True Detective 2×02 ‘Night Finds You’: Strong enough to escape

True Detective 2x02 Cover

While in bed, Frank tells his wife about some of the abuse he took from his father as a child.  When his father went on one of his benders, Frank would be locked into the basement, supposedly to keep from being damaged during his father’s alcoholic rage.  In the morning, the next day, Frank would be released from the basement.  But there was one specific time that Frank remembered, a time when he was locked in the basement for days, when it seemed like his father abandoned him.  The second day, Frank ran out of food.  The third, the lights went out.  That third night, the rats nibbled at him while he slept, and he crushed them with his bare hands when they got too close.  On the fifth day, he was released.  But Frank wonders what would have happened if he wasn’t let out of the basement, if he starved to death, if he wasted away.

True Detective 2x02-2

Source: HBO

This monologue was positioned at the very beginning of the episode, and it took up seven or eight minutes of the runtime of “Night Finds You”.  It seems inconsequential, a random musing of one of the four characters, but it makes sense within the context of the episode.  We’re all locked up in our respective basements, and we rarely hold the key to our survival.  For the most part, we just have to hope that we have the courage and the stamina to hold it together until somebody opens the door and lets us into the light.  But there’s a little more to it.  There’s a part of not having control that is comforting.  Without control, we don’t have any part in our own demise.  We do have some control.  We just need to find it.

True Detective 2x02-4

Source: HBO

But here, in “Night Finds You”, we primarily see the main four characters edging up against an impenetrable wall, a massive conspiracy filled with men far more powerful than themselves.  Even Frank, who has an arsenal of hired muscle, has no power against politicians and higher-ups in corporations.  It’s revealed that Casper has Frank’s five million, the money that he had invested in the land deal, and that the money has disappeared along with Casper.  But more than that, Frank is completely out of money, his house and the poker room double mortgaged, all of his assets liquidated.  Tracking down Casper, for Frank, is about saving his own life.  There is no failure from this, just as there was no failure when he was in the basement as a child.  He has to be strong enough to escape.

True Detective 2x02-5

Source: HBO

As for the rest of the characters, none of them have been able to escape the traps they’ve fallen into throughout their lives.  Ray is sinking deeper into depression, as his ex-wife petitions for sole custody after the beating that he gave the bully’s dad.  He doesn’t realize how his violence is simply an extension of his anger, a way for him to lash back at society under the guise of protecting his family.  He has already isolated his family, pushing them away because he doesn’t feel he deserves them, he’s afraid for their safety around him, and he wants them to live better lives away from him.  But that doesn’t mean that he’s happy when he realizes that his son is the only real thing in his life.  And once that’s taken away from him, the only thing he has to look forward to is death.

True Detective 2x02-3

Source: HBO

Speaking of death, the ending of the episode, where Ray investigates Caspar’s Hollywood home and is shot twice by the man in the bird mask, was the first real “WTF” moment in the series.  It’s a pretty definitive scene; the bird-mask man walks up close to deliver the coup-de-grace with a shotgun blast to the chest, and the episode cuts there.  My hopes are that Ray somehow survives the ordeal, if only because Ray is the most interesting character on the show right now, and to take him away would be to create a massive vacuum in his absence.  Neither Frank, Ani, and definitely not Paul are able to exist on their own in the series, and even if that were to change, the four of them work well enough together right now that disturbing the peace is a terrible idea.  However, if Ray really is dead, it’s a ballsy move on Nic’s part, as removing a main character only two episodes in is nearly unheard of.

True Detective 2x02-6

Source: HBO

Anyway, Ani is also trapped in her life, so hell-bent on being tough and different that she obsesses over the case, grilling all of her suspects and insisting on taking the straight and narrow path to its conclusion.  She carries tons of knives with her so that she feels as if she is in control at all times, even when she isn’t.  What’s most interesting about Ani is how she tries so hard to subvert the expectations of her father, who wants her to live the carefree life he does.  Her obsession with detective work and order, even though it is a subversion of the chaos her father lives in, is still a conformity to nonconformity.  Aside from that, her character isn’t really elaborated on, but her scene with Ray in the car was one of the highlights of the episode, reminding us how Ani is a force to be reckoned with.

True Detective 2x02-1

Source: HBO

“Night Finds You” also elaborates on the way that Paul is trapped within his life, as his relationships with women prove to be a cover for what appears to be repressed homosexuality.  He has to take pills in order to have an erection for his girlfriend, he talks about how much he wanted to beat up the gay man he ran into, and he looks down at the gay couple in the angel wings with a level of desire that we haven’t seen from him yet.  He wants so badly to forget large portions of his life, from his work to his homosexual desire, that he lives a life so controlled and false that he wants to kill himself.  We also get a glimpse into his home life, as his mother sexualizes him in a bizarre, borderline-abusive way, further convoluting his relationship with sex.  Not much more is said about Paul, but the clarity on his sexual preference deepens his character in a more interesting fashion, all while showing us how horribly trapped he is within his life.

Season 2 of True Detective isn’t improving as fast as I was hoping it would.  There are still some ridiculous lines; “Some people can’t handle the deep trip.  I fear he is a destroyer” is one of the worst of the season yet.  The club owner with the grill is goofy to the point of needing an eye roll.  But the story, at its heart, is interesting, and the characters are worth paying attention to.  I find myself caring what happens to Frank, to Ani, to Paul, and to Ray, to the point where I found myself yelling at the screen after Ray took another shotgun blast to the chest.  True Detective isn’t offering us a perfect story, but it’s certainly picking up, and it’s promising to get even better.

So what did you think of “Night Finds You”?  Do you think Ray is going to survive to the third episode?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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