One of the biggest signifiers that there is something off about this season of True Detective is that perhaps the most anticipatory moment of Season 2 does not directly involve solving the case but instead is an orgy scene.
The scene, which was much speculated about when it was announced prior to the season premiering, comes up at the tail end of the episode. What comes first is a whole mix of things ranging in quality, which is maybe the best way to describe this entire season. It was certainly not the worst of the six episodes so far but it still had me itching for this season to be over. It does get a little more straight-forward with its narrative (certainly something I can appreciate; there has been a lot of going in circles and faux-complex dialogue in other episodes that can frustrate more than entertain) and it does rein itself in — aside from a certain Ray scene — and overall works to propel the overall arc.
Continuing from last week, when we learned that the man Ray killed wasn’t actually his wife’s rapist (which yeah, we all definitely saw coming), Ray is sent into multiple downward spirals. He and Frank settle their differences over coffee — each man with one hand under the table, grasping a gun and readying to shoot it at a moment’s notice — in a scene that feels both too long and not long enough to really come to its set conclusion (sort of a truce, with Ray agreeing to get a hard drive Frank desperately needs). Ray also tells his wife the news, and goes to visit (and threaten) the actual rapist in jail. Neither scene holds much weight; while Ray’s hurt and anger is clear, it’s hard to forget that he also had vaguely similar threats when his son was getting bullied, which kinda takes the gravitas away here.
Then we get Ray’s supervised visitation with his son. It’s a tense scene of Ray trying to both appeal to his son’s interests (he is no longer into model airplanes because, he says, they kill people but would instead rather watch a rerun of Friends because I suppose that’s what elementary school boys are into now) while also trying to look like a certified Good Dad in front of the caseworker. I will say that True Detective does still have occasional moments of lowkey brilliance, such as the sound of a pencil — not a pen, which would be quieter — furiously scratching on a pad (and Ray visibly trying to not let it bother him) as Ray talks with his son.
The visit is a bust: Ray sends Chad home early and then goes back to his own place to give in to all of vices. Liquor, beer, coke, cigarettes, and loud music that ultimately results in him trashing the place — the broken model airplane is on the nose, but I’ll take it — in an almost boringly over-the-top cliche sequence of a man falling back into drugs (last week, we learned he’d been clean for at least 60 days, since the big shootout, presumably because he correctly assumed he’d have a tox screening during the child custody suit). It does, however, lead to a scene in which Ray calls his wife to make a deal: he’ll never contest custody, or even see his son ever again, if she promises to never tell Chad about the paternity suit, or who his real father is.
Anyway, after some more investigating (Paul being a solid detective!) and mob torture (Frank and his henchmen with a nail gun), the episode glides into the final, climatic sequence in which Ani goes undercover at La Case Del Orgy (thrown by Chessani’s son) to try and find her missing person. Ani’s forced to surrender her purse and phone and is patted down (she can’t even carry in her trusty knives) and has “pure molly” sprayed into her mouth to keep her mood up when “entertaining” the men. The orgy scene itself is surprisingly tame for all the talk surrounding it, and mostly scene in a molly-tinged blurry haze, with the focus being more on Ani’s face and reactions than on the nude bodies around her.
But everything quickly goes awry when a man takes an interest in Ani, and she begins to have drug-induced flashbacks that heavily imply trauma from a childhood sexual assault (who didn’t see that coming?) and cause her to panic, hard, and to flee to a bathroom to force herself to throw up. It’s there where she runs into her drugged up missing woman Vera and tries to pull her outside to safety, but not before she stabs (and possibly kills) two men with a carving knife she stealthily grabbed earlier. The two women flee to safety (hopefully) with the help of Ray and Paul, who had been tracking Ani. It’s maybe the most solid episode of the season so far.