‘True Detective’ recap: ‘Church in Ruins’

27 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘True Detective’ Recap: The Great Escape.

“True Detective” has been building to this point all season: An undercover look at the sleazy parties crawling with rich and powerful creeps that characters have been hinting at all this time.

Amid all the murder, weird sex and mayhem on season two of True Detective, the show has had a consistent undercurrent running just below the surface: broken relationships between the main characters and their fathers. It was like we were plunged into show creator Nic Pizzolatto’s vision of Hell, and it played a lot like a drugged-out blend of the climax of “The Shining” and the creepy masque at the heart of “Eyes Wide Shut.” A perfectly creepy, “True Detective”-style celebration of the late Stanley Kubrick’s 87th birthday. This season’s story is spoken about metatextually rather than with the engaged engrossment of rapt viewers—every episode is analyzed ruthlessly, but little enjoyed.

The hour began promisingly, with Ray Velcoro and Frank Semyon’s kitchen-table confrontation over the bad intel regarding the man responsible for the rape of the former’s wife Sure, ending last week’s episode with the furious cop banging down the gangster’s front door only to say “You and me need to talk” was so anticlimactic you could practically hear the Price Is Right losing horn in the background. At this point I shouldn’t be disappointed in you so much as I should be disappointed in myself. “Church in Ruins” was an exercise in just how many ways the show could disappoint. The possible reasons for why this season isn’t as good as last season are numerous and well-discussed: sophomore slump, the loss of Cary Fukunaga’s creative vision, less talented actors, a far less enchanted setting. But the payoff was worth it, as much of the showdown took place physically: how the two men sat down as they sized each other up, how they nervously fingered both their coffee and their guns, and how they finally put both hands (and all their cards) on the table. The cop-turned-full-time-muscle-man was going to confront his crime lord boss about facts that came to light recently, facts that made Ray really angry about the fact that he had been living a lie for the past 10 or so years, and whatever guilt had been festering within him had popped like a blister on his soul.

Vince Vaughn’s character, Frank, seems to be the one that creator and showrunner Nic Pizzolatto imbued with all of the circular dialogue and thwarted poesy of last season’s breakout character Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey. And while there were some of the standard verbal hijinks — you can’t have a conversation with Southern California’s most sphinx-like crime boss without it — their exchange remained tightly focused on the important questions.

You could detect, as Frank would say, a “certain stridency” as Ray was slamming on his door, interrupting a lovely morning reconciliation between Frank and his wife, Jordan. But where Vaughn can’t quite render the convoluted lines given to his character with any kind of grace, McAdams has stepped up to offer unexpected texture to her part, just as McConaughey did with Rust.

He does, however, have a horrible relationship with his mom (Lolita Davidovich), who in “Other Lives” is revealed to have taken $10,000 Paul had stashed in a backpack in her mobile home. But before Ani gets to play the hero, she goes through her own personal hell as the drugs she was forced to take to maintain her disguise trigger a memory of her own sexual molestation as a child in a VW van on her father’s commune.

During their fight about the money, Paul sneers that his mom wasn’t even sure who the father was, which is a huge low blow but probably something he’s needed to say to her for a long time. Semyon first insists that he himself was only acting on what turned out to be a bad tip, then convinces his long-time lackey he would likely have turned out a no-good killer regardless. “I woulda been different!” “Of all the lies people tell themselves, I bet that’s the most common.” The gangster leans hard on the idea that blaming him for the mess Ray has made of his life is just a responsibility dodge.

So, if I’m reading Paul’s mom’s creepily invasive touches correctly, that’s three out of the four main True Detective characters who have some measure of sexual assault or abuse in their past. Certainly the hash he makes of his supervised visitation, culminating in a massive coke bender and a deal never to see his kid again as long as his ex doesn’t tell the boy about his real father, lends credence to that theory. Ray, of course, went on to kill him, and living with it, along with the doubt surrounding the paternity of the boy he calls his son, has made him a drunken, corrupt wreck for years. Perhaps the only redeemable aspect of the episode is that there is finally movement in our big mystery, which is saying something six episodes into an eight episode season.

Now, the actual rapist has been caught, and if you think Ray was an emotional mess before, well … Anyway, Frank and Ray don’t end up shooting each other, even though they have their guns pointed at each other under Frank’s kitchen table as if they were both Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina. Both that sliver of doubt and Velcoro’s decision to plow ahead with the only life he knows make perfect sense; Semyon’s offer to reveal who gave him the name in exchange for help tracking down Ben Caspere’s blackmail hard drive is just an afterthought. There are two episodes left in True Detective season two, and while I think there isn’t much of a chance of the show completely redeeming itself, it could at least go out on a positive note. Instead, Frank tells Ray that he didn’t set him up, and that he’ll help look for the person who gave his guy the bad intelligence on Gena’s supposed rapist.

She has little discernible femininity (aside from an inexplicable dye job that is managed so unrealistically that it’s obvious a man wrote the show; how have her roots not grown out after two months?). A former cop himself, Eddie Velcoro (Fred Ward) is an embittered retiree nostalgic for the above-the-law days of former Chief Daryl Gates and strongly implies that Ray is something of a disappointment.

As Alan Sepinwall observed in his review of the first few episodes, on one hand, it’s great that there’s a female character expressing her identity however she wants to, but on the other hand, it’s kind of troubling if the only female character a male auteur can come up with is just like his male characters, but with boobs. Yet part of Ray still appears to idealize his old man, which probably contributes to Ray’s general feeling that he’d be better off not in this world anymore.

There he delivers a genuinely sweet and convincing talk about how to move forward from tragedy, or as he puts it, “a thing that splits your life — there’s a before, and after.” Painful events like that, he tells the kid, “show you what was on the inside, and inside of you? This season has only worsened things, feeling the need to constantly show prostitution, dragging poor Rachel McAdams through the mud (more on her below) and parading around despicable women so that men can show how much better they are than them.

But as the episodes unfolded, the beats of Ani’s character presented as little more than one of Pizzolato’s macho stereotypes trapped in a woman’s body. Piling unto this trash heap of female representation has been the story of Ray’s ex-wife’s sexual assault, a heinous act of sexual violence committed against her so that Ray has something to brood about.

And while that has never been a good plot (read: it’s always been awful), the show went full-on Women in Refrigerators in this episode when it had Ray confront the man who raped Gena. (What do I mean by “Women in Refrigerators” you ask? He is forced to hang out with the kid under state supervision, and it makes for some uncomfortable talk about fatherly love, model airplanes and “Friends.” Ultimately, it all feels like too much for Ray. After a brief, silent scene that shows Ani strapping on her weaponry in the police locker room, Ray casually asks her about them. “The fundamental difference between the sexes is that one of them can kill the other with their bare hands. Later that night, he comes home and throws a pity party that makes the one Martin Sheen throws for himself at the beginning of “Apocalypse Now” look like a Sweet Sixteen.

Man of any size lays hands on me, he’s going to bleed out in under a minute.” Ani does not use the term “feminism”; that’s introduced by Ray, who quips, “Well, just so you know, I support feminism, mostly by having body image issues.” Ani cracks a barely perceptible smile. He has the self-awareness, at least, to wonder if his experience makes him less likely to love a child they adopt, but somehow he still thinks he’d be OK if he and Jordan manage to conceive on their own.

Ray buries his head in cocaine, guzzles liquor and beer, smokes cigarettes like Bette Davis, and ends up smashing a bunch of glass and all the models he and Chad built together. How’s that for social theory?” And Pizzolatto was upfront that this season, just like the last, was as much about the detectives confronting their own demons as it was about them nabbing the bad guy.

Women are always at the mercy of men, in any situation, in every civilization; it’s only the strength of numbers, culture and empathy that combat them. Whatever Ani experienced at the commune her dad ran has hardened her to the point where she always carries multiple knives, reads books about a warrior’s mentality and flippantly arouses her fellow attendees at a sexual harassment seminar because she can (though that last moment was pretty funny). Unfortunately, things end badly for him, and worse for the woman: When the gangsters hear she’d been paid to sell the dead man’s loot by a cop, they kill her for working with the police. Comparing the plot to none other than Oedipus Rex, Pizzolato said, “the detective is searching and searching and searching, and the culprit is him.” Ani, short for Antigone, is named after Oedipus’s daughter so it would make sense she would fall under this category alongside Ray confronting the murder he committed and Paul confronting his sexuality. And so the show gives us a scene where Ray confronts the man, now in prison, to tell him that he will probably murder him some day, just to make Ray feel more like a man.

Ani may not be terribly “feminine,” according to our social definition of the word, but in terms of the fear and anger that is part of her lived reality, she is as female as any woman who has lived in the world. Frank also finds the time to use his horrible life experience to reach out to Stan’s son, telling him that this horrible event can actually help him reveal the “pure gold” deep inside him.

It’s likely those connections will come back up for her before the season ends — and perhaps in Sunday’s episode, where teasers have shown her undercover at one of the sex parties Caspere organized. So instead of the sleazy parade of pay-cable hardbodies you might have expected, everything you see is blurry, shaky, and decidedly un-sexy — as it should be at a party in which leering old men buy their way into sex with women who are prohibited from saying no.

The word “vagina” means “sheath.” It comes, like so much, from Latin, except that the Romans didn’t use it to refer to any part of human anatomy. “Vagina” was a scabbard, or a husk; the female sexual organs were instead the vulva or the pudenda (a word indicating, “thing to be ashamed of”). In the 1680s, medical texts began referring to the birth canal as the “vagina,” and so it is still called today. “Penis,” meanwhile, comes from the Latin for “tail,” but the Romans started using it to mean the other thing often enough that we can trace “penis” to Cicero. It makes Bezzerides’ journey into the party mansion feel like the heroine of a dark fairy tale getting trapped inside the evil queen’s castle, lending a sense of urgency, even adventure, to her attempt to rescue the woman she spots from her old missing person’s case. Considering that “vagina” limits the female sex organs to merely a receptacle for the penis—and, indeed, does not include the clitoris—“vagina” is a usage that is the subject of some debate among feminist intellectuals.

When Ani, Velcoro and Paul Woodrugh crested the hill in the dark as they ran away, you half-expected the Ringwraiths to be chasing them instead of gun-toting goons. The word “cunt”—which has existed since at least 1230, but only began being used as a derogatory term in the 1920s—has been suggested as a substitute (if only because the denizens of the British Isles use it constantly) and has been repurposed in fascinating ways by various female music artists in the U.S. and writers like Inga Muscio. Because Ray confronting Gena’s rapist wasn’t enough maltreatment of violence against women in one episode for this show, they also committed another cardinal sin: Adding sexual violence to a woman’s past to give her character in the present. Fingers crossed that the final two installments make us say it again. 2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don’t see ’em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don’t bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings. Like Laura Hudson said in Wired: “There’s a tendency in media to reduce women to their genitals and what men want to do to their genitals; too often, the combination of ‘woman’ and ‘bad thing that happened in the past’ defaults to ‘something bad happened to her genitals, probably.’” And so when Ani’s drug-induced hallucinations revealed that she was probably molested as a young girl (the show refrained, for once, from being too explicit about it), I was so very, very depressed, but I can’t say I was surprised.

Frank convinces her to meet, and so he and his entourage head to an industrial wasteland to talk to her, but they find her dead, her throat freshly slashed. Alanna Schubach at Jacobin sums up a lot of the show’s mixed messaging around women’s bodies and livelihoods as muddled writing, and especially this season, that sounds right to me. A few of them have been given names and voices, but there’s a strange lack of framing and dialogue around them, as if rich men requiring prostitutes is just another casual fact of the world, like wallpaper requiring glue and cars requiring gasoline. Haynes — who went by Mikey, though also answered to “Big Bro,” “Lil’ Bro,” and “God Bro,” because so many Morgan Park residents considered him family — was a 22-year-old basketball star five days away from heading to Iona College in New York. Anyways the reason we get this particular hazy flashback for Ani is because her little sister gets her into one of these high-class hooker parties, and she decides to go in undercover as a call girl (isn’t it just so convenient that everyone, from Ani’s sister to the missing girl to Ani’s dad to Frank to Ray, is connected on this show?) so Ray and Paul can follow and investigate.

To be sure, there’s an interpretation of this that is frustrating—must every woman in the show adopt the guise of a whore in order to pass muster? Leaving all the competent parts of her brain (you know, like the part that said to look for clues under circling birds) behind, she grabs the girl and makes a run for it, killing a guard in the process and barely making it into Ray’s car (I love how her wooden dummy was basically Chekov’s dummy, and she killed the guard using the same knife pattern). This is the romance of “True Detective’s” first season, which pushed its mundane characters into situations where they had to grapple with the meaning of their own existence.

He was a familiar sight on the courts near his house: six-foot-seven with broad shoulders, wearing crisp white Nikes and colorful warm up gear, shooting jumpers and smoking blunts with friends. They come to a window of an office where Osip and McCandless from the Catalyst Corp. are hashing out the details of a deal not unlike the one Frank had with Catalyst and Caspere. We also get to see Frank consoling the son of what I think is the guy who worked for him who they found dead a few episodes ago, but I’m not entirely sure because this show neither explains things fully nor 100% holds its audience’s interest.

More ruminations on good and evil, more vague ideals of parenthood, but considering it’s hard to remember exactly who this guy is, the effect is kind of lost. Everyone there lived along a dozen or so blocks in Morgan Park dubbed “The Jungle.” Four miles past the final stop of the city’s main subway line, in what is known as the Wild 100s, The Jungle’s main drag on Vincennes is a thoroughfare for drugs and violence.

Dealers use the two-way street for open sales through car windows, and slip through the “cuts,” spaces between the houses, to more secluded parts of the neighborhood. Now, Don P and JaJuan were arguing over a 14-carat gold chain that Don P had lent to JaJuan, and JaJuan had apparently lost. “I really wasn’t supposed to give it up,” Don P says. “He caught me at a nice moment.” Earlier that day, Don P had gone to JaJuan’s house, hit him and tried to throw him over a porch railing. Paul talks to the detective from way back when, who is all kinds of philosophical and moody (basically exactly what a retired cop would be like on this show), who seems to make Paul think twice about this whole “fatherhood” thing. In the car, Paul reveals just how hot the documents are, while Ani crumples into tears. “I think I killed someone.” – During Ani’s hellish journey through the orgy, she seems to have flashbacks to when she was a girl at her dad’s commune; a creepy hippie guy lures her into a van.

In the Sophocles play, though, she is preoccupied less with this and more with what she perceives to be her filial and familial duty: properly burying her brother, Polynices. The forward motion of the plot has no time for Antigone’s soul-searching about her own trauma, if she has any; she’s instead called to action, and dies trying to do what she thinks is right. Five days.” Mass shootings in Aurora, Newtown and Charleston drum up the national gun debate, but any given holiday weekend with decent weather in Chicago sees similar devastation. Yale sociologist Andrew Papachristos found the average annual homicide rate during a recent decade in one West Side Chicago neighborhood was 64 per 100,000 people, nearly the casualty rate for civilians in Iraq during the height of the war (hence the nickname “Chiraq”). Once in the streets, firearms are often bought and sold within trusted social networks, and tend to be old; the median age of guns confiscated from gang members is over a decade.

Recent legal developments, though, have only loosened restrictions: in 2010, the United States Supreme Court overturned the handgun law, and last year a federal judge ruled that prohibiting the sale of firearms was unconstitutional. Mark Jones, a former special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and an expert on illegal firearms at the University of Chicago Crime Lab, says interviewees consistently tell him, “We are not afraid of the police. We’re afraid of other people in the neighborhood who might try to kill us.” Gun violence in Chicago is routinely attributed to gangs, but crucial distinctions exist between gangs, cliques and random feuds. Morgan Park is the territory of the Gangster Disciples, one of Chicago’s historic sprawling gangs, the kind that wrote rulebooks and implemented rigid chains of command. But after two decades of police targeting top leaders, the structures fragmented, leaving behind hundreds of less organized and more violent neighborhood cliques.

They will be with you.” But when affiliations are loose and firearms are plentiful, the likelihood that two people will cross paths at the wrong moment, with tragic consequences, becomes that much greater. “Because the gangs were so well-organized, the shooting was fairly targeted,” Kotlowitz says. “And today, it feels so much more random and so many more people getting caught in a crossfire.” Mikey spent his first decade living with his mother and three brothers in a house on 115th Street and Vincennes. Some of his friends earned cash by stealing or selling drugs, but Mikey cultivated a better hustle on the basketball courts at nearby Blackwelder Park. He was third generation — Annie had come to Chicago as part of the Great Migration of African Americans fleeing the South in the first half of the 20th century.

Many of the towers’ residents protested the decision, but between 1995 and 2011, the city tore down three infamous furnaces of violence — the Cabrini-Green, Ida B. To improve his standing in the eyes of college recruiters, he enrolled at George Washington High School on the east side of Chicago his sophomore year. George Washington lost the Chicago public school championship that year to Simeon Career Academy, led by its dazzling point guard, future NBA MVP Derrick Rose. A district policy prohibits students from competing in sports for a year after transferring, which effectively ended Mikey’s high school career in Chicago – he could only practice with the team. That’s why I say, ‘We a family.'” Though Mikey didn’t lace up for a single game his senior year, he was still ranked the 12th best player in the state, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Six months later, in the summer of 2011, Mikey’s former AAU coach Loren Jackson got him a spot on the roster of Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. Though only a five-hour drive from Chicago, the rural small town – where the population is 98 percent white – might as well have been a foreign country for an inner-city black kid with tattoos covering a seven-foot wingspan. (Mikey once wondered at the sight of an unfamiliar creature on the side of an Iowa road; it was a deer.) But the school quickly embraced him. He electrified crowds with rattling two-handed dunks and a signature roar – fists clenched, muscles flexed, and a bellicose cry reverberating against the walls – and led Indian Hills to the junior college national championship tournament. He would pop into their dorm after practice for late-night pancakes, and often hung out with a sophomore cheerleader, Jenna Strom, whose dad has been out of her life since she was 11. After his standout season in Iowa, Mikey got another chance to play basketball at the next level: Iona College, a small Division-I school north of Manhattan, offered him a scholarship.

Even Mikey occasionally swept through to party. “Cinque’s thing was trying to fit in with people around him,” says Q’s next-door neighbor, Wadell Hardy, who’s an officer with the Chicago Police Department. “That wasn’t his demeanor when I met him.” Hardy had been close with Q’s family. Hardy drew up a 14-page report of Section 8 violations, but never filed it. “The day that I was submitting it,” he says, “was when the incident occurred.” That morning of July 26th, Q walked out into his front yard and said hello to his 16-year-old neighbor, Aliczay Christian.

Mikey’s 21-year-old younger brother Brian was sitting in a car on Vincennes, with Doogie and Don P hanging out on the curb, when he received a phone call that Mikey was dead. Gabriel Fuentes, the assistant coach at the time, describes Mikey as thoughtful, while Brian “was disrespectful” and “a bit more into being a thug.” Brian quit the team, and at 17 was charged with three crimes in four months: battery, assault and disorderly conduct. One police report describes him as a “self-admitted and documented Gangster Disciple.” Armed with a pistol, his face red and eyes bloodshot from crying, Brian marched from the car toward 116th Street.

More than a thousand people squeezed inside the Salem Baptist Church for Mikey’s funeral on August 3, 2012, requiring extra chairs and making the choir section standing-room only. When they stopped at a police station to ask for directions, the cops warned them not to go. “We were all definitely scared,” says Mikey’s college friend, Jenna Strom. And to me, that’s a hero.” But those who understand the workings of Morgan Park —its inescapable street code enforced with handguns — believe his undoing was more complicated. “I think he was flirting between the street and basketball,” Liggins says. “Mikey did want to live up to that street life.” Pastor Dearal L. He pleaded for peace and offered a chance for attendees to give up their guns. “If you’re packing a weapon, leave it under the bench,” he said. “We ought to stop the shooting for a day or two.” His request for weapons went unanswered, he now says: “No one left any behind.” The cycle of violence continued on the afternoon of May 28, 2013, when JaJuan Lewis made his first trip back to Morgan Park. After Mikey’s killing, he hid out at his three-year-old son Jordan’s mother’s house, before heading off to play football at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida.

Although his family’s home had been torched, JaJuan believed tensions had since subsided – after all, he figured, the argument over Don P’s chain had nothing to do with Q shooting Mikey. JaJuan had been shot four times in the back. “He was conscious for a minute,” Williams says. “Then he just laid his head down.” By the time an ambulance arrived, JaJuan was dead. He wasn’t able to identify the shooter, but has a hunch it was one of “Don P’s people.” “Hopefully it’s over,” Williams says. “You never know.” Q shot Mikey, Don P shot JaJuan, and now someone had shot at Williams. “I got a theory that every time somebody gets killed, it wakes up another killer,” he says. Then, almost filling in the gaps of his theory, Williams imagines what other Dirty Butts or Gangster Disciples might have said to Don P to perpetuate the violence. “They probably was pressuring Don P,” he says. “‘Mikey got killed over your chain.

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