Welcome back to “True Detective”! If you’re into symbolism, we open with a field of wooden sticks with little pink flags on them with a series of numbers. So, just keep that in mind when you’re trying to figure out what Season 2 is all about.
And now for your first new detective: It’s Colin Farrell, encouraging his nerdy son to be tough at school. Not even having Colin Farrell as your dad is enough to make middle school non-terrifying. We transition from there into his meeting with an attorney helping him with his visitation rights, where we learn that the kid was born nine months after his wife was beaten and raped, and no DNA test was ever done. Just in case you were confused about the morality of his Detective Velcoro, he pays her in cash, before we get a quick flashback of a younger, cleaner, mustache-free Velcoro meeting with the moderately slimy Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn), who gives him a name and a picture of the man he claims has committed the crime. But the lawyer in the present day said the man was never caught! Never caught officially, it seems, and whatever happened, Velcoro obviously owes Semyon a favor for it.
That scene takes us to modern day Frank Semyon, who seems to live in a gorgeous modern house quite different from the dingy bar where he met Velcoro. Time was a little kinder to him. We learn that not only is Frank a gangster with a noble heart, but he’s also happily married, and concerned about a big business meeting in the glorious city of Vinci, where we lay our scene. Semyon meets with his associates, who are worried about a journalist’s expose about city corruption.
We get our first glimpse of a strange, expressionless man in big dark sunglasses being driven around by a gloved individual with a creepy giant bird head on the seat next to him. So, normal day on “True Detective.”
And now it’s time to meet Rachel McAdams’ Detective Ani Bezzerides. She’s in her underwear, and fresh off of a sexual experience that seems to have taken her partner thoroughly by surprise. He tries to apologize and cover for his shock, but she brusquely tells him they should move on. She then throws him out of her apartment with a bare minimum of politeness. And anyone keeping up with their reading for this show should take note of the fact that she’s got several knife training books on her coffee table, as well as “Hagakure,” which, per Amazon, is a samurai training guide.
She leaves whatever untidy experience her guy was surprised by behind to go bust what she thinks is an illegal pornography ring, but which turns out to be a legal webcam business that her sister is involved in. This family seems to have some weird sex issues, not to make a broad generalization too early in the season or anything.
We visit Velcoro at the police station where his superiors are equally concerned about the expose in the news. They’re also worried about the disappearance of city manager Ben Caspere, whose name you might remember Frank Semyon also mentioning. A multitasker, that one.
And now for our final detective, Tim Riggins! Excuse us, a highway patrolman named Paul Woodrugh (played by Taylor Kitsch, of handsome brooding “Friday Night Lights” fame). He’s on patrol on his motorcycle, where he pulls over a recklessly driving young starlet. We see her offer sexual favors in return for letting her go, and though we don’t see his response, we see the fallout – she’s accused him of soliciting sex, rather than vice versa, and he’s on administrative leave because of it.
We travel to Semyon’s big event, which is about a big railroad expansion that the mayor is attending, drinking champagne and charmingly gripping the ass of his much younger date. The event doesn’t go as Semyon’s planned, thanks to Caspere’s absence, which gives Semyon’s partners cold feet, but we do learn he was a bit of a terror in the ’90s before going straight.
Velcoro and his partner go investigate Caspere’s house, which is both filled with seual art and toys, and very clearly ransacked by someone looking for something.
Our second glimpse of Man with Sunglasses in Car shows him toppling not so alertly into a window after a curve in the road.
Bezzerides and her partner go to deliver a foreclosure and come away with a missing persons case, after the woman at the home complains that the police are doing this instead of looking for her sister. It turns out the missing sister worked for a religious cult that Bezzerides seems pretty aware of.
As it turns out, the Panticapaeum Institute is run by her father. We don’t learn much about the missing woman there, but we do learn her dad was a bit of an absentee parent and her mother killed herself. He’s played by longtime character actor David Morse, who you have probably seen in something before, whether it was “12 Monkeys” or “Contact.” And we learn that Ani’s real name is Antigone. That would be the name of Oedipus’ daughter, whose sorrows include killing herself after being locked in a tomb due to her attempts to procure respectful burial for her brother.
Having completed his detective duties for the day, Velcoro gets drunk and then beats up the crusading journalist to warn him off his expose. His next move is to visit his son after school, where the kid’s stepfather notes the blood on his sleeve, and where Velcoro, his gaudy gift of a high-end sleeping bag unneeded, instead learns that his son’s shoes have been stolen and destroyed. His reaction is to terrify the kid into giving up the name of his bully. Later, he viciously beats the father of the bully in front of the kid. Velcoro is into old school vengeance. What was that he said earlier about welcoming judgment?
The next thing we learn about Paul Woodrugh is that he has some intense scarring all over his torso, and that he seems to need Viagra, which he has not shared with his girlfriend. She wants to know about his scars, which he says are not from the army, but before. He bails after their encounter to go on a high speed motorcycle ride. His girlfriend doesn’t believe his vague assurances that his departure is work-related.
Velcoro and Semyon meet up to have a quick chat at the dingiest restaurant in the world, which is featuring a performance by a young lady who is rocking an early days Fiona Apple vibe. Velcoro hands over all the notes from the reporter’s house, and Semyon hands him an envelope of money while Velcoro aggressively drinks. Semyon also provides some romantic advice and talks about his fertility troubles, which is one of the weirder interactions between crook and crooked cop ever. The singer (Lera Lynn) is singing a song called “My Least Favorite Life,” while Velcoro ingests some less legal stimulants. Again, this is the world’s most depressing restaurant. Oh, also Ani Bezzerides seems to have a mild drinking/gambling issue.
We return to Woodrugh, still on his motorcycle, driving ever faster before briefly turning off his headlight. He turns it on again moments later, skids off the road, and tells himself to stop. But wouldn’t you know, he’s skidded off the road right next to a picnic bench where Man with Sunglasses has been abandoned, his wallet left helpfully on his leg so we can learn right away that he’s missing city manager Ben Caspere.
Both Bezzerides and Velcoro receive late night phone calls notifying them of the death, and at the crime scene, we discover that Ben Caspere’s eyes have been removed. And now, at last, all of our detectives are assembled at the scene of the crime. Think they can solve this one?