Colin Farrell

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.

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Four episodes down. Four to go. That’s one more than the amount of people still standing at the end of that brutal shootout Sunday night, which from here on out will be referred to as the mid-season massacre. You will recall another sequence of gunfire and explosions at the halfway point last season. That one, of Rust Cohle infiltrating a housing project and escaping with a man he had taken prisoner during the subsequent riot, was depicted in an awe-inspiring, six-minute tracking shot. Though the scene was technically amazing and immaculately composed, it still felt wild and dangerous. It was cinema. It had style.

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Previously on “True Detective,” not only was corrupt Vinci city detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) left for dead, supine after taking two shotgun blasts to the torso, but so were the acting chops of Vince Vaughn, who, also on his back, delivered a mawkish opening monologue from which the rest of episode two barely recovered. So it is my pleasure to report — and in keeping with this season’s focus on fathers, sons, legacies, gifts from one generation to the next, all the odds and ends of immortality — both Velcoro and Vaughn are risen, given new life in the third episode, which so far is this season’s most tightly plotted entry, and its most aesthetically evocative. Go out and share the good news.

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The best thing about the second season of “True Detective,” two episodes in, is Colin Farrell. It helps that his character, the bent detective Ray Velcoro, has so far received the most screen time out of the ensemble cast, but Farrell is responsible for the logical nakedness that completes the role. When you’re a dirty cop with nothing to lose, working for a police department whose systemic corruption is widely known and the subject of a state investigation, why waste energy pretending you’re not totally exposed?

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If its first episode is any indication, the second season of  “True Detective” is about dealing with ghosts, but not the literal kind Bill Murray might list on his résumé. These are not the peevish phantoms of “Ghostbusters,” or the wispy sheets inclined to turn up at a seance. These are far, far worse — sins from the past that won’t stay there — because this is “True Detective,” a show so convincingly grim that last year, inspired by a character from the first season, I often described my life to new friends as “a cycle of violence and degradation,” hoping to find a kindred spirit similar to the one I found on HBO.

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