True Detective Season 2 Episode 2: 'Night Finds You' Recap

The jury is still out on Vince Vaughn, and four other talking points from this week's episode

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Question: has the quality of the writing in True Detective nose-dived since season one, or were Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson just so good you didn't notice the dialogue sounded like something swept away in embarrassment from the cutting room floor of the latest Sin City movie?

Nevermind: the genuinely intriguing plot, assured, moody direction and Rachel McAdams' hard-drinkin', porn-surfin' cop are more than enough to ensure we're strapped in for the long haul with season 2.

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Here, then, are five big talking points from 'Night Finds You'.

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1 | Is Ben Caspere the least fortunate character in TV history?

We never actually got to meet city manager and vague Jack Nicholson-look-a-like Ben Caspere when he was alive, but it's not hard to feel sorry for him all the same.

Not only did his post-mortem reveal that he'd been tortured, had his eyeballs burned out by acid and his penis hacked off (oh – and a case of gonorrhea, just for good measure), but the man around whom True Detective 2's early plotlines hinge is also having his dubious sexual predilections revealed to the world via his psychiatrist. The sorriest of sorry ends, really.

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2 | Whatever Game Of Thrones can do…

The big shock in this week's episode arrived when Colin Farrell's corrupt cop Ray Velcoro went to investigate Caspere's Hollywood apartment / sex dungeon and was shot dead by an extra from The Wicker Man.

It was a shock, because we expected TD2 to follow a similar pattern to TD1 and keep its big stars alive for most, if not all, of the show. But really, the shock wore off before Velcoro's 80%-whisky blood had a chance to hit the floor.

Looking back, the whole episode seemed to be setting Velcoro up to be killed off, from his suicidal barroom banter with Frank Semyon to the scene with his ex-wife when she told him he couldn't see his (possibly not even his) son anymore, the latter containing the type of dialogue – "You're bad Ray, you're a bad person!" "The kid is all I have in my shitty life!" – not seen since that other touchstone of American neo-noir, Dallas.

In truth, his Bad Lieutenant schtick was already growing old after two episodes and some of Velcoro's lines have been fist-chewers of the highest order, so I'm glad he's gone, paving the way for the far more interesting remaining lead characters to develop.

3 | The Vince Vaughn casting question

Are we convinced by Vince Vaughn the gangster yet? After last week's episode I wrote: "Vince Vaughn acting straight sometimes feels like Vince Vaughn straining not to be Vince Vaughn: you can almost see him struggling to keep the mirthful self-regard that characterises his comic turns in check."

For me, this issue persisted in episode two whenever he was supposed to be annoyed or authoritative to his criminal underlings (there was actually a scene where he tried to intimidate a man he'd just had roughed up by pretending to be a jovial bystander and, I think, the 'real' Vince Vaughn came out for a second. It was like seeing the weight of the world lifted from the man's shoulders.)

At the same time, his opening monologue about being locked in a dark basement and attacked by rats as a child sort of worked, as, again, did the tender disappointment he exhibited towards Ray. The jury is still out on the wisdom of this casting decision, but I am rooting for him at least.

4 | Is Paul Woodrugh gay?

The game of 'guess the demons' continued with Taylor Kitsch's highway cop Paul, with further hints he may be suffering from PTSD following his military service and the introduction of his fussy eater Mother, whose creepy semi-sexual possession over him set her up as a sort of trailer park Gillian Darmody (apologies to any non-Boardwalk Empire fans for that reference).

It does seem to be about sex, though. Last week we saw him pop a Viagra in order to satisfy his gorgeous girlfriend, and this week he made an entirely unprompted homophobic slur about nearly beating up guy who may have been hitting on him – angry homophobia being a classic TV drama indicator of someone very much in the closet. I loved the way the cop he was trying to impress immediately shot him down for the remark, but I don't believe that exchange existed only to reinforce the show's pro-LGBT credentials.

5 | Will every episode end with the moody guitar woman?

In a way, we sort of hope so. The bar in which Frank goes to meet Ray seems to be perpetually occupied by a hollow-eyed PJ Harvey-type strumming mournfully to approximately five fans.

In real life, her name is Lera Lynn, a 31-year-old Texan folk singer who wrote last week's haunting 'this is my least favourite life' song especially for the show. Now Ray is dead, there are no guarantees we'll see the inside of that dive again, but if we do, we sincerely hope she hasn't been replaced by a pub quiz or a karaoke machine.

Howler line of the week:
Ray's observation that e-ciggerettes are like "sucking a robot's cock".

Actually quite good line of the week:
Ray: "I support feminism. Mainly by having body image issues". Doesn't even really make sense, but it made me laugh.