“We deserve a better world.”
Yes, we do. Just as in Season 1, the tying up of loose ends isn’t True Detective’s strong point, and unfortunately that’s the majority of the finale this time around. The big mystery is finally addressed: Who killed Ben Caspere? And that is quickly revealed, after a lingering scene with Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ani (Rachel McAdams) in post-coital grunt, mumbling their secrets to each other.
Frank (Vince Vaughn) continues to channel the ending to Thief, where another man named Frank, played by James Caan, destroys everything he has so nothing can be used against him; in that film, he makes his wife hate him so she’ll leave and run, and survive. Frank Seymon tries the same thing, but Jordan (Kelly Reilly) won’t take the money and run, unless she knows he’ll be there with her. She’s a strong presence throughout the series, but isn’t given enough to do. Her role was never clear; in one episode she says she doesn’t want to be married to a gangster, and in others she’s holding guns on people off-scene and nonchalantly viewing the tortured corpses of Frank’s associates.
Ray and Ani learn of Woodrugh’s (Taylor Kitsch) murder through a phone call from Burris (James Frain), who wants Ray to turn over the documents in exchange for his innocence. Instead, that’s enough to get our motel-room bound protagonists to leave their hideout, and find “Len,” one of the two children who were forced to watch their parents be executed back during Burris and Holloway’s 1992 blue diamond jewel robbery. The other child, Erica/Laurie, Caspere’s secretary, we find chained to a fireplace, after Ray and Ani scope a house and see the raven head mask through the window. Inside, we see computers, a box of less than lethal shotshells, and when that’s not enough, Erica infodumps Len’s plan, which she was chained for disagreeing with; the hard drive got erased (it had a security wipe mechanism) but he plans to trade it to Holloway for the diamonds, then kill him at the Anaheim airport.
Meanwhile, as Frank follows his own loose ends, he finds Mayor Chessani (Ritchie Coster) dead in the swimming pool. Tony (Vinicius Machado) has faked his dad’s suicide. He collects his arsenal and prepares to hit Osip (Timothy V. Murphy).
Ray finds Len at the airport; he’s shown on TV as a wanted murderer but without the ‘stache, a cowboy hat is enough to disguise him. He convinces Len to let him make the deal with Holloway, while Len hides as cover.
“Ray, no one had an idea you were this competent,” Holloway says, and offers to pin Woodrugh’s murder on Ani in exchange for the hard drive. It’s all going well until he says that Erica is actually Burris’s illegitimate child and not Len’s sister, which sends Len over the edge: he leaps on Holloway and stabs him in a frenzy. Ray was recording the meet, but gets knocked aside by Len and the recorder smashes open. Then the airport security guards open fire and kill both Holloway and Len, very conveniently.
Ray, Ani, and Frank all hole up at the saddest bar in the world where Felicia (Yara Martinez), the Waitress with the Scar says she can get them all to Venezuela; she owes Frank for saving her from the men who scarred her up, and she’s actually the manager of the bar. With their exit strategy planned, all they need is the cash to live like kings, and Osip has it.
Ray and Frank stage a daring nighttime commando raid on Ossip’s cabin using machine guns and tear gas grenades, while Ani explores her own past at the Panticapaeum institute, where she finds Dr. Pitlor with slit wrists. Tony Chessani is cleaning house. For some reason, Osip begs Frank not to kill him by saying, “You’re like my son!” which was almost comical, given how callously Osip stole everything Frank had, a mere episode or two ago. A few cuts later and Frank has converted their $12 million in cash to $3.5 million in diamonds, which will be a lot easier to transport to Venezuela. Then he gets to sell them again, and lemme tell you, if you’ve ever sold jewelry, you know their days in South America will be numbered.
But before they all get on the happy boat, Ray wants to see his son one more time. He finds Chad (Trevor Larcom) at the playground, and he has grandpa’s badge with him. They salute each other through the fence (really) and Frank meanders off, unsure if he wants to escape or not. He finds a tracker under his car, and spends a good minute looking at parked cars to see who’s following him. Then the guy who waxed a house full of gangsters decides the best way to get rid of a tail is to drive into the redwoods, while recording a last message to his son (whose email is email@example.com, natch). He calls Ani and tells her to get on the boat; he’s not going to make it. I’m not sure why Ray doesn’t steal another car; he’s sure “they” are watching him, but our crew has pulled off some impressive stunts before.
Frank gets boxed in and kidnapped by the Mexican gangsters, in a similarly uncharacteristic scene; the man cool enough to empty a casino so he can torch it gets caught without a fight, brought to a desert grave, and trades a million in cash for his life. Then lets his temper get him killed. They’re leaving him out there alive, but he makes a crack about getting a ride back. One of the thugs wants his suit in trade. So Frank punches him in the face, which is what one does when surrounded with violent gunmen who just spared your life. They stab him in the kidney and leave him for dead.
Ray’s suicide is much more drawn out, as he runs panicked into the woods, followed by Burris and the Black Mountain boys, who are some of the worst operators ever. Ray kills two of them, much like Woodrugh got the drop on five of them and held Holloway hostage, so if you need a security detail your money would be better spent elsewhere. Despite killing half Burris’s crew with ease, Frank jumps out and lets them ventilate him, after his message to Chad fails with no signal.
Frank starts walking across the barren flat desert – too bad it’s not the Rail Corridor land he poisoned—and bleeds out while listening to hallucinations of his dead father humiliating him, then black teens berating him, then finally, Jordan in her white dress, telling him he’s actually dead. “You can rest, now.”
Ani makes it to Venezuela on the Irony express, where she shacks up with Jordan and Nails…and Ani’s baby! We see a cut to Emily (Abigail Spencer) opening her paternity test documents that prove Ray was Chad’s father, but sadly, Ray will never know his second child.
“These facts were paid for in blood,” Ani tells the reporter that Frank beat up way back in Episode 1, as she shows him the Catalyst documents and other evidence, while we cut to Mayor of Vinci Tony Chessani and Geldof and crew becoming the next generation of corruption. “We deserve a better world,” Ani says.
Yes we do, Ani. Yes we do.
Thomas Pluck is the author of the World War II action thriller Blade of Dishonor, Steel Heart: 10 Tales of Crime and Suspense, and Hot Rod Heart: A Noir Novelette. He is also the editor of the anthology Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT and hosts Noir at the Bar in Manhattan. His work has appeared in The Utne Reader, PANK Magazine, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Hardboiled, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Crimespree, and numerous anthologies, including Dark City Lights, edited by Lawrence Block. You can find him online and on Twitter as @thomaspluck.
Read all of Thomas Pluck's articles for Criminal Element.