True Detective S02E02 Recap: 'Night Finds You'

There's a beauty to the finality of True Detective that writer and creator Nic Pizzolatto seems to love exploiting. Be it with his movie star-caliber casting choices, or throwing the book of traditional television storytelling, True Detective was special because it was different in certain ways, because it felt grand and unique. People had mistaken that for a truly original story, which may or may not have been the case, and that left them disappointed after eight episodes.

Now that season 2 has rolled around, disappointment seems to be at the forefront yet again. It's hard to count the number of things critics are finding wrong with Pizzolatto's second attempt to tell a story about detectives. And to be honest, those critics are right on some counts, wrong on others, as evidenced by last week's season premiere. Because some things Pizzolatto made a real effort to change and better, others he's petulantly sticking to his guns with, taking open shots at those who criticized his work and doubling down on some truly terrible ideas.

But one thing that he's seemingly managed to hold on to and recreate, when it comes to the magic of the first season, is that sense of surprise, of the unexpected, of stakes that are incredibly high because the story will only ever have eight episodes, and he did it in a way none of us probably saw coming.

To get it out of the way, "Night Finds You" ends with Colin Farrell's character Ray dying. And while there might be a glimmer of doubt as to whether or not he survived, his assailant winds up double-tapping him with a shotgun at point-blank range, so it's unlikely. At best, we'll see him in flashbacks, and at worst, that's the end of the Colin Farrell experiment for this show, which could have good and bad consequences. On one hand, he's easily the best actor in this crop, and while Rachel McAdams and Vince Vaughn are certainly holding their own, Farrell was making the most out of some pretty out there material as this season's effective Matthew McConaughey. That being gone is in and of itself a mixed bag, because the whole arc with his ginger kid and anger issues and ties to the mob was sort of played out. And that gives the supposed good people of the story a chance to actually solve a couple of murders.

And that's exactly what this episode is all about. Motivation. After a lot of meandering character development in the premiere, the show uses the murder of this Casper guy that brings them all together to establish where everyone stands. For Paul, it's getting his job back and escaping his personal problems. Ani just wants to be a good cop, maybe also to escape what she thinks makes her inferior. For Frank, it's all about money, as he's in the hole with his dead guy leaving all his finances in flux. And Ray's being dragged down this rabbit hole with him because of a decade's worth of mistakes, indebting himself to a monster and a corrupt county. By the end of the episode, the one of these four who's motivations are most confused winds up eliminated.

Ray spent most of last week's episode looking like a bad guy. Yelling at his son, beating up his bully's dad, being in league with the mob. "Night Finds You" tries to redeem him a bit before he meets his maker, showing how he's reluctant in all of this and how he truly does want to solve this murder despite everything that's stacked against him. He winds up getting evidence from Frank about this house where Casper took a hooker, as Frank hopes Ray can retrieve evidence about his missing financing from the place. So he goes off the books, without backup, and winds up shot dead for his actions.

The episode sets up the fact that this group is somewhat better at being detectives than last season's, so they'll probably find his body pretty quickly, or the show will pull a fast one on us and keep him alive. Either way, the episode establishes that there are indeed stakes to this second season, and if you were wondering where this was all going and if season 2 couple possibly live up to what we saw last year, "Night Finds You" certainly knocks down the door to answer that question.

It also does a really good job of painting the city as a character in the story, something that people were fearing would be missing from the second season. There are plenty of dynamic aerial shots of the setting, showing plenty of cars coming in and out of the area on highways but never stopping. It's mentioned that Vinci is a county of few residents, yet we always see people in the background, going into buildings, getting onto buses, signaling that there's a lot going on in this town that we don't know about. Unfortunately, the city winds up being more of a character than some of the actual people. While Ray's motivations were exhausted for the sake of that twist, and we delved further into Frank seeing as he'll likely take Ray's mantle to a certain extent, it's still hard to get a read on either Paul or Frank. Paul's kind of a caricature of a war vet with psychological issues, and Ani's biggest trait is that she's into knives and weird sex stuff, as she spends a tangible moment in the episode looking up what porn to watch.

But it's all definitely going somewhere. It's hard to deny the twist of killing off Ray as well done, and the story can now move forward without one too many characters crowding things up. I liked a lot of "Night Finds You", so for that, it gets 8.5 e-cigarettes out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • So let's talk about Ray. The skeptic in me assumes they could bring him back to life, as the second show was on his torso and he could be wearing a vest or something, but there was a deliberateness to that scene that told me he's gone for good. Either way I think we'll see him in a few flashbacks, if for nothing more than to make good use of Colin Farrell. Either way, I like it. People seem to have something against killing off a character for the sake of the plot, but it makes a lot of sense. Ray wasn't needed in the story, it was way earlier than anyone would expect and we have no idea who his assailant could even be. Well done, show.
  • So what's more gratuitous? The porn Ani was very clearly watching, or the shot of Casper's severed penis?
  • The episode also brought back something people loved about season 1: the long car drive detective bonding scene! Lots of good lines from that exchange about the meaning of life, although nothing as great as "time is a flat circle", unfortunately.
  • Hey look, Masuka from Dexter is still getting work, everybody!
  • I mean, I get it, but why doesn't smoking a regular cigarette make you feel like you're smoking a tree's dick?: "Maybe it was just too close to sucking a robot's dick."
  • Shot across the boy of season 1 critics alert: "Well you know I support feminism, mostly by having body image issues."
  • "My strong suspicion is that we get the world we deserve."