True Detective Goes Into Full Action Movie Mode ... And Totally Nails It

Illustration for article titled True Detective Goes Into Full Action Movie Mode ... And Totally Nails It

In “Down Will Come,” each member of the detail battles his or her own personal demons as Frank continues his ungraceful lurch back into criminal life. Everyone is angry and frustrated, and the screws are further tightened by the episode’s devastating last act—which brings zero catharsis.


Spoilers follow!

Having bonded, sorta, last week, Ani and Ray are studying the burned-out car used to transport Caspere’s eyeless corpse around the greater Los Angeles area, and are able to rule out the movie-transportation worker they were investigating last week. Ray respects Ani enough, now, to warn her that her unannounced visit to the Mayor Chessani’s mansion will likely come back to bite her. Though she’s unconcerned, Ray points out that the mayor’s more powerful than she may realize, and he’s got “a long history of high-up friends.” The mayor won’t go to jail, ever, and the whole state investigation is nothing but a shakedown, with hands outstretched to get a piece of all the money floating around Vinci’s development deals. Ani brushes it off by saying she’s just there to solve a murder, but he warns her that she’s likely being set up for a big fall. Paul, too.

Frank, meanwhile, takes up his pent-up anger (and terror, as his empire is crumbling around him) on anyone in his path: the gardner tending to the dead trees in his backyard; Jordan, who loves him enough to treat his moodiness with kid glove. But she wants a baby, a desire that’s slid way down Frank’s list, if it was every very high to begin with: “Right now there’s so many things for me to go about the wrong way, I’m losing my fuckin’ vision,” he snarls. And he won’t even entertain her suggestion of adoption, even when she tentatively suggests she may be the reason they can’t have a child, due to an “operation” to end a previous pregnancy. “At least with your kid, it’s your sins,” he declares. She’s amazingly accommodating ... for now.

Paul awakens wearing just his underwear and stumbles down the hall to the living room, where the TV is blaring. He’s not alone. “We put out some fires last night, cabrón,” his similarly skivvies-clad buddy declares, jovially. (Last we saw, Paul was running away from this guy after he’d hinted at their past romance.) Paul immediately comes down with a case of the gotta-goes, and uses Frank’s conversation-ending tatic (“I gotta go to work”) as his own. In a cab, he quietly panics, and sheds a couple of despondent tears. And it gets worse: his motorcycle isn’t where he parked it, and out of nowhere a mob of reporters descends on him, shouting questions about war crimes and Black Mountain, the shadowy military group Paul served with before becoming a cop.

At “work,” Frank—having won back control of the Lux nightclub last week in a tooth-rattling bout—is desperately calling in favors with the underworld. He needs someone to supply him drugs to sell at the club. Unfortunately, the underworld is pretty sure it already paid back those favors, like, years ago. And they’re not too jazzed on working with a guy who tried to go legit, and failed at it. But they grudgingly agree, even as one aging gangster warns Frank about all the sugar he’s putting in his coffee, pointing out that it’s a wonder he still has all his teeth. (It should be noted that this pow-wow is occurring in a bakery, devoid of customers but full of towering cakes.) Frank doesn’t take the insult/criticism well, to nobody’s surprise: “I’ve never lost a tooth ... I’ve never even had a fuckin’ cavity,” he hisses, before leaving.

His next stop on his Blast from the Past tour is to a seedy hotel he used to own, where he intimidates the current proprietor, suggesting a “partnership” that’ll mean a monthly payout into his pocket. The suggestion isn’t well-met. But it’s non-negotiable.


Ray picks up a grimy, dazed Paul, directs him to the glovebox where he keeps his vodka stash, and offers some sympathy about hating the press. Paul’s starting to realize that a career spent taking orders, from the Army, from his police bosses, has made him deeply unhappy. “I don’t even know who the fuck I am,” he confesses. “You’re a survivor,” Ray tells him. “Everything else is just dust in your eyes. Blink it away, man.”

Ani and Ray tail Betty Chessani, the mayor of Vinci’s daughter (we met her last episode, when she closed the door of her room in Ani’s face), to a dispensary, where she puffs weed and tells them what little she knows about Caspere. But she opens up anyway, talking about her mentally ill mother’s suicide in a hospital some years before. Her doctor was Dr. Pitler, the man who treated Caspere, too—and who recognized Ani’s name, and said he knew her father. “My father is a very bad person,” she says, before rushing out. It’s a deeply melancholy moment that carries through to the next scene, where Ani, who also lost her mother at a young age, pays a visit to her sister, Athena.


It’s a calmer meeting than their last face-off outside her sister’s gig as a web-cam girl, though the subject comes up. Athena insists she’s clean and is just making money to save for school. She doesn’t go to those parties where the real hooking happens. Ani’s interest is piqued. Parties? Could be a Caspere lead. But for now Ani apologizes for not being there for her younger sister, who points out, “You couldn’t even be there for yourself.”

Paul has an awkward meeting with his ex-girlfriend, who has no idea his rejection of her has to do with his deeply-in-the-closet status. She’s got a bombshell: she’s pregnant, and she’s keeping it. His reaction? He proposes. “I love you!” Her reaction (“I guess I love you too”) doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence.


Ani pays a visit to her father, Elliot, at his New Age compound. Not only does Elliot know Dr. Pitler and the Chessani family, he also recognizes a photo of Caspere that Ray shows him. And he has some photos of his own: old photos of Pitler and Chessani long before he was Vinci’s mayor. Seems they were all involved in the spiritualist movement back in the day. He comes upon a photo of Ani as a child, taken by her mother, then pauses to appraise Ray. “You have one of the biggest auras I’ve ever seen ... it’s taking up this whole room. You must have had hundreds of lives.” Ray figures he can’t handle another one. The pair drives toward Fresno to investigate land tied to both the mayor and Caspere. It’s marked with big EPA warning sign. “Maybe this is where the bodies are buried,” Ray jokes.

A helpful EPA worker lets them know mine runoff is the source of the contamination. Elsewhere, we learn why it’s so valuable: the high-speed rail puts it in line for development with “fed money,” Frank tells a potential investor who’s wondering why he’d put in for poisoned farmland. This investor is a guy who’s got a past with Jordan (she calls him a “dipshit” after he leaves, but also notes that he never pulled anyone’s teeth out), and it’s iffy if he’ll throw in for the partnership. For her part, Jordan can’t quite believe they’re back in the nightclub business. When Frank’s nasty to her, yet again making his needs out to be more valuable than hers, she snaps. “Here’s an idea: let’s be one of those couples that fights a lot. That’s a fucking great idea.” How long until Frank realizes Jordan is the only thing left in his life that’s worth anything?


Paul and Dixon visit a pawn shop to see who hocked Caspere’s Cartier watch and some other jewelry. While they’re waiting for the tape, we cut back to Ani filling her supervisor on the case so far. He informs her that her ex-boyfriend, an underling cop, has filed a sexual misconduct complaint against her. Her partner, who she slept with once, has also ratted her out. What’s worse, she’s barred from entering the building until Internal Affairs concludes their investigation. (Fortunately, she’s still allowed to work on the case.) He also advises her to do something about her gambling debts. Instantly, she suspects Mayor Chessani has something to do with this sudden roadblock, though of course that’s met with no answer. This meeting means she’s tardy to an important announcement: turns out Paul and Dixon have unearthed a strong suspect in Caspere’s murder, a woman and a man whose prints are all over the dead man’s pawned items.

Ray takes the photo of the man to Frank (natch, they’re back at the red-lit dive bar). Frank, who thinks he might have something to do with his cohort Stan’s ugly death last episode, lets Ray know he’s back to his old, wrong-side-of-the-law self, and also “I’m enjoying this sober-ish you.” He butters him up, offers him a gig with his newly revived enterprise, tells him to put the cop thing to bed. Ray’s not buying it, for now. He visits his son for maybe the last time, in secret, and gives the boy his own father’s badge, encased in a glass cube. “Look at it when you want to remember me,” he says.


Frank sets his dogs to find Ray’s suspect. But he also has some choice words for his underboss, Blake, and one of them is “louche.” Jordan thinks Blake knows something he isn’t telling, and Frank lets her know that Mayor Chessani threatened to take the poker room away from his control. Jordan wonders if it’s all worth it, and Frank says, “If we walk away now, what do we walk with?” She grabs his hand.

The detail gets a tip, via Dixon, that their suspect is holing up in a warehouse, so a firepower-heavy squad is assembled for the task. As a group of protestors opposed to the high-speed rail chant nearby, Ani, Paul, and Ray close in, clad in serious-looking bullet-proof vests. A gun battle quickly ensues, then a huge explosion sends flames shooting out of the top-floor windows of the gunman’s building. HELL BREAKS LOOSE. There’s running, bullets, cars screeching away. Dixon takes one to the skull and pitches back into his own brain matter.


With TV veteran Jeremy Podeswa (who directed the “Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” episode of Game of Thrones—aka the one where Sansa marries Ramsay Bolton) at the helm, this final sequence unspools with tightly-choreographed chaos. The escaping gunmen’s SUV crashes into a bus, and protestors dive for cover (not all of them successfully) as the cops fire back. “Fuck!” Ani shouts as the situation only worsens. “Aw, shit!” (This is the kind of gutteral reaction you imagine cops would have at times like these, but that movies and TV never seem to show you.) At last, our suspect emerges, holding a gun to a terrified hostage’s head. He manages to squeeze the trigger before being filled with lead by Ray and Paul.

The aftermath is horrible. Bodies everywhere. Cops, innocent civilians, both bleeding or dead all over the dusty street. The three left standing—Ray, Paul, and Ani—survey the scene in horror as backup, no longer needed, rolls in. Whatever happens next will not be good for anyone.


Top image via HBO



Spoil: Just wanted to point out, that while most characters who died in the fight were to me like red shirts, weirdly there’s still the other detective who dies, you know the corrupt pointless one I can’t even remember the name, I thought he would had more stuff to do in the story later somehow. That’s a bit surprising.