I finally got around to watching the finale of season two of HBO’s True Detective last night. While the critics were not kind to its occasionally wooden dialogue and disjointed array of plots, subplots, and more red herrings than the grocery aisle of your local Ikea, I enjoyed it.
While season two never quite managed to live up to the stylish vibe of the creepy Southern Gothic first season, it did have more enough of the Raymond Chandler L.A. noir sensibility to reinforce my determination never to live in California. If any show has ever succeeded in making California look like one of the nine circles of Hell, this one was it.
What this season had going for it, beyond compelling style, was the persistent theme of fathers and the damage they can do to their children that accounted for the deep flaws of each of True Detective’s major characters. Here’s a quick rundown of how that all played out. Spoilers ensue, but I’m not going to worry about that since at this point I figure that anyone who cares has already seen the finale.
- Ben Caspere — Corrupt and debauched Vinci city manager whose murder at the beginning of the show was the series’ first and longest-running red herring. Killed by the illegitimate children he fathered and then orphaned, surrendering them to a childhood of foster care, abuse, and prostitution.
- Austin Chesanni — Corrupt and debauched mayor of Vinci who inherited both his office and his father’s particular appetites. Killed and replaced in office by his own psycho pimp of a son.
- Ray Velcoro — Corrupt Vinci cop struggling to live up to his cop father’s example. Beat to death the man he thought raped his wife, then adopted a parenting style toward his own in which he confused bullying with love.
- Ani Bezzerides — Cop with a violent streak, proclivity for knives, and taste for aggressive sex. As a child abducted and raped while under the watchful care of her hippie guru father.
- Frank Semyon — Gangster dealing with repeatedly unsuccessful infertility treatments whose cartoonish, cliched tough-guy attitude and violence compensates for the insecurity borne of years of psychological abuse at the hands of his father.
- Paul Woodrugh — Cop, closeted and in denial about his sexuality, abandoned by his father as a child, his physical scars telegraph his psychic wounds. Determined not to abandon his own unborn child. Gunned down by other corrupt cops, he gets a highway named for him. His child is there for the unveiling.
So there you have it. Eight episodes in which we get to watch the wreckage of disastrously dysfunctional father-child relations play out as noir crime drama.
And we’re finally done with the world’s most morose bar singer. She won’t be missed.