Tragic, gripping and moving.
True Detective season 2’s finale ‘Omega Station’ ended the series in a painfully tense but ultimately epic climax. Season 2 revolved around the death of city manager of Ben Caspere, whose mutilated corpse is found at the side of a highway by California Highway Patrol officer Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch). Detectives Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) are called to investigate the case, which leads them to discover a whole web of secrets and corruption.
The strength of True Detective in both seasons is the hugely complicated and deeply troubled characters. Woodrugh quietly struggles with his sexuality for the entire duration of season 2, and ultimately dies in denial in the 7th episode, when he is shot by Lieutenant Burris. It is clear throughout the series that Woodrugh is a broken man, who is scarred by war and is battling with himself. This creates an interesting sub-plot where Woodrugh struggles to maintain his personal relationships. Kitsch delivers a powerful and highly convincing performance in a very demanding role. However as a result of Woodrugh’s sudden death, episode 8 left the audience with the question: will Ray and Ani make it out alive? Having taken refuge in an inconspicuous motel after becoming fugitives, the couple need to find a way out.
Episode 8 picks up from the moment the series had steadily been leading to, where Ray and Ani finally get together. There was an overwhelming sense of desperation and attraction between the couple who are both so damaged in their own ways, and take comfort in each other’s company. Ray and Ani’s cathartic sharing of their traumatic experiences creates an even deeper level of vulnerability for the duo, which effectively sets up hope that they will escape. The performances of both Farrell and McAdams are exceptional. Despite only playing these characters for one season, they are successful in convincing the audience that they are two people with years of painful experiences behind them. McAdams in particular delivers a career changing performance, as she was unbelievably suited to a role completely different to anything she has played before.
In keeping with the noir conventions of the show, the audience is aware that survival of all of the characters is an unlikely possibility. Despite this, the final scenes do reveal some moments of light in an otherwise mostly gloomy existence. Ray’s touching salute to his son, which he silently returns, may be what ultimately costs Ray his life, but probably meant more to him than a successful escape where he would never see him again. In the final chase through the woods, a scenario predicted by Ray’s father in a dream, it becomes more evident that Ray doesn’t have a way out. His death is made even more devastating due to his failing to upload an audio file of his last words to his son. However there is a sense of closure when Ray’s ex-wife opens the results of the paternity test, confirming that he is the real father after all. Ray as a man had many faults, but his love for his son is unparalleled.
The most powerful and carefully crafted scene though is when Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) stumbles through the desert bleeding, after being ambushed by the Mexican mob. In his determined attempt to get out of the desert, he faces the people who have held him back in his life, such as his father. This scene is incredibly powerful in the way that the seemingly invincible Frank is battling for his life. His determination to make it out alive acts as an opportunity for him to finally prove himself to all those who tried to knock him down. Frank’s character is also highly complicated, in the way that his righteous nature means he is capable of brutal violence. However there is an uncomfortable satisfaction in the way he does this because he is justified, and punishes those who deserve it. In the conventions of the gangster genre, Franks fails to escape his lifestyle, despite his various attempts to do so.
As well as the strengths of the actors performances, True Detective season 2 was visually powerful. The various directors presented a side to LA which is usually not shown on TV. Instead of the big bright lights of Hollywood, LA was painted in a dark and gritty light which reflected the nature of the crime that took place in the fictional city of Vinci. For this reason, the location itself is as much a character as it is a setting.
The finale of season 2 was engaging and moving in all aspects. The episode ended with the brutally honest message that corruption wins. The only glimmer of hope is the final scene, in which Ani is seen selling the story to a reporter, before her and Jordan leave with Ani’s baby, which Ray has unknowingly fathered. The show stayed true to the conventions of its genre, and did not provide the satisfying, happy ending which many would have hoped for. Ray, Woodrugh, and Frank did not make it out alive, with Ani only just making a narrow escape. Ultimately the show was gripping, exhilarating, and moving, and certainly lived up to the reputation the first season created.
True Detective aired in the UK on Sky Atlantic.