True Detective: Omega Station

“It’s like a fairy tale.”

A few different people in this season finale talked about fairy tales and the stories we tell ourselves: Ani, discussing the sexual abuse of her childhood. Frank and Jordan, discussing the “story” of their marriage. And, implicitly, Ray, struggling with the story he’s been telling himself about his son. And then there’s the story-to-come, at the end of the episode, when all just might be revealed in a newspaper.

But there’s also the metanarrative. The story we’ve been telling ourselves about True Detective. I was, and still am, astonished by the first season. I have been, and still am, annoyed by the second. If this were not True Detective, I would have stopped watching many episodes ago. But that might mean I don’t really know what True Detective is.

Was Season One a fluke? Was the brilliance due to Cary Fukunaga’s direction more than Pizzolatto’s vision? Would there have been a way to make Season Two hang together in terms of character, mystery, and message? I don’t know the answers to those questions. I dreaded spending 90 minutes watching this season finale, and I wound up taking a shower, just for the heck of it, halfway through the episode. I didn’t hate it, but I was bored.

So, as payback, I’m going to do a fairy lazy review.

These are some things that happened and how I feel about them:

• People spent a lot of time sitting around, looking mopey, and talking occasionally. There was some religious imagery—hands held as though in prayer, the veneration of Mary at the end—and some talk of “confessions.”

• Frank died protecting his suit (which also meant protecting his diamonds). That suit might be, as Billie would say, this week’s Most Obvious Symbolism.

• I am choosing not to discuss the group of young black men teasing Frank about his height.

• Ray died. He knew his son honored his memory—in fact, the badge-in-glass might be a runner-up for M.O.S. status—but never knew his son was his son.

• I am choosing not to discuss how banal I found the whole “is my son my biological son?” question. Just be a dad, for goodness sake.

• Most of the conspirators died, including Pitlor. Perhaps he will meet with Jesse’s Girl in heaven.

• Ani lived. And she’s got a Raybaby. And she’s hanging out with Jordan in Venezuela. And she revealed the overall plot to a newspaper man, which they probably should have done, and could have done, much earlier. I liked Ani and Jordan together. In fact, that is a show I think I would really enjoy watching.

I quibbled last week about the clockworkiness of the mystery. I think I’ve hit on a better metaphor: the conspiracy is like a snow globe. Ani and Ray were stranded because they chose not to even try going to the FBI, the LAPD, or the LA Times. There was a one-off line about that two episodes ago that is, I guess, supposed to convince us that none of those are options. But I’m not buying it, because the more we learned about the mystery, the more it seemed isolated to a very small group of men who, for some reason, transacted business deals in cash even though they clearly have the wherewithal to hire accountants to hide money. Or use Bitcoin, or something. There were only about 20 people involved in all this nonsense.

And involved they were: Laura and Leonard, the children whose parents were killed during the jewelry-store robbery during the 1992 riots, were the spark that lit the powder keg. They killed Caspere. They took the hard drive. And, in the ultimate irony, they were the ones who accidentally erased the hard drive, too, so that everyone was searching for something that no longer existed. It’s like a McGuffin crossed with a Maltese Falcon. (The McFalcon, coming soon to a McDonald's near you! Tastier than a McRib with 20% fewer calories!}

I’m confused about some of the logic, too. Why did Frank and Jordan meet in the old-fashioned train station if nobody was taking a train anywhere? Why did Ray drive all the way out to the woods? Why did the conspirators let everything get so wildly out of hand? Where did Ray get that cowboy hat?

Don’t get me wrong; there were some cool parts. The Anaheim train station looks awesome. The shot of the guns on the handwoven blanket. The different settings for each character—desert, forest, water—evoked the “there isn’t any there there” quality of Southern California perfectly. (Yes, I know that wasn’t said about LA.) Vince Vaughn even did a pretty decent job with some of his lines.

Am I damning with faint praise? I hope not. I don’t want to damn. I just wish this season had been better.

And that is all I have to say about it.

What about you? What did you think?

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?)

9 comments:

mazephoenix said...

The brilliance of the first season was all Fukunaga, and words stolen from a better writer. There I said it. Pizzolatto stole Rust's philosophy from reclusive horror author Thomas Ligotti. Link..
http://lovecraftzine.com/2014/08/04/did-the-writer-of-true-detective-plagiarize-thomas-ligotti-and-others/
Well, I believe them. The lack of coherence this season was due to too many directors and bad acting from Vaughn above all.
The cop in the closet storyline was done better on "The Shield" fifteen years ago. Or "Homicide" twenty years ago. Pizzollato does cliches without knowing they are cliches. Ani has Ray's baby..oh please. This won't win him any feminist cred. I wish he'd stop trying so hard. He obviously does better with men. Yeesh, I'm bitter. Sorry. Won't be back if there's a third season. The cators did their best at least. Even poor Vaughn.

mazephoenix said...

Sorry..meant actors.

Josie Kafka said...

I sort of wish you'd meant "caterers" instead. :-)

Billie Doux said...

A McFalcon. :) That made my day.

mazephoenix said...

LOL..I'm sure the caterers did their jobs well. Thank you for the review which said all that needed to be said about this show.

Kayne said...

The beginning of the train station scene with the song and cowboyed Velcoro was pretty cool and that's probably the only thing I'll remember of this season.

I watched it twice 4 eps in 2 days so I didn't (visually) really forget any character, but I understand the complaints. If you watch it over 8 weeks, you'd for sure forget who half of the bad guys are since they appear once every 3-4 episodes...

Docnaz said...

Maze, I agree. Vaughn was terrible. This was not close to season one. I loved Ani and Ray together. But the writing was still silly. And could they have made Ray's kid any more unappealing? He had no affect, no personality. I could not relate to Ray saying people should be more like his son. Did he mean the way the kid just sat staring into space and looking confused?

Heather said...

Josie,
You really took a bullet by reviewing TD this season and still kept your wit and charm. Bless. I quasi-liked the finale. Some of it was ludicrous but some was genuinely enjoyable (clever, touching, well done etc). That's pretty much what I felt for the season as a whole though. I will watch next season's TD because I still got a lot out of the experience. Thanks again for reviewing it this summer, your writing is so much fun to read alongside the show.

Logan Cox said...

Finally watched and finished season 2. I guess I get the criticism, but I didn't think the first season was as magnificent as everyone else. So I never could loathe this one like most viewers, because it's just all the same problems.

To put it simply, it felt like the first season but in reverse. Everything about it is opposite from the first. In season 1, the first four episodes were my favorite and it started getting weaker in the last four; complete opposite in season 2, it started out rather weak, meandering, but picked way the hell up after that huge shootout in episode four.