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.
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.
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.
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.