run-of-the-mill crime dramas and then deliver a twist which flips everything on its head, so that’s why I still have strong faith that season 2 that it is going to be utter carnage, in a good way.
- Taylor Kitsch's performace
- Clunky scenes
- Generic direction