Previously on True Detective, ‘Black Maps and Motel Rooms’
If there were ever a show to sum up the bleakness of life, it would be season two of True Detective. In this week’s supersized finale, you couldn’t help but be sucked into the overwhelming futility of these plot lines.
The episode opens in the afterglow of Ray and Ani’s hookup where they engage in the least sexy pillow talk in the history of ever. Ani relives her abduction and sexual abuse for four days as a child and admits that he didn’t force her to come with him, he only told her she was pretty and that made her proud, so she went with him willingly. Ray assures her that it wasn’t her fault before revealing his past killing of the the so-called attacker of his wife and how it was the wrong guy. All of this was montaged together with Ani smoking more cigarettes than an episode of The Leftovers and Ray wistfully looking at pictures of his son.
Frank attempts to put Jordan on a bus out of town with Nails, but she initially refuses to go saying that they are in this whole mess together. Frank tries to convince her that it’s over because of her barren womb and she tells him that he can’t act for shit. All of their dialogue this season has felt awkward and stilted, and this was no exception. He eventually convinces her to go because he needs to know she is safe to do what he’s going to do. She reluctantly agrees and he tells her he’ll see her in two weeks or less. He repeats this over and over in this episode as if it’s his mantra. They both seem to understand that this is their final goodbye, without admitting it openly.
Frank has a nice moment with Nails and the origin of his nickname is revealed. In some kerfuffle back in the day, he was left bleeding on the ground with a nail in his forehead and instead of leaving him behind like he was told, Frank threw Nails over his shoulder and carried him out of there. Frank gives Nails a thick envelope of cash and Nails assures him that no one will get near Jordan.
A last parting shot of Paul’s dead body is flashed before we see Ray calling Burris. Burris tells Ray that he is going to take the fall for Davis and Woodrugh’s shooting unless he comes forward and they work it out. Ray sarcastically says he’ll stop by PD later and Burris gets a little desperate and asks where Ray is and tries to placate him into cooperating by calling him one of them. Ray hangs up and tells Ani that Paul is dead. She at least has the decency to recognize that he was better than them. Ray has a revelation that the set photographer from the movie set is Leonard, the boy of the two kids orphaned in the jewelry store robbery, so they make a plan to track him down.
Frank stops by Chessani’s house to find him floating face down in the pool in a poorly staged suicide. He enters the house and finds the Ukrainian bride and takes her out to see the dead body. She tells him that she only knew the Mayor through Tony, and says that Betty is sick like her mother was. She is slow on the uptake of the fact that Tony killed his own father and has set her up to take the fall. Frank leaves her with the parting words of hoping she saved some of her Miss Ukraine money.
Ray and Ani arrive at Lenny’s house and find the non-lethal buckshot and bird mask clearing up that mystery in a disappointing way. They find Laura handcuffed to a pipe in the living room and she tells them that Lenny found each other after she had fallen in with Caspere. He found out what was happening and was going to use the acid to make Caspere confess to his myriad crimes, but got carried away because he was so enraged and ended up killing him. But not before Caspere did, in fact, confess his crimes. She doesn’t know why he staged Caspere’s body on the side of the road, but does reveal that he has the hard drive that Ray and Frank have been searching for. Unfortunately Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum triggered a safety feature of the hard drive which wiped it when they didn’t have the password, so it’s useless. Regardless, he has gone to meet Halloway in order to kill him in revenge for his parents’ deaths. Ray takes off after Lenny, leaving Ani wth Laura.
Frank is tooling around town after convincing his wife to leave and calls Osip to boast about the burned up clubs and casino. Osip is understandably pissed, but Frank doesn’t care and threatens him. After he hangs up, Ray calls to fill him in on the new developments. While this is happening, Ani takes Laura to the bus station and puts her on a bus to Seattle and tells her to leave and not turn around. She leaves Laura there at the bus station and heads out “in disguise” with her black baseball cap.
Frank arrives at his favorite bar and the scarred owner shows him through the freezer to a hidden room with cots. This is a holding area for smuggling people in and out of the country, a talent in which she has become quite skilled. Frank lays out his guns and belongings and lays low for the time being. It should be noted that the bruise kneed singer is back and singing to an empty bar that isn’t even open for business. Ugh, this show.
Ray arrives at the train station and finds Lenny waiting for Halloway. He quickly convinces Lenny that he is an idiot and should let Ray handle the situation. Ray meets Halloway with the useless hard drive and sits down for a chat while Lenny sits behind them listening in. As it turns out, the double L’s mom was sleeping with Caspere at the time of the robbery and was pregnant with Caspere’s second child, Laura being the first. This enrages Lenny and he attacks Halloway with a rather large knife, instigating a shootout between the observing Burris, Halloway, and Ray. Ray is quickly sidelined, loses his gun and his recording device, but luckily Ani (or is it Ani, it’s hard to tell with her excellent disguise) saves the day and shoots Burris in the arm and he quickly flees. She rushes over to help Ray up and out while Halloway and Lenny continue to struggle and the police close in. Halloway shoots and kills Lenny but the police shoot and kill Halloway. Ani and Ray make it out along with Burris.
Back at the bar, the owner removes bits of glass and debris from Ray’s face while Frank and Ani formally meet. After some initial animosity, Frank asks Ani to relay a message to Jordan in Venezuela in case he doesn’t make it out. He gives her a photo and she agrees by scowling skeptically at him as Ray comes in. Franks asks if they can have a word, so Ani and the owner go downstairs and leave them to talk.
Frank fills Ray in on his plan to rob the cash exchange between Osip and Catalyst. Ray seems reluctant to join in on the heist, but Frank convinces him, either in the name of revenge or for sheer need of money to live on to come along and help. Frank also reveals that Blake was the tipster who set Ray up, but that he’s been dealt with none to pleasantly. Downstairs Ani asks how the owner knows Frank and Ray. She tells Ani that Ray put the man who hurt her in prison, in the disabled wing no less, and Ray gave her the money to buy the bar and never asked for it back. Back upstairs, Ray convinces Ani that it’s in their best interest to leave the country.
After dark, Ray and Frank head up to cash exchange while Ani goes to Pitlor’s office in an attempt to get more evidence for their case against pretty much everyone in Vinci. She finds Pitlor with his wrists slashed and his files missing. Ray and Frank arrive at the secluded cabin and armed to the gills and with gas masks proceed to light that place up. Once everyone is dead, with a nice insult to Osip before he gets his, Frank and Ray pack the money into duffle bags and head to the clean cars provided by the nice men at the coffee/pastry shop. They exchange a few words before heading their separate ways and blowing up a perfectly nice Range Rover in the process.
On his way back to the bar/safehouse Ray calls Ani to tell her that he is on his way. They have a nice exchange and Ray looks almost happy for the first time in this entire season. After hanging up, he sees the exit for his son’s school and decides to make a pit stop, which is probably the most idiotic and tropey move pulled in every single suspense show and movie ever. It was at this point that I started to get frustrated with where this finale was heading.
The three remaining main characters take three very different paths from here to the end of the episode, so I am going to write each one in its entirety to avoid confusion because the episode was flipping between all three at a pace designed to induce whiplash.
Ray stops at his son’s school and sees him playing cards (I assume Magic: The Gathering or something equally perfectly nerdy) with some friends with his police badge encrusted in glass on the table nearby. Chad looks up and sees Ray who salutes, soliciting a response salute from Chad. Ray hurries back to his car but sees the reflection of a red light in a puddle underneath and sees that a transponder has been attached to the undercarriage. After pacing and smoking in the street for an indeterminate amount of time, he gets in the car and drives off.
Ray calls Ani on his way, watching the black Suburban tailing him in the rearview mirror. He tells her to get on the boat without him, and that he will catch up. He tells her about the transponder and that he can’t come back without leading them straight to her and putting her in danger. She tries to refuse to go, but he makes her promise to get on the boat, and then for good measure makes the bar owner promise to force Ani on the boat even if she has to drug her.
As Ray leads his tail into the wilderness, he records a final message to his son on his phone. He is trying to upload the message when he finally runs out of gas in the middle of the forest. He jumps out of the car, grabs his guns and attempts to grab the duffel of cash which busts open, so he abandons it. He runs to hide in the woods, armed with a shotgun and pistol, and still trying to upload the message to his son’s email address. He is being closely pursued by Burris and the goons employed by what used to be Black Mountain, but he does manage to take out two or three of them as he bounces from tree to tree evading them.
He eventually runs out of steam, taking cover at the base of a gigantic sequoia tree while they start to gain on him. He shoves his phone into a notch in the tree and then jumps out with his shotgun to get shot numerous times before he even has a chance to get a shot off. The camera zooms in on Ray’s lifeless body before panning out to show the viewers that the voice memo was unable to be uploaded to Chad. Because why should any one good thing happen to Ray at all?
After Ray and Frank part ways, Frank heads to set the rest of his plan into motion. He goes to the Jewish diamond brokers and exchanges a large chunk of the money for diamonds. He then goes by the coffee and pastry shop to pay off the guys and pick up his passports. He gives them their duffle of cash and assures them once again that he’ll give them another half million if he gets where he’s going. As he drives off, they exchange a look and I couldn’t tell if they were planning to double cross him or were just skeptical that he was going to make it out alive.
On his way, Frank is carjacked by a gang of Hispanic men after being sandwiched in by them in an underpass. They drive him out into the middle of the desert where the guy he made the deal to distribute drugs in his clubs awaits. This dude is pissed that there are now no clubs to distribute in, since Frank burned them to the ground. Frank gives them his suitcase, in which he has stashed a million in cash and they seem appeased and go to leave. Frank asks if they are going to leave him in the desert without a ride, and they stop and return their attention to him.
One of the thugs wants Frank’s suit to add insult to injury. Frank lets him get close enough to sucker punch, which he does, and then ends up stabbed in the gut for his effort. They leave him bleeding on the ground and suggest that he go crawl into the hole they dug for him. Frank, stubborn as ever, gets himself up and starts to slowly trudge out of the desert, leaving a trail of blood behind him.
As he stumbles his way along, he is tormented by figures from his past. It starts with his father who berates him and tells Frank that he never loved him. Frank responds with that he never asked him to. Then comes a group of black guys, and for the life of me, I cannot remember him ever referring to these people this season, but maybe I missed something. They are telling him to lay down and stay down, but he refuses saying that he’ll never lay down. Toward the end, he passes a bloodied man on his knees begging to be let go, Frank trudges past him, still leaving a trail of blood and seems to now be followed by a few crows.
Eventually Frank stumbles across Jordan, clad in a white dress. He’s happy to see that she made it. He eventually stands up straight and strides over to her telling her that he’ll never stop moving. She smiles at him and tells him that he stopped moving way back there and points behind him. He turns and sees his crumpled body in the desert and turns around to find Jordan gone before falling to the ground and dying. I was so angry at this point at being tricked into watching him shuffle through the desert for what seemed like three hours for him to only die unceremoniously.
Ani has both the least interesting and most promising resolution of the three remaining leads. After deciding to go along with Ray’s idea that they leave the country, she cuts her hair off and dyes it black before receiving Ray’s second phone call telling her to go ahead without him. In true Ani style, she argues and sulks for a while before being led to the boat by her travel companion.
There are a lot of shots of Ani watching the water as the boat pulls out of port and I was thinking that maybe she would jump overboard, but instead she just cries in despair, knowing that she’ll never see Ray again.
The episodes starts winding to end with a voiceover from Ani, relaying the story to a reporter while it is revealed what transpired in the aftermath back in California. Tony Chessani is elected mayor of Vinci and the rail system is built without any hiccups. Ray turns out to be the biological father of Chad, however he is being blamed for all of the deaths, so his name is infamous. His dad watches a news report on this in bewilderment. Paul gets a highway named after him in honor of his service, which is the only slightly redeeming event to come out of this whole mess.
Ani finishes relaying her story to the reporter and shows him all of the evidence she was able to collect. He tries to convince her to come with him and testify, but she tells him that this is his story now and tells him to wait in the room for a full hour after she leaves and he agrees.
She goes back to her hotel room to find Jordan with baby, Ani’s baby with Ray. She puts him into a sling carrier and her and Jordan grab their bags and head out through the Venezuelan street party with Nails as their body guard, disappearing into the crowd.
I have to say that this is the least satisfying season finale that I have ever experienced, and I was an avid Veronica Mars show watcher when they abruptly were cancelled without warning after their third season with no resolution whatsoever in the finale. If the showrunner’s mission was to make you drown in the idea that no matter how hard you try, it will amount to nothing in the end, then they were successful. I know that I, personally, was hoping for some type of redemption in these damaged characters, and we were provided a very small glimpse at redemption in them, but the end sum was still a big fat zero in my book.