Our journey into the seedy, sunny underbelly of Southland corruption continues this week with allusive dreams, masculine angst, violence, and 150% more prostitutes than ever before! (Warning: this review contains minor spoilers for the TV show Twin Peaks.)
Having taken precisely 24 hours to digest this episode, I’m left in the odd position of not remembering much of it. The fight at the end. Ray and Ani running onto the offramp and almost getting trucked to death. The weird pseudo-accent that guy in Bel Air was failing to pull off. And the many, many minutes devoted to showing (but not telling!) that Paul Woodrugh is struggling with his sexuality.
And, of course, that opening scene. It was a straight-up David Lynch... something. Rip-off? Homage? I’m not quite sure what to think about it. I felt a bit resentful at first, but then I remembered that surely not all viewers have recently rewatched and reviewed Twin Peaks, so the allusion might seem less obvious to them.
Even though I think it’s hard to ignore, as the staging mimicked shots of The Giant from Twin Peaks…
…but the singer’s dance moves were reminiscent of the Man from Another Place:
The parallels don’t end there. Here’s the “Llorando” scene from Mulholland Drive. I could have found a screencap, but this song is so beautiful I thought I’d do a video instead:
Oh, hell. While we’re at it, here’s “Sycamore Trees” from the Twin Peaks finale, which isn’t visually relevant but may be an aural allusion. Even if it isn’t, you’ll enjoy the song:
With Season One, I resisted the urge to fall down the Yellow King’s rabbit hole, but I’m sort of drawn to some of the complexity suggested by an allusion to the work of David Lynch. Is the “Rose” scene a condensation of nested allusions meant to imply that Vince Vaughn’s speech last week was correct, and all the characters are trapped in a dream? Or, is the process of filmmaking a dream itself? Is Season Two of True Detective like the Bill Pullman sequences of Lost Highway (which would make Season One the Balthazar Getty segments)? Is Nic Pizzolatto really Bill Pullman? Is that why this episode aired the day after the Fourth of July?
Can we play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” with Lynchian planes of existence and a TV show that may be about corruption in the film industry?
To be honest, all of those questions might be my attempt to find something to latch onto here. In fact, I’m pretty certain that’s what it is. I spent way too long scrolling through Twin Peaks episodes looking for shot-by-shot comparisons that matched with Colin Farrell and his dad (Fred Ward), Colin Farrell looking at his chest wound, and Colin Farrell framed in light with the singer behind him, as here (which I swear is a duplicate of Cooper in some episode of Twin Peaks, but I can’t figure out which one).
Like Cooper at the beginning of the second season of Twin Peaks, Ray Velcoro lives to fight crime another day. As the author of Josie’s Law, the tenth amendment to Billie’s Rules of Television, I remain unshocked.
“Unshocked” may describe my reaction to the rest of this episode. Frank is on whatever path it is that leads away from redemption: he’s returning to the violent, racketeering, criminal life that he’d hoped to leave behind. He’s still a drama queen, though.
Ray, his foil, has begun to turn his life around post-shooting. He sipped coffee throughout this episode (I loved his little red mug) and even visited a doctor. Whereas Frank is doing everything he can to rustle up some dough, Ray turned down ten thousand dollars from his ex-wife. He’s determined to keep trying to make his life right, even though it may be too late.
Ani, despite her cold-hearted breakup with her paramour, remains a beacon of sanity. Whereas each of the men seem to be more focused on their personal lives than the case, she remains focused on both solving the crime and managing the bureaucratic pressure to suss out the corruption in Vinci. It’s interesting to consider how much she’s buttering up Velcoro out of sympathy, and how much of it is her ability to act kindly towards someone she doesn’t respect if it can lead to results.
Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh continues to be saddled with some difficult material, as he’s forced to look anxious any time he’s within 500 feet of anything that has to do with sex of any kind. But his conversation in the car with Ani—was that the first smile of the season?—was sort of sweet. The continual harping on her e-cigarette, though, makes me wonder if Pizzolatto is setting us up for a transition to nicotine gum, which may be coming back in style.
And now, for a meta conclusion appropriate to a Lynchian episode: this review, like my two previous reviews of this season, has focused on character. (Okay, this review has a bit of Twin Peaks emphasis, too.) That’s due in part to the structure of the season—each episode follows the characters around as they encounter clues; the clues don’t dictate the narrative order. But it’s also due to the blah quality of the mystery: I don’t yet care about Vinci, and the case seems to be rather tangential to the character’s emotional states. That makes some of the info-dump scenes seem rather irrelevant. Oh, well.
Last season, I really enjoyed meandering the internet to find wacky coverage on True Detective. This week, I finally found enough stuff to make that worth it, so here are some fun links (and another video!).
• Vulture tries to parse the film-set moments for signs that Pizzolatto and last season’s director Cary Fukunaga are on the outs.
• Bilge Ebiri dissects the Lynchian allusions of True Detective in an essay that sadly lacks screenshots.
• Todd Vanderwerff half-seriously posits that the criminal conspiracy in Vinci is connected to the conspiracy that lurked behind the hick killer in Season One.
And, to end it all, here’s the first version of “The Rose” that I ever heard. Warning: it’s a bit different from Bette Midler’s rendition:
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)
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