Detractors of this season of “True Detective,” those who’ve claimed it’s too slow, too self-serious, too obsessed with its own uninteresting characters — their bad dialogue, their daddy issues — should find much to love in episode seven, a tightly-plotted, murderous and downright cinematic entry in an otherwise stagnant show.
My Florida vacation coincided nicely with the release of “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” the fifth entry in the franchise. Both promised to be escapist retreats from the humdrum responsibilities of real life. It is no coincidence, however, that I wrote some of this review at 34,000 feet above sea level, aboard a jetliner elegantly, and just as often turbulently, defying the laws of physics. I wanted to feel what it was like to be Tom Cruise, who, as an action star, has a similar relationship with the natural world. In his latest outing as super spy Ethan Hunt, he clings effortlessly to the exterior of a cargo plane during takeoff, and for a considerable amount of time after it, all before the opening credits. His team members, especially the tech wiz Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), who several years ago in Dubai watched Hunt climb the world’s tallest skyscraper, strain to believe it. Even I, a kindred daredevil, was impressed.
Questions submitted by my devoted Twitter fanbase:
Who was Stan, again? What did he do? Where did he grow up? Was he on LinkedIn? Facebook? What was his favorite TV show? How did he feel about the second season of “True Detective”? What did Stan even look like? Was he this guy? Or this guy? Why the past tense? Why do you think? Who killed him? Frank’s upset about his death, but why should I care?
As always, readers, thank you for your questions. Though I watch each episode of “True Detective” twice, write about it to fill my time as well as a certain amount of column space, and spend more hours each week thinking about the show than is socially responsible, I can only answer the last question with any degree of certainty: You shouldn’t care — not about the man himself, at least, who turned up murdered in episode three while working as one of Frank’s loyal goons. What you should care about, though, is what he left behind: a wife and a son. Frank and Jordan visit them in the sixth episode to deliver Stan’s cash earnings in a thick envelope.
If you thought the body count last week was a cruel way to raise the stakes, consider the more recent casualty: Ray’s mustache. Man, that thing was impressive. I’m glad we were spared the sight of its demise. Cut offscreen — somewhere during the 66 days that have passed since the mid-season massacre, dubbed here in episode five as the Vinci massacre (real creative guys) — Ray’s facial companion, in true “True Detective” fashion, likely met its end quite painfully. Though I doubt it took a bullet to the head like Ray’s former partner, Teague Dixon, about whom we’re learning much more, even in death, similar to Ben Caspere and his uncovered secrets. It looks like the former Vinci city manager had footage of high-up affluent men, and possibly a state senator, doing bad things: “Hooker parties,” Ray intones in his best Batman voice. What started out as a negotiating tactic (blackmail) probably got Caspere killed. I wonder what Ray’s mustache will tell us from beyond the grave.
“Ant-Man,” the latest comic book superhero recruited for the big screen by Marvel Studios, is also, you guessed it, the smallest. Instead of blowing up a city — this genre’s climactic hallmark and its most tiresome trope — “Ant-Man” opts for a little girl’s bedroom. As opposed to several costumed crusaders of varying abilities and charisma, this movie provides just a few. We’re also spared another incoherent, global conflict, such as the one depicted in Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Here, the trouble is domestic.