HBO’s True Detective Other Lives TV Show Review. True Detective: Season 2, Episode 5: TV Show Review Other Live’s opening moments follows the camera as it slowly pans over the blood and splattered brains that stain the scorching California pavement after Last week’s bloodbath in Down Will Come. Other Lives, is the first episode in the second half of season two, and much like the midway point of last season, the episode serves as a reconfiguring of the characters places in the story after a seismic event. Other Lives fast forwards the season’s story-line 66 days and presents familiar characters battling the same demons, just from new perspectives.
Since the beginning of the season it has been evident that Frank (Vince Vaughn), Ani (Rachel McAdams), Paul (Taylor Kitsch) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are damaged characters; the fallout from the shootout only served to wreak additional havoc on this down and out lot. After the gun fight, Ani is stuck logging evidence and attending mandatory sensitivity training sessions; Paul has been promoted to a position he hates and is on course to marry a woman that he doesn’t love; Ray is an ambiguously credentialed thug working for Frank, and Frank is back to organizing entry level criminal rackets. The reshuffling of the main cast’s lives is the perfect opportunity for the show to breathe new life into a season that has been bogged down with byzantine plots and superfluous characters. Judging by what transpired in Other Lives, anyone hoping that this series would trim the narrative fat and get down to a streamlined hard-boiled, L.A. detective story shouldn’t hold their breath.
In the two months since we’ve last seen him, Frank hasn’t tracked down the $5 million that disappeared with Caspere. For Frank, there is no greater fear than looking in his rear-view mirror and realizing that he hasn’t travelled all that far from the place in life where he began. Frank is obsessed with getting ahead in life — he has spent his entire life making moves to distance himself from his low class, blue-collar upbringing. When Jordan (Kelly Reilly) points out that Frank is a pimp and a drug pusher, the words carry a sting worse than pouring lemon juice on a tooth’s exposed root. Frank can’t come to terms with the thuggish man that he truly is, he instead uses semantics and hurls justifications at his wife to validate the immoral choices he has made to attain success.
Now that there is a deal in place to secure the land he lost when Caspere died, Frank is set to go after the missing hard drive as if he were Liam Neeson tracking down his daughter in Taken. All the discussion of starting over in life while in bed with Jordan was just pillow talk. Frank has spent too much of his life violently plotting out a path to the top and he has made too many enemies to get away with living a peaceful existence. No sooner did Frank express joy at the lack of water stains on his bedroom ceiling (an allegorical clean sate), than a deadly reminder of his (inescapable) past sins came pounding on his door in the form of Ray Velcoro.
I like the fact that Davis (Michael Hyatt) brought these misfit cops back together as a secret criminal investigation unit like sad version of the Suicide Squad. When the team of Ani, Ray and Paul were pursuing the case while on the books, their roles were to obfuscate, misdirect, and keep tabs on each other. Now that they are operating beneath the city/state’s radar, it feels like some good old-fashioned detective work may finally take place. I’ll be keeping an eye on what kind of impact these three cops have in slowing down the corrupt forces that are working against them. One of the main themes of the series’ first season was that the detectives couldn’t bring down everyone they targeted; institutionalized evil was so ingrained in the system that there were forces in play that were untouchable to a couple of southern cops (they could only take down those within the “reach of their meager influence“).
Ray had the stand out moment of the episode (Paul and his mother’s screaming exchange being the absolute worst) when he realized that he had killed the wrong man. Did everyone on set agree that Farrell should remove his moustache so that he would not have that tacky facial hair interfere with his Emmy moment? Ray’s face seamlessly transitioned from confusion, shock, understanding, anger and despair. Farrell has done an exceptional job of taking what could have easily been a one-note character and delivering a layered performance. So far Ray’s a character constantly toeing the line between struggling for redemption and submitting to despair. Murdering his wife’s alleged rapist decimated Ray, knowing that he killed the wrong man is a blow that could easily send him reeling towards his darker predilections. However Ray decides to act now will define him. Although Ani claims its never too late to start all over again, following the revelation of who Ray actually murdered, the very next shot of the episode is of a train that has already left a station.
Even though Other Lives works as a kind of season relaunch, instead of course correcting the aspects of the show that were not working, the episode doubled down on the season’s most aggravating aspects: introducing even more characters and further complicating the story with extraneous plot points. Between the waste disposal company contracts, murdered state officials, Mexican meth-cookers, hippy communes, celebrity sex-scandals, missing girls, missing diamonds, ultra kinky sex tapes, bird masking wearing killers and on the low special investigation units it has become next to impossible for a viewer to be sure where to focus their attention. The handling of this season’s 4 lead characters has been awkward at best — at its worst the story feels as if series writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto bit off more than he could chew. With 3 episodes left this season, it is time to stop wondering if the show can correct its flaws and just accept it for its intense performances and insane surprises.
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