“Other Lives” begins 66 days after last week’s explosive episode. Nobody was happy before, and now they’re all worse off than ever. But a surprise move from a politically-motivated higher-up brings the team back together, as the sinister swirl around Caspere’s murder yields ever-more layers of questions.
Immediately, we learn that in the wake of the “Vinci Massacre,” the state Attorney General has declared both “corrupt individual” Caspere’s murder case closed, and his candidacy for California governor. How convenient.
Frank silently ponders this development in his new suburban abode; he still has a Range Rover, a fancy wardrobe, and his wife, but no longer is he living king-of-the-castle style. And he has a new possession of sorts: Ray Velcoro, who’s shaved his ’stache, quit the force, and is working security at the Vinci Gardens casino (“security” = off-the-books dirty work, not something he’s fond of, but somehow preferable to being puppet-stringed in the police force). His former boss, Lt. Burris, stops by his home to let him know the intel he dug up on Ray’s former partner, Dixon, who was killed in the shootout. (Hat-tip to all the comments that noted that it was Dixon snapping clandestine photos of Paul a few weeks back.) Burris also tells Ray he’s being evicted from his long-term rental home, which is reserved for “municipal employees only.” It’s a low blow, but there’s nothing a cowed Ray can do about it.
Another, even lower blow, comes at a custody hearing over his son, when his ex-wife lets him she’s demanding a paternity test on top of everything else. Fighting this legal battle is going to get expensive, so he asks Frank for more work. Frank’s underworld return isn’t going so well; not only is he getting intimidating visitors at his club, Vinci Mayor Chessani is dipping his hand deeper into the poker room’s till. And he’s not at all convinced that Mexican gangsters, all dead in the shootout, are who killed Caspere, whose death allowed his carefully-constructed empire to crumble. He tasks Ray with following a muckety-muck who may have had a hand in Caspere’s death, and Ray sees Frank’s underling and Caspere’s creepy shrink transporting girls around.
Meanwhile, a fuming Paul (who now works insurance fraud) is forced to sit across the actress who accused him of harassing her. Then, Paul’s boozy mom calls him a “dumb bastard” for knocking up his girlfriend, but he lets that slide, saving his white-hot anger for when he discovered she’s pilfered the $20,000 he brought back from Afghanistan (hmmm...) A terrible fight ensues, in which Mom reveals she knows Paul’s darkest secret. His wife-to-be has no idea about the money, what happened in Afghanistan, or the fact that he’s gay, and the baby preparations continue apace.
Across town, Jordan’s none too pleased with the “backsliding” into illegality. When she met Frank, he was on his way to going fully legit, and she doesn’t want to be a gangster’s wife. She also tells Frank she’s been back to the doctor, alone, and has discovered she’s not able to have kids. She’s standing by Frank, but she’s no pushover, and she offers him some choice words about the unsavory guy he’s starting to become, and the personality that’s come with it.
Ani Bezzerides is getting through her required sexual-harassment seminar by trolling hardcore. She’s now back in uniform, demoted to evidence-room duties, when she gets a call from the woman with the missing sister, from episode one. New clues: photos of important government men at parties with women who appear to be escorts, and close-up snaps of the blue diamonds that were in Caspere’s safe-deposit box. She meets with Ray at the Black Rose (no more vaping ... she’s back on the cancer sticks) to show him what she’s discovered, and the conversation wanders to all the things Ani’s noticed that “nobody cares” about: the missing girl, the poisoned interior of the state that’s suddenly worth millions, the shootout that was brushed under the rug.
Ray’s OK with keeping his head down, but Ani’s not so sure, and neither is Paul. The trio meets in the light of day with Ani’s onetime State’s Attorney supervisor, Katherine Davis (the woman who believed Ray was dirty, and is now eyeing the Attorney General seat herself). She’s convinced the bow-tied Caspere case has something to do with a much bigger problem of corruption in the state’s power structure. And she’s getting the band back together, forming a special investigation unit tasked with finding Caspere’s real killer and exposing whatever evils are going on behind the scenes. (That hard drive missing from Caspere’s second home? Frank’s after it too, when big-shot developer McCandless offers him a chance back into the rail corridor if he finds it.)
Ray’s not into joining the team until Davis says she can help with his custody battle. But his enthusiasm is replaced by a much darker emotion when she casually mentions oh yeah, his ex-wife’s rapist (who everybody thought Ray killed all those years back) is actually alive and was just captured. Is that why his ex hates him anew? Yes: “That ruined everything, Ray ... This fake story where we made a family has to end.” And Ray slowly realizes that Frank set him up all those years ago, sent him after the wrong guy on purpose. Oh boy.
He gets a chance to take out some of his anger on Caspere’s shifty psychiatrist, who knows about the escort ring and also dabbles in plastic surgery, as it happens. And he’s quick to tell Ray (once those fists start flying toward his facelift) about Chessani’s son, Tony, who partnered with Caspere on the escort parties, which were partially designed to scrape up blackmail material on the big shots who attended, including McCandless.
This is useful information, and there’s more coming, as Ani and Paul head up to Guerneville, where Ani grew up (concidentally?). It’s also the last-known location of the missing woman. As they’re poking around a shack that looks like a torture chamber (“That’s arterial spray,” Ani notes of a blood stain on the wall), Ray takes the time to pay Frank a visit about a certain bit of unfinished business. “You and me need to talk,” he says. And a staredown ensues.
But before we see what happens ... and before we find out who or what was killed in Guerneville ... the episode ends. Will Ray apply his tiger style to Frank, or will these two settle their differences in a civil manner? What will Ani and Paul find on their trip up North? Who’ll find that hard drive first? We’re left with an intriguing, newly propelling sense of momentum that True Detective seemed to lack in prior episodes. Here’s hoping it’s not too late for fans of season one that’ve already written off season two.