Five episodes in and I can completely, unironically say I’m invested in the case and most of the characters. After a clunky introduction to the seedy world of intersectional bureaucracy and police investigations, True Detective has finally echoed its earlier (and superior) season by connecting it to its earlier one.

As Semyon notes in this episode, “Other Lives,” people’s biggest motivation is in self-interest, and the characters of True Detective with the most preserved and motivated self-interest are the ones who want power. It’s the people like Frank who see every twist and turn as an opportunity; the people like the Attorney General who used the state investigation to launch a bid for governor; the people like the mayor of Vinci’s family, who are embedded in a criminal and political enterprise.

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And nobody cares that these people are causing these wakes of destruction. No one cares that there’s a cover-up, that a girl went missing, that a shootout killed dozens of innocent people — except our detectives. They aren’t noble people — each has their own self-interest — but at least they care (on some level) to fix it. As Rust Cohle once said, “The world needs bad men. We keep the other men at the door.” That’s what our detectives are: the guardians of people with too much self-interest and power. 

The three of them have been royally screwed by the likes of people with power. Paul is forced to settle into a career as a detective of insurance fraud because a drugged-up actress had the resources to bury him in court and access his military and police records against him. Ani’s sexual harassment case was only brought to attention because she pissed off the higher-ups in Vinci (and, as she rightly notes, this would have never happened if she was a man). 

Whereas Velcoro is someone whose entire life and career has been controlled by a very powerful Semyon. It’s revealed in this episode (as many people had guessed) that Semyon gave Velcoro the wrong information on the man who raped his wife; thus, Velcoro’s servitude and debt have all been for naught. 

What I like most about True Detective is the idea that these detectives are “true” to their investigation of the case, and committed to solving and exposing as much as possible of the truth. They may be bad men (and women), but they serve as a guardian and protector against people with too much self-interest. It’s an idea that unites the two seasons as a series and hopefully we’ll continue to see more of this. And I’m finally, finally on board with season 2 of True Detective.

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What Actually Happens with the Case

After checking in with our detectives and mobster a few months after the event of the shootout, it’s time to go over the case facts. Like any good detective novel, it’s all connected. Ani’s background with the compound, the missing girl everyone seems to have forgotten about, the creepy psychiatrist — all of it.

Here’s what I’ve gathered, as far as big plot and maybe even clues, from this and previous episodes:

  • Caspere, Chessani (the Mayor of Vinci) and Pitlor (the creepy and off-putting psychiatrist interviewed a few episodes back) were all chummy back in the day. They decided to create an exclusive sex club for the rich and powerful. Mix in some human trafficking and plastic surgery (provided by Pitlor) and now they have a party. What’s most interesting is that Caspere has video and photos of these soirees in case of blackmail, and that the hard drive is missing. If the detectives find it, they have a solid case. If Semyon finds it, he exchanges it with the rich and powerful of the Railway peeps for land.
  • Speaking of corruption (a segue to use whenever you talk about True Detective), the Chessanis are an untouchably powerful family. Pitlor confirms that he arranged Chessani’s first wife to be committed. The son also has political ambitions.
  • The recently-deceased drunkard Dixon knew about Caspere’s blue sapphires before they found the pictures/gems in lockup. So Dixon was in on the take, as well as nearly every other character on the show.
  • Ani and Paul find the place that held Ben Caspere captive and tortured.

Now that the investigation is back on in an unofficial capacity for all three of the workers, it will be interesting to see where (and how) the investigation continues as our detectives (and gangster) face their unraveling personal lives.

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Other Thoughts

— We’re more than halfway through the season and I’m not sure who killed Caspere. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Semyon’s right-hand man on orders from someone else, like the Lieutenant, but I’m in this to see how morally compromised detectives decide to play hero against the bad ones.

— It took me this long to remember that Rachel McAdams and Vince Vaughn were in Wedding Crashers together. Whoops.

— I’m not sure what to make of the scenes with Paul embracing heteronormativity and mommy issues, but I don’t foresee him coming to terms with his sexuality anytime soon. Poor Paul.

— Earlier in the scene, I complained about Velcoro’s quick and raging temper, but here it’s put to good use.

True Detective airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.

(Image courtesy of HBO)

Emily E. Steck

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV