Warning: This recap contains storyline and character spoilers for this week’s episode of True Detective.
We’ve reached the penultimate episode of True Detective Season 2 — congrats to all of you still hanging in there! — and with the explosive revelations from last week’s hooker party, it makes sense that this week’s episode was a bit of a table-setter. We got buried in an avalanche of exposition as chess pieces were carefully moved into place before next week’s finale. But, then again, it wasn’t all set-up: We did say goodbye to one member of our Tragic Trio. (We think.)
We start out with Ani, Ray, and Paul holed up in a roadside motel, still reeling from the party. In fact, Ani’s still coming down off the drugs she was given. Ray offers her some weed to calm her down (what a gentleman!), but she’s rambling about the visions she had of that creepy molester dude from her childhood. (Note to self: Never try oral-mist ecstasy. Again.) Then suddenly, she’s climbing up on Ray and kissing him! He pushes her off, though: “You’re too far out of my league anyway.” Well, for now, anyway…
Paul’s busy sifting through all the contracts he stole from the party, and they seem to clear up a lot of this season’s mystery: The Russian investor Osip and Mayor Chessani’s son Anthony are among those divvying up those lucrative land parcels along the high-speed rail corridor. After Caspere died, they bought up his shares for pennies — how is that possible? He didn’t have any next of kin that would claim these very valuable shares? — and then took the liberty of redistributing them.
Paul’s a little distracted, though, by these mysterious texts he keeps getting from an anonymous number, with pictures attached of him and his military buddy getting bizzay. (Paul, if you want to hide your gayness so badly, here’s a tip: Don’t make out with a dude in front of an open window.) Sensing something bad is about to happen, he stashes his fiancée Emily and his crazy mom Cynthia in a motel room together. And Emily looks thrilled to be spending alone time with her future mother-in-law.
When we check in on Frank, he’s dealing hands of blackjack to himself; his wife Jordan suggests he “could just walk away from the table,” but he’s not ready to do that: “You see me managing an Applebee’s?” Hey, Jordan used to work at an Applebee’s, and it’s not all bad; “they gave me a shift meal,” she says. (A shift meal!) But soon, Ray comes calling and unloads a whole bunch of exposition on Frank, catching him up on what we learned last week. Land deals, contracts, Catalyst: You’ve heard it all before, so we’ll spare you. But Nic Pizzolatto really wants to make sure we understand… even if we’re finding it hard to care.
By the way, Ray still wants to know who ID'ed the wrong guy as his ex-wife’s rapist. Frank promises he’ll get him that name by the end of the day: “Word of honor.” We’re not sure how much Frank’s “word of honor” is worth, but he does get his answer by beating it out of his henchman Blake. Yes, Blake gave Frank the name of a meth head who ripped him off instead of the real rapist, and he’s been double-crossing Frank with Osip for a while now — and he even killed Stan, burning out his eyes to make it look like Caspere’s killer did it.
And Blake pays for his sins, too: Frank cracks a glass across his face and grinds his bloody cheek into the carpet, before finally putting a bullet in Blake’s gut and watching him slowly bleed out. He even gives a dying Blake one final indignity, observing: “And now you just s–t my carpet.” Dude, if you were so worried about your carpet, why’d you just grind a guy’s bloody face into it?
Then things get a little hectic: Ray drives to meet the state’s attorney Davis near an abandoned factory… but whoops, she’s already dead. Frank tries to keep his cool while Osip visits the casino to tell him he’s buying up all of Frank’s properties — but hey, he offers to make Frank a manager, at least! Frank plays nice… only because he’s planning to torch the casino rather than hand it over to Osip. He snaps a gas line, pours out some liquor, and drops a lighter before turning on all the gas burners and letting the place burn. Tsk-tsk… that’s no way to impress the people at Applebee’s, Frank.
Back at the motel, Ray and Ani are sharing a drink and opening up — well, as much as they ever open up — about their deep personal wounds. Ani tells Ray, “You’re not a bad man"… and then reaches out her hand to touch his! It wasn’t just the drugs! She’s not out of his league! The two end up making out and falling into bed together… which is weird, right? Does it make any sense that these two would end up together? With all the craziness going on around them, no less? And what’s even weirder: We’re sure there are people out there shipping these two, and calling them "Rayani.” You know who you are.
But the real drama happens when Paul goes off to meet whoever’s been sending him those blackmail texts. Turns out it’s Miguel, the guy from Afghanistan he spent the night with; he works for Catalyst now, and some people — Ray’s former police chief Holloway included — would like those stolen contracts back, please. Paul plays along at first, but suddenly takes Holloway hostage before running off alone, leading to a deadly game of cat-and-mouse through dark subterranean corridors.
Paul manages to kill all the assailants — he uses Miguel as a human shield, getting his old buddy shot right in the skull — and climbs out unscathed. He’s safe! Wait, no, he isn’t; Lt. Burris comes right up behind Paul and shoots him in the back. (We knew we should never trust anyone played by James Frain.) Paul tries to crawl away, but Burris stops him with another bullet in the back and runs off with Paul’s cellphone, leaving our highway patrolman to die in the street.
Of course, we think Paul is dead… but we also thought that when Ray was shot earlier this season, so now we’re doubting everything. Maybe Paul was wearing a bulletproof vest? Maybe Burris only shot him with riot shells? Maybe Melisandre the Red Witch is on her way back to Castle Black to resurrect him? OK, we’re grasping at straws here — but the way this season of True Detective has gone, we’re gonna need to see Paul dead and buried in the ground before we give up on him entirely.
* We knew that jewelry-store robbery during the L.A. riots would play a role later on: The two orphans left after that robbery are all grown up now — and Ray and Ani think the girl orphan might be one of the girls seen in party photos with Caspere. After all this talk of a state-wide conspiracy, was Caspere’s death really just a simple case of revenge?
* This Hasidic Jew jeweler Frank strikes a deal with: Did he just walk in from a dinner theater production of Fiddler on the Roof? (And of course, he squeezes Frank for 40 percent!)
* We missed you, Mayor Chessani. The sleazeball makes an all-too-brief appearance this week, drunkenly bragging to a girl at the casino bar that his family is “a goddamn political dynasty, like the Kennedys,” before gallantly asking her to “hum my balls a little.” He’s got our vote!
* It was a little confusing to hear Paul demand all the “copies” of the incriminating photos of him and Miguel. Doesn’t he know that with digital photography, there’s no such thing as “copies” of photos anymore? What year does this take place in, again?
* We couldn’t help but chuckle when Ani admitted to her former partner: “I think I might be unfair to people sometimes.” Uh, ya think? But we did love his reaction to her giving him a goodbye hug, along with her dad and sister: “Three in one day. Bet that’s a record.”
* Next week’s season finale is 90 minutes long. Whew. Luckily, Ray has us covered:
True Detective airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.