No show knows how to double down and hit hard quite like True Detective.
“Church in Ruins” picks up right where we left off as Ray (Colin Farrell) bangs down the door of Frank (Vince Vaughn) after discovering the man who raped his wife is still alive and the man Frank told him about was not the rapist. The two sit at Frank’s kitchen table, cups of coffee on top and concealed pistols pointed at each other underneath. Ray thinks Frank gave him the wrong information just to have a cop under his thumb, but Frank insists he was given bad information and will track down the guy who gave Frank the wrong name. A bit calmer but still seething, Ray tells Frank about the prostitute that stole and pawned some of Caspere’s belongings. He also mentions the crazy sex parties hosted by one of Frank’s guys, Blake, and mayor Chessani’s son. Frank wants Ray to find the hard drive that was missing from Caspere’s secret sex house, due to a corporate big shot believing there to be some unflattering footage of certain powerful dignitaries on there.
Ray will do his best, but his personal life continues to circle the drain. Visits with his son now come with a court-ordered supervisor, who (to Ray’s annoyance) scribbles down every little thing that goes on during the meeting. After realizing his son isn’t as into building model airplanes as he is (if his son ever was to begin with), Ray starts to see less and less of himself in his son. Responding like a mature adult, Ray downs booze and snorts cocaine in frustration, eventually calling his ex-wife and admitting defeat by not contesting custody. His one condition is that if his ex takes the paternity test and discovers the rapist is the father and not Ray, that their son can never find out.
Meanwhile, Frank does some digging on the prostitute who pawned Caspere’s stuff. After (literally) nailing information out of an informant, Frank discovers the prostitute is with a group of Mexican drug dealers that recently approached Frank to move drugs. They tell Frank that the prostitute will call–she does, and she tells Frank that a cop paid her to pawn Caspere’s stuff. Frank wants to meet in person, but when he shows up to the meeting, the prostitute is dead from a slit throat. Out of the shadows are the Mexican drug dealers, with the leader wiping fresh blood (presumably the prostitute’s) from his knife and telling Frank that, despite the prostitute dying, they’ll still be moving drugs through his clubs.
Ani (Rachel McAdams) dons a disguise as a high-end prostitute in order to infiltrate one of Chessani Jr.’s sex parties. With nothing but a transponder hidden on her so that Ray and Paul can track her, Ani is driven to a big mansion in the hills with horny old rich guys and glasses full of viagra in each room. Each girl, including Ani, is given a spray in the mouth of “Molly” in order to keep them loose and ready for whatever weird sex fantasy the rich and wrinkly desire. Ani sneaks around the mansion while slightly tripping out on the “Molly” spray, having flashbacks that reveal she may have been molested by an older man at her dad’s hippie commune when she was a child. After avoiding a creepy old guy and possibly killing a security guard with what looks like a ham slicer, Ani finds Vera, a girl gone missing that Ani’s been looking into since the beginning of the season. She grabs Vera and runs out to Ray and Paul, who have stolen some secret documents from the house. Running for their lives and being shot at by security, the gang escapes, hoping to uncover some new details.
Hope for this season was definitely weakened after last week’s dragging bore of an episode, but it’s nice to report that True Detective has become all the good kinds of nasty this week. A good mixture of dark character development and freaky imagery (culminating with the Eyes Wide Shut-esque orgy at the mansion) went a long way in “Church in Ruins.” It’s also another great test of the characters, especially Rachel McAdams’ Ani. She’s been the requisite badass of the season, even seen in this episode practicing her knife skills. But when she actually goes to the mansion, even before getting a whiff of the “Molly” spray, she’s terrified. You can hear her voice trembling after she barely escapes the mansion. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how McAdams breaks down Ani’s character. If anyone in this season deserves acting praise as much as she does, it’s Colin Farrell. Just when it couldn’t possibly get any worse for poor Ray Velcoro, life throws another boulder at him. Farrell never makes it a sob story but keeps himself restrained enough to let his silence make all the expression he needs. Even Vince Vaughn seems to have finally found a groove to his character, with Frank’s big boss gangster starting to see the wolves that surround him. The kitchen sit-down between Vaughn and Farrell may be the best scene of the whole season–so much tension in such quiet dialogue.
It may seem like a desperate gimmick to have such over-the-top explicit material in an episode, but it feels like such a minor piece of such an impressive episode. “Church in Ruins” feels like what should’ve been happening all throughout this season. It’s a balancing act between dark visuals and acting that favors radiating emotions over expositional dialogue. True Detective, like most great entertainment, is not about what’s right in front of the audience, but what’s lurking behind the faces of the actors and the setting. True Detective is best when it’s silent, bringing up more questions than giving out answers