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True Detective Season 2 Episode 4 ‘Down Will Come’ Review: Changing Lanes
Last week I felt like I began to care about these characters. Their flaws and back-stories became clearer and the time spent developing them felt worthwhile: now the plot was ready to be set into motion, the secrets behind Ben Caspere’s murder were ready to be uncovered. So did episode 4, ‘Down Will Come’ deliver any of that? Yes, but the problem is it only took up about thirty minutes.
I’m going to start with the parts that advanced the plot and kept the intrigue going. The sequences with Velcoro and Bezzerides investigating were the ones that kept a forward motion. The interaction with Bezzerides’ Dad, Elliot, played by a Bearded Collie dog version of David Morse, Chessani’s forgotten daughter, Betty, and the toxic waste farm, all raised exciting questions like: what were Chessani and the devilishly strange, Dr. Irving Pitlor up to with Elliot when they were at his compound? Why did Chessani’s schizophrenic first wife hang herself in Pitlor’s care? Does he have something to do with it (most probably)? And why has Chessani got markings on a map that coincide with the ones found on Caspere’s GPS device?
All those questions made the investigation feel like an intriguing mystery, bordering on the fringes of its trademark tone of sinister cults and nightmarish qualities; however, these scenes were few and far between for the near hour running time, and that was for one reason.
It’s because Velcoro, Bezzerides, and Woodrugh aren’t allowed to get to the meat of the investigation. Why? Because the state purposely assigned three under-qualified detectives as they never wanted the case solved in the first place. They are using the murder of Caspere for an entry way into looking at Chessani’s financial records. The detectives are on a leash, if they get too close, the state will pull them back again e.g. Bezzerides in the last episode investigated Chessani’s family, only to find herself on the receiving end of a suspension for sexual misconduct this episode – no doubt Chessani had a say in that. Back to my point, this plot device worked when we were still finding out about these characters’ private lives and back-stories, as it masked the fact that the case wasn’t moving very fast. However, now we are half-way through the season, we’ve got all the characters’ back-stories set up, but we couldn’t move on this episode because of this problem, so what we laid witness to was a bunch of repeated character development beats and filler scenes.
The only character development that revealed anything this week was when Woodrugh woke up to find his former army pal/lover watching TV in the other room. It left a question as to what Woodrugh did (even though we probably know) but apart from that moment of showing – not telling – all the other character developments were repeated tropes we’ve seen before. The car scene when Velcoro picks up Woodrugh when he’d fled the mass of reporters and gave him the old fitting into the world speech and the “pick you medication” advice were moments both unnecessary and on-the-nose. The fact is, we know both these guys don’t fit into the world; we don’t need more scenes to tell us that.
Bezzerides and her sister was another scene that served nothing. For a moment though I thought it wouldn’t be the case. When Athena mentioned about the ‘parties’, I thought she might give some dirt on them but, nope, she’s never been to one. The scene went nowhere. And I don’t get why Bezzerides seemed so struck by the idea of a party, they’ve been getting mentioned pretty regularly.
Also, nearly all of Semyon’s scenes this week were unnecessary. It’s a shame because last week he was beginning to break out of his comatose state of complaining about his life being swept from under him. His fisticuffs with one of his ex-employees made both his character and Vince Vaughn’s performance proved Semyon had potential to be a strong character we’d root for. However, this week he was as passive as ever. Back to his threatening monologues, dialogue that’d been carved from trees: “Someone hit the f****** warp drive, and I’m trying to navigate through the blur” and pointless conflicts with his wife: “Here’s an idea. Let’s be one of those couples who fights a lot.” His scenes didn’t advance anything; However, I don’t think it’s Vaughn’s fault. His character should have been left out this week, maybe only appearing in the bar scene with Velcoro when he showed him the picture of Amarilla. Sadly, he just felt stuffed in there to make up time.
Another repeated on-the-nose character moment was when Velcoro visited his son. We know he love his son dearly, we know he’s been “bad” and he used to be good at being “decent” but don’t keep going back to those events. The story should be in full swing, we’re half-way through and the plot should be testing their weaknesses, not hanging around the shadows of a garden spouting apologies. The episode just kept stalling for time until that final scene.
The final scene will, no doubt, fix the problem of the state controlling the three detectives as the only way of getting Velcoro, Bezzerides, and Woodrugh to dig deeper into the investigation was to initiate an ‘off the books’ mission, similar to last season when Rust Cohle and Marty Hart kidnapped a biker gang member and Cohle setting up piles of evidence in a garage. But instead of a game changing scene that would have both added weight to the investigation like a shootout that linked in with the real suspects of the case e.g. Chessani, Pitlor, or the bird mask people, and got all the detectives suspended, Pizzolatto concocted a pointless gunfight with Ledo Amarillo, a pimp who was about as likely to have killed Caspere as Barney Google. Also, the detectives were never going to be in any real danger of getting killed so throwing in a cluster of cannon fodder cops and protestors to get mowed down made it feel less like a gritty crime drama, more Grand Theft Auto. Of course in hindsight it’s an important moment. These character’s lives will no doubt change, but it felt senseless, it won’t deliver any new facts in the investigation. Plus, I just feel Pizzolatto could have used something a little tenser, more suspense filled that left questions about who the murderer is, not just, ‘All that bloodshed for a pointless pimp!’
Every week I buy True Detective time, but the lack of forward momentum is becoming slightly worrying now, I’m finding myself less thinking about questions the plot should be raising to do with Caspere’s murder and more do to with the show itself, like: is this mystery worth the screen time? Has Pizzolatto even got faith in his own plot? Is this season about to change lanes and step up a gear? Let’s hope these questions get killed off as fast as Vinci cops do.
- Ending leaves potential for a cool off the books investigation
- Interesting clues about Chessani
- Far-fetched and flat shootout
- Filler scenes
- On the nose character development