In “Night Finds You,” we learn more about the “city” of Vinci, which went industrial in the 1920s and pushed out residents in favor of polluted industrial zones. It’s not a place where people tend to live, but a place where people hide all their shady doings. Everyone is aware of this, and everyone knows that a little digging can undercover things — and money — that should remain hidden. “One question,” Ray asks of the central crime, “Am I supposed to solve this or not?”
But before the actual police work, it’s Frank’s time for a strange, rambling monologue that aims to give us insight into why he is the way he is. His father was a mean drunk who would lock him in the basement while on a bender. Frank zeroes in on one specific instance when his father kept him there for multiple days, with Frank hungry and in a dark room; he woke up to a rat chewing on him so he smashed it dead. It’s dark and fucked up but it’s also a little ridiculous. Then again: That’s basically the entire series in a nutshell. Yet it still comes off a little distant from the show, perhaps because Vaughn, despite being a solid actor, hasn’t quite grasped the delivery of Nic Pizzolatto’s winding nonsense (though Vaughn is better when it comes to the later crime boss stuff: “What the fuck kinda modus operandi is that?” is my favorite line from the episode).
As for the main crime that this season is focusing on: there is some early discussion about the jurisdiction of Caspare’s murder — Vinci/Ray was handling the kidnapping investigation but it’s Ventura/Paul who found the body — resulting in Ani as the primary commander who is paired up with Ray. (Paul is also working the case but without much interest: “When this is over, can I just go back to being on the bike?”) Ray gets some vague updates on what Caspare meant to Frank’s dealings (he “was important to a thing I have going down”) that don’t sell him one way or the other.
Always in True Detective, the crime is not as compelling as the character work, whether it be actually successful character development or just unintentionally funny because of straining dialogue and decidedly unsubtle “hints” (who can possibly guess what secret Paul is hiding as he overcompensates with erectile dysfunction pills and angsty blowjobs and longing looks). Ray goes to meet up with his ex-wife, who straight-up tells him “You’re a bad person. And you’re bad for my son” and “You used to have something, a decency — you were good at being decent until something happened” which are lines that are so boringly laid out, so clumsily explicit and vague at once, that they land with a clunk and it’s hard to take any of its seriousness serious.
Still, there’s an intense argument, with Ray claiming he had a “right by any natural law” to murder the man who — supposedly — raped and beat Alicia and Alicia countering that she’s getting an emergency order for supervised visits and that she’s petitioning for sole custody (she also, coldly, brings up the threat of a paternity suit). This all prompts to Ray to practically growl, “You won’t get away with it. I will burn this entire fucking city to the ground first.” Now, I’m not an expert on child custody cases but I have to say, that doesn’t seem like a smart way to go about convincing your ex-wife that you’re calm and stable enough to take care of your child.
Meanwhile, we get little tidbits about each of our main detectives, such as when Paul goes to visit his overbearing and kinda creepy mother with a bucket of fried chicken. She fawns over him, calls him a scamp, and is generally uncomfortable (it’s my least favorite scene of the series so far and has some worrying implications). He gets into a fight with his girlfriend (“You’re not right,” she says, almost echoing Alicia’s frustrations with Ray) and bails on her.
Then there is Ani, who explains her obsessive knife-carrying: “if a man of any size lays hands on me, they will bleed out in under a minute.” In fact, the entire partner conversation as Ani and Ray are driving around is pretty great — even though Ray does explain that he supports feminism “mostly by having body image issues” — and Ani is self-aware of what she perceives are her limitations of being a woman police officer, but also knows how to combat them in order to do her job. Ani is also smart and a step ahead; she knows Ray has to be corrupt and asks “How compromised are you?”
Maybe she’ll eventually get an answer or maybe not. Because the final scene, an extremely bold scene, features a person in a creepy bird mask marching up to Ray and shooting him directly in the chest, leaving our (anti-)hero bleeding out on the floor, and the audience unaware of his fate. Love this season or not, it’s certainly a strong move for only the second episode.