True Detective 2×04 ‘Down Will Come’: “I don’t know how to live in the world”

True Detective 2x04-1

It’s interesting how the response for True Detective is always split into two camps: love it or hate it.  It’s also interesting how we constantly draw comparisons to the first season, how dialogue is being spoken a certain way, the show is being filmed in a certain way.  Even the final scene of “Down Will Come” was inevitably going to draw comparisons to the famous tracking show at the end of the first season’s “Who Goes There”.  We see the tracking shot of the first season as a marvel, but the shootout here is too crazy, shot poorly, incoherent, etc.  And while people are entitled to their opinion, it’s clear that they feel they’re entitled to a whole lot more.

True Detective 2x07-3

Source: HBO

Think of the way that we process media today.  A band puts out an album with a certain sound, and if they change that sound, they’re open to a barrage of complaint and vitriol, some warranted and some not.  They’re told that they’re selling out or that they’re not as good as they used to be.  Rarely do we look at art in a purely objective fashion; there’s always a point of comparison that we draw in order to quantify how good or bad something is.  We look at Halt and Catch Fire and ask, “Is this as good as Mad Men?”.  We look at The Walking Dead and ask, “Is this as good as Game of Thrones?”.  And then we look at Game of Thrones and ask, “Is this as good as The Wire?.  They’re all valid questions when discussing the quality of art, but it becomes an issue once emotions play a role, once we feel entitled to a certain quality of art or what we perceive as a certain quality of art.

True Detective 2x04-2

Source: HBO

This also becomes an issue of status quo.  The reason that True Detective is such a difficult show is because we’re used to television operating in a certain fashion.  Every episode has to have a “moment”; those “moments” have to be Youtube-worthy, where we can post them to Facebook and watch them again and again in order to feel the adrenaline rush that we live for.  That’s why popular television like Grey’s Anatomy is packed to the brim with so much drama.  Even in Season 11, when a certain character dies, one who has been there since Season 1, there are news stories all over the internet bringing attention to it.  Television and ratings are such a big deal, not only because it brings more money in, but because shows live and die by ratings.  There’s a reason that Hannibal isn’t coming back to NBC, but Chicago Fire is.  It’s not about quality; it’s about ratings.

True Detective 2x04-4

Source: HBO

So the reason I talk about this is that the second season of True Detective has a lot going against it.  It’s written in an anthology format, which means that everything that people loved in the first season is gone.  It’s written in a novelistic format, which means that what we see on the screen might not make sense until much later.  The instant gratification that people love when watching television, that people feel they’re entitled to, isn’t necessarily here.  And that really pisses people off.  This isn’t to say that Season 2 of True Detective is great.  It really isn’t as good as the first season, from some of the clunky dialogue to the way that the characters can be simplistic or poorly drawn.  But it is nowhere near bad television.  The story of Season 2 is compelling, and the characters (while being imperfect) are concise and interesting enough to be noteworthy.  And people are too wrapped up in their own entitlement, as well as what they believe television should be, to see True Detective through a more objective lens.

True Detective 2x04 Cover

Source: HBO

This being said, the final ten minutes of “Down Will Come” were fantastic.  The action sequence here, where the police come into a shootout outgunned and against enemies who want to escalate the situation as quickly as possible, was heart-pounding and absolutely rivaled what we saw in Season 1.  Despite seeming chaotic for the sake of chaos, it was apparent that when the major told everybody to “be safe out there”, when Ani was asked if the manpower she was bringing was warranted, it was clear that the raid was not meant to succeed.  The main characters were close to something real, something that connected the mayor explicitly to crime and corruption, and Ledo Amarillo was supposed to get out of dodge as fast as possible.  And when you look at the final sequence that way, when you see the detectives witness to nightmare that the Vinci elite are able to unleash, the chaos all starts to make sense and the weight of the situation starts to feel remarkably heavy.

True Detective 2x04-5

Source: HBO

In all honesty, the mystery elements of the story are where Season 2 of True Detective really shines.  Nothing is crystal clear, but nothing is so hazy that it doesn’t make sense.  We can tell that Caspere (which is how you actually spell his game, can’t believe it took me this long to get it right…) is involved in something huge, with connections to pimps and tainted land and corrupt Vinci elite, but nothing is certain yet, and that makes it easy to come back to the show for more details next week.   And with the slaughter in the alleyways, it’s apparent that next week has to bring with it huge changes.  How will the case change now that police are dead?  That’s the most interesting question of the week.

True Detective 2x04-6

Source: HBO

The biggest issue here is that the main four characters are interesting, but their issues sometimes veer too heavily into soapy territory.  Frank’s storyline does a great job showing how he’s slowly attempting to gain back control by extorting some local businesses, and it also does a great job showing us the vicious man he has to become to do so.  However, the plot that has Frank arguing with his wife about having children isn’t working at all.  It’s not that it doesn’t have the potential to work.  True Detective knows that discussing masculinity through the lens of impotence is a sound idea.  But, in terms of plot, there’s not a whole lot that is happening.  They have been arguing the entire season about having a child, but there hasn’t been any real plot development on that front.  And so it begins to get repetitive.  Ray is still where he’s at after the last episode revitalized him, but that doesn’t seem to be harming his plot so far, if only because the drastic change in his character just occurred last episode.  In fact, it works to an advantage; we’re able to witness Ray’s integration into the main plot in a way that reflects his character.  And it works a lot better than it did before.

True Detective 2x04-7

Source: HBO

Paul’s story still has so much potential, but much of it is wasted this episode because of how intently it veers into soapy territory.  Paul sleeping with a man is enough drama to mine for the rest of the episode, but when his bike is stolen and reporters chase him down the street, I found myself wondering if it was a dream sequence.  It was too much too quickly, and it made it very difficult to take his plight as seriously as it should be.  What redeemed it even a little bit was when Paul’s old girlfriend turns up pregnant and he suggests they get married and have a family together.  It’s a great twist for his character because it takes his conflict and veers straight into a bandage, the pregnancy being a way to normally integrate into society.  Paul doesn’t know how to live in the world, but at least being a father is something that he’s “supposed to do”, even if, someday, he’ll hate himself too much to probably do even that.

True Detective 2x04-8

Source: HBO

Ani also gets a little more screentime this episode, and it works to her benefit, as her content never comes across as so soapy that it’s ridiculous.  She wants to save everybody, especially her sister, but she doesn’t know how to take charge of her own life, instead relying on rules and structures to hold her up.  It’s a common theme weaved through all characters here, the notion that rules and structure are a comfortable way to support yourself, even though they cause you to self-destruct because you’re compromising who you really are.  And Ani, when she’s suspended for sleeping with a subordinate, begins to witness that self-destruction in a way that makes her question the decisions in her life.

But the shootout still trumps all of this.  The violence in that final scene is a reminder of how deep the Caspere murder goes, how the Vinci elite will do anything to keep from being discovered as the corrupt criminals they are.  And so the question remains: How will the three detectives solve the case when there isn’t going to be any tight closure to the matter?  No matter what, the structure will stand and the rules will be in place.  But, in the end, when they look back at their lives and see all of this behind them, will they be able to shed that system, if only for a little bit, in order to find something new?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

So what did you think of “Down Will Come”?  Were you a fan of the shootout?  How do you think the mayor is involved in Caspere’s death?  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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