Review: True Detective Season Two, “Other Lives”


“Now We’re Following Birds.”

Last night’s episode of True Detective brought us into the second half of season two, but the formula hasn’t changed all that much from earlier episodes. Some things are the same, others are different, and True Detective is moving forward inch by inch. After all True Detective only has three more episodes to wrap it all up. Five episodes into the season, True Detective now feels like it know what it’s doing.

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Down Will Come” is really responsible for getting True Detective season two on track, but “Other Lives” doesn’t squander that momentum. Some things in True Detective don’t change: nobody is happy. Still. The Caspere case is “solved,” to shootout happened but “nobody cares.” And everyone is still trying, pitifully, to deal with their own personal problems.

This episode arguably belonged to Frank and his wife Jordan. They’re still trying to work out having a baby, which is stressing Frank out. To put it lightly. Children were something of a theme this episode, with Ray also dealing with his ex-wife wanting to end his involvement with her own child. Ray, a tad despondent after meeting with her and her lawyer, records another message for his son, “Pain in inexhaustible. It’s only people that get exhausted.” Because this is True Detective.

Frank offers the strangest, worst line of the episode while taking to Jordan: “There’s no bandwidth for that.” The context of which hardly matters unless they’re actually talking about bandwidth. Frank speaks the line so deadpan that it somehow stands out even more. Nic Pizzolatto has a penchant for self-important writing — it’s partially what makes True Detective so easily quotable. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it falls painfully flat on its face. This was the latter.

We see that Ray shaved his mustache and now works for Frank full-time, crossing over in a way that at one point felt a little too far to go. Ray still wants to take care of his son, but he no longer seems to care about bettering himself. If ever did in the first place. Later we learn that Frank set him up, and Ray never dealt with his wife’s rapist like he thought. It’s a powerful scene and will ensure that Frank and Ray likely never work well together again.

Paul shows some more emotion this episode, which is practically a miracle.

Ani and Paul are also dealing with their own issues, and not well. Paul is trying to keep things together by marrying his pregnant girlfriend hoping that it will fix all of his problems. Because that’s how it works. Paul also brought $20,000 home from Afghanistan which his mom spent behind his back, which is the only piece of information we learn about Paul’s past this episode. Paul shows some more emotion this episode, which is practically a miracle. Especially after his mother shows her true colors, saying that Paul ruined her life and that if she were a man she “would have ruled the world.”

What’s even more evident now than ever is that our detectives need the Caspere case. Ani and Ray meet in the bar to discuss details, Paul later says that he “needs to be in the field.” The Caspere case offers an escape, even though it’s been officially solved. They need it, Frank included. Frank may not enjoy having less money, but he doesn’t seem to be taking his return to darker side as poorly as he wants others to feel.

But really, True Detective season two is all about little steps.

The episode ends with another bite at the bird-men, with Ani and Paul finding a bloodied cabin and chair surrounded by crows. Ray pays a visit to Dr. Pitlor with gloves on, and a certain photograph becomes a larger pieces of the puzzle. Really, this episode of True Detective didn’t stray too far from the first few episodes; it was dark and it billed tension. But because stories are moving forward and we’re a little more attached to the characters, it feels like a greater step.

But really, True Detective season two is all about little steps.

True Detective season two in the second half is a tighter show. It’s biggest possible issue right now is finding  away to tie up the many stories and conspiracies that is currently has floating around, but for now it’s still on the right track.

Next: T. Bone Burnett talks True Detective and Lera Lynn.

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