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True Detective Weekly 8: Omega Station Pre-Discussion

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True Detective Weekly 8:

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Omega Station

True Detective Season 2 is over, and it went out with a bang. Well, lots of bangs. It was an unusual season, and an unusual season finale—and as it turns out, we had more than a few conflicting thoughts about it. Tune in, then let us know what you thought!

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Hmm...this title is unexpected. Last season after loving everything up to the end I was a little disappointed by the finale (especially when I realized it was meant to entirely close off the world and mythos). I'm hoping that this season it will be the opposite: after having a very mixed reaction to a meandering story, it all ends with an explosive and surprising bang.

My dream would be that we somehow get a subtle little link to season 1 but I'm 99% sure that won't happen. Which kind of makes me wonder what the point is of having a True Detective show in which every season is completely different from the other. Couldn't it just be a set of unrelated miniseries? What will distinguish this from any post-True Detective mysteries that Pizzolatto makes? The format just doesn't really make sense to me and almost feels like a marketig gimmick.

Incidentally, I've heard several people suggest that the set photographer is the raven/brother of Caspere's secretary (ie the other orphan from the jewelry heist). That would correspond roughly to when/how the killer was introduced in season 1.

I wonder who is directing this week.

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Headcanon: Ani and Frank's wife are in a relationship and Ani had Velcoro's baby and are going back to the US to exact revenge. I'd watch that movie.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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That episode wasn't very good! This season was really not great! It was kind of neat to see that weird new train station they built in Anaheim, I guess? My buddy and I did use hover.com to buy chadvelcoroatgmail.com because that was kind of a funny thing, Ray having this iPhone 5s (running ios6) to send his kid one last sadster voice message. Ugh, what a mediocre season of television.

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I was hopeful when the show seemed to be finding its footing after the rocky first half of the season, but ultimately I came away feeling like I'd just watched a forgettable crime movie. None of the conclusions to character arcs (or Ray and Ana's relationship) really felt earned or affecting to me despite me liking all of the characters throughout the season. From both a plot and character perspective nothing in this season really felt satisfying to me in the end. The final scene with Frank particularly irked me; hinting at events in Frank's life so significant that he would be thinking about them while taking his last steps felt like a real slap in the face considering we could have had some of those character details fleshed out in the place of the fairly redundant plotting of the first handful of episodes. That's probably a bit hyperbolic. I guess what I'm really trying to get at is that the pacing of this season was a mess, and I could have done with a little more characterization and fewer scenes where the detectives find out Caspere was into nonstandard sex stuff for the second or third time. There was at least an episode or two worth of time that just felt wasted to me.

 

Anyway, I'm curious to hear how the guys respond on the podcast and to see if it sways my opinion at all (assuming their opinions are any more positive than mine). In any case, I'm looking forward to the season 1 rewatch casts since I really do think that season was something special even with its missteps.

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Pizzolatto is really fond of extreme versions of the femininity and masculinity. This season was all about parents, so in that way I thought the ending had good thematic closure. I don't care how convenient it is that Ani gets pregnant after one sex session; it fits with the season's fixation on parents harming their children and the ripples that harm creates. Now Ani's child will grow up with the same shadow that the two orphans suffered under after their parents' murder. Narratively, it's a good way to end this season.

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I enjoyed the finale but my major objection was that Ani was so completely sidelined for the climax, which really didn't seen fair to her character or the audience.

My big surprise was that by the finale, after such a struggle (especially early in the season), I actually felt interested/invested in these characters. The plot was a bigger MacGuffin than I expected, not just the predictably casual Who Killed Ben Caspere reveal but even the underlying corruption/conspiracy felt more like a backdrop for character exploration (a preference revealed right away by the opening scenes). Which makes me wish they hadn't wasted so much of the season on plot stuff but hey...

I like Apple Cider's head canon and wish Pizzolatto had it in him to write a show like that. I expected Season 2 to be underwhelming but not as incompetent as it was. Right now in torn between dismissing Pizzolatto as a wannabe auteur who lacks the gravitas of the major showrunners and respecting him for really sincerely investing in his characters and themes wholeheartedly (part of the reason I found the endings effective was that, for all the types and tropes he employs, P really seems to believe in them on a fundamental level; he's not just engaging in cynical surface cliches - it seems deeply-felt).

I'm leaning toward the latter conclusion, partly because the last few episodes were generally satisfying to me, partly because I value that type of earnest investment even when it invites parody, and partly because it's hard not to feel a bit bad for the guy as he takes such a beating in the press, even if he does come off as somewhat egotistical. I truly hope he has enough humility to hold himself to a higher standard (and maybe seek stronger collaboration) in S3 because I think the talent is there.

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The most fun i've had this season is trying to guess what audio clip you guys are going to use as the intro, and if its not "You can't act for shit" conversation between Frank and his wife then i'm going to be upset.

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I also was kind of confused at Ani not being present for a lot of the action at the end. It made sense once I saw what the point of the finale was, but during the episode it felt strange and convoluted. I could buy that Ray and Ani would develop feelings for each other, but not that Ani would let herself be pushed to a safe distance like that. But the show needed her to live so she could look symbolically at the Madonna and child at the end.

Were the True Detectives Ani and Jordan? Pizzolatto destroys the patriarchy and leaves the show with a pair of symbolic and literal mothers to carry the show out. In that way it's kind of hopeful because maybe Jordan and Ani will be better parents than any of the fathers represented in the show.

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Although not as good as the first season, the second season was still better than 90% of what's on television these days.  The incredibly strong (and completely unexpected) performances of the four leads made this season compelling and wothwhile watching.  It will be remembered not for it's writing or direction, but for it's superb acting.

 

EDIT: I should have said five strong lead performances, because Kelly Reilly was a joy to watch as well.

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Why did Frank effectively commit suicide? Did "give me your suit" have an unspoken "...so I don't get blood on it", and it's obvious he was dead already? For a second I thought they were going to let him walk out of there (naked).

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Oh! I just remembered the diamonds were in it (and the only cash he had in the world, without the suitcase). Ok, that makes a lot more sense.

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Oh! I just remembered the diamonds were in it (and the only cash he had in the world, without the suitcase). Ok, that makes a lot more sense.

 

 

See, I posted about this on the neogaf thread and everyone went on about Frank and money and the diamonds in his pocket. But still, he was a smart guy, and would've known to play things to get out there alive. Not be stupid and smack a guy in the face and get stabbed.

 

He sent this wife away with 100K, and if things played out the way they should Ray had a huge bag of cash too. Maybe Ray would've lent him a few bucks.

 

I don't understand how Frank wrote his huge list of equipment, planned everything out but completely forgot about the obviously upset Mexicans. Dumb move Frank.

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The smart smart play would have been to either play nice with the Russians or just leave town with the cash he had on hand. But there was also pride at stake, and ambition. And those things tend to get you killed, in noir. Besides, let's not pretend that walking back to LA from the middle of the desert with no supplies was a real plan for survival. Slightly better odds without the knife wound, but not much.

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In addition to the diamonds (which I forgot about too) I think asking for the suit was just a final assault on Frank's dignity. He knew he probably wasn't going to make it out of that desert anyway and it was the final straw and an excuse to go down with a fight.

 

Really, as soon as Frank and Ray are saying goodbye and walking to the cars, you just know they're not gonna make it. The question of "how" is almost an afterthought...

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I like Apple Cider's head canon and wish Pizzolatto had it in him to write a show like that. I expected Season 2 to be underwhelming but not as incompetent as it was. Right now in torn between dismissing Pizzolatto as a wannabe auteur who lacks the gravitas of the major showrunners and respecting him for really sincerely investing in his characters and themes wholeheartedly (part of the reason I found the endings effective was that, for all the types and tropes he employs, P really seems to believe in them on a fundamental level; he's not just engaging in cynical surface cliches - it seems deeply-felt).

I'm leaning toward the latter conclusion, partly because the last few episodes were generally satisfying to me, partly because I value that type of earnest investment even when it invites parody, and partly because it's hard not to feel a bit bad for the guy as he takes such a beating in the press, even if he does come off as somewhat egotistical. I truly hope he has enough humility to hold himself to a higher standard (and maybe seek stronger collaboration) in S3 because I think the talent is there.

 

I really hope that Pizzolatto's able to assess the weaknesses in this season fairly, without being reactionary or dismissive of the way the internet discusses things, and contrast them with the much-trumpeted failings of the first season in a way that leads him back to a strong collaboration with someone who can give him a second opinion on his work. Having just rewatched last season with some friends after this season's mid-run shootout left a bad taste in all of our mouths, I'm shocked at how that first season is like a child with a different father (or mother, I really don't want to get into the issue of parenting given both seasons' themes) that bears some resemblance but is a completely different creature along most of the lines that I use to evaluate a show's quality. The fixation on masculinity and parenting is there, as well as the tendency towards overwritten dialogue, but almost everywhere else the first season feels like a more mature, more focused work, which is superficially odd for a freshman effort. Maybe it's just the time that Pizzolatto spent preparing? We'll have to see with the next season, but overall I feel like this season's legacy, if it has any, is going to come and go with the character touches like Ani's knives, rather than being a notable entry in rural noir and the Weird South as well as displaying a landmark performance by its leads.

 

On a side note, can someone who's a bit more self-aware than me explain why the revelation about Childress mowing the lawn in the third episode is electrifying but Leonard and Laura being the assistant and set photographer in the other third episode feels tidy and boring? Is it because Childress is the actual culprit rather than one of a dozen individuals taking part in several intertwined conspiracies? Is it because the first season does a better job of inserting Childress among a whole series of red herrings used to build the world, while the second season tries to tie virtually every character with a speaking part to the case in some way? Is it because there were hints about Childress' character throughout the first season that come together when he stands up from the lawnmower in a near-identical scene at the end of the seventh episode, whereas time from discovery of the children's existence to their total removal from the plot was barely two episodes' length? I'm asking seriously, because I feel like the replacement of mystery and revelation with confusion and skepticism looms large with this season's qualified failure for me.

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The season ending in a clusterfuck of violence and tragedy wasn't all that surprising, but it was disappointing how clichéd and tropey it all got. I just knew Ray was going to get got because he couldn't leave without saying goodbye to his son. I knew Frank wouldn't make it out of his encounter with the Mexicans. However, I was genuinely surprised at how Ani was just sent away. They could have easily had her choose to go ahead if nothing else, but getting sent away, teary eyed felt like a disservice to her character. I don't think it would have worked to have her go with Ray since that would fuck up his getting killed, but spare her some dignity. Lastly, it bugged the hell out of me when Paul's fiancée did the "oh god I know he's dead" moment in the hotel room just after Paul was shot, but then they did it AGAIN with Ani when Ray died. That shit is stupid even when it's between people who are supposed to be in the throws of true love, but Paul and... what's her name, barely liked each other, and Ani and Ray only just hooked up. Was it some reference I don't understand? Why would a show so bleak want to evoke magical love connections at the same time as rubbing your face in Ray's misery by showing his last voice message failed to send? UGH! 

 

Also, of all the criticism Season 2 gets, I really don't get the "what the fuck is happening" meme going around. It's like the default True Detective S2 joke all over. Were they watching the show? Like, the entire time it was on? Did they have the sound on? Were they watching it on their phone while they were driving? Maybe people just don't generally watch TV without also checking Twitter the entire time any more. 

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Thinking back on the handful of standout moments I really enjoyed this season, and was surprised at how straightforward Ray's dream dad's monologue is after the finale!

 

 

 

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Hahaha, my fianceé and I both burst out laughing at Farell's reaction there. How else could you react to that line?

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1) I'm SO glad we didn't see Ani and Jordan's meeting at the park. When they were setting that up, my eyes were rolling. But I'm glad to see that it paid off the way it did in Frank's demise.

 

2) When I saw Ani putting on that baby-sling, for a second I thought she was putting on a Man With No Name poncho and I got ridiculously excited. I was expecting some Blaze of Glory after she handed off the info to the reporter, but I suppose having a child kind of prevents you from doing shit like that.

 

3) Ani's arc felt very fucking weird. She went from being such an active player to almost being written out of any meaningful stuff in the finale.

 

4)Despite a very shaky start, and me still not being entirely satisfied with a lot of the episodes, I think this season will overall be one I look back on positively. An ending where the bad guys win is usually going to get a pass from me.

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Should we spoiler tag season 1 stuff? The show's anthology status makes these considerations complicated...

Anyway, following my own advice

I think you explain some of the big reasons Childress' plant & reveal is more effective than the Ostermans'. Another is simply that, having used that trick once, it's not quite as surprising the second time. I don't recall anyone predicting the photographer at the time although a few people mentioned the secretary early on, but we all had an idea the killer would be seeded in a cameo in the first few episodes.

That said, probably the biggest reason Childress feels like a bigger deal is that in season 1, the actual crime was more important and there was a sense that knowing the culprit would provide the key to unlocking an entire conspiracy (it didn't, but more on that in a moment). Whereas in season 2, Caspere's death was pretty clearly an inciting incident that probably didn't have much to do with the bigger corruption - a fact confirmed when it was revealed the killers were out for personal vengeance. The way I put it is that if in s1 the victim was "chum in the water" to tell the bigger story, in s2 this was true of the killers as well. Note how they were dispatched less than halfway through the finale - they were arguably not even secondary, but tertiary for the plot.

A while back, Argobot said that Caspere, as a character, was much more important to TD than Dora Lange had been and at the time I agreed. But the second half of the series really works against this sense as it focuses on the corruption his death exposed rather than the relationship of his life and death to that corruption. Actually, this is one of the few ways I was actually more satisfied with s1 than 2. I felt the last season pulled a bait-and-switch by weaving all these tantalizing threads and then asking us to be satisfied when the climax dealt only with one wacky individual villain. This time, Pizzolatto got his priorities right, I think: 1) characters, 2) larger conspiracy, 3) individual crime.

Ok what did the Osterman(n?) kid say that got Farrell to react like that? I can't remember!

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I really hope that Pizzolatto's able to assess the weaknesses in this season fairly, without being reactionary or dismissive of the way the internet discusses things, and contrast them with the much-trumpeted failings of the first season in a way that leads him back to a strong collaboration with someone who can give him a second opinion on his work. Having just rewatched last season with some friends after this season's mid-run shootout left a bad taste in all of our mouths, I'm shocked at how that first season is like a child with a different father (or mother, I really don't want to get into the issue of parenting given both seasons' themes) that bears some resemblance but is a completely different creature along most of the lines that I use to evaluate a show's quality.

 

This quality fascinates me too, and I hope the Weekly podcast digs into it when they begin covering season 1. I think a spoiler section, ala Twin Peaks Rewatch, might not be a bad idea because the comparisons are interesting to begin with, and these guys are really good at doing that type of thing.

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Ok what did the Osterman(n?) kid say that got Farrell to react like that? I can't remember!

 

"I am the blade... and the bullet."

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That said, probably the biggest reason Childress feels like a bigger deal is that in season 1, the actual crime was more important and there was a sense that knowing the culprit would provide the key to unlocking an entire conspiracy (it didn't, but more on that in a moment). Whereas in season 2, Caspere's death was pretty clearly an inciting incident that probably didn't have much to do with the bigger corruption - a fact confirmed when it was revealed the killers were out for personal vengeance. The way I put it is that if in s1 the victim was "chum in the water" to tell the bigger story, in s2 this was true of the killers as well. Note how they were dispatched less than halfway through the finale - they were arguably not even secondary, but tertiary for the plot.

A while back, Argobot said that Caspere, as a character, was much more important to TD than Dora Lange had been and at the time I agreed. But the second half of the series really works against this sense as it focuses on the corruption his death exposed rather than the relationship of his life and death to that corruption. Actually, this is one of the few ways I was actually more satisfied with s1 than 2. I felt the last season pulled a bait-and-switch by weaving all these tantalizing threads and then asking us to be satisfied when the climax dealt only with one wacky individual villain. This time, Pizzolatto got his priorities right, I think: 1) characters, 2) larger conspiracy, 3) individual crime.

 

Thinking more last night and today, most of the issues that I have with the second season really boil down to how close the conspiracy was to the surface and how little the writing bothered to make the characters' unique qualities instrumental to discovering it. The corruption surrounding the parcels of land was mostly explained in the first episode, with Blake's later revelations about Agranov's involvement just providing a wrinkle. The intentional poisoning of the land, which I thought was going to be a major tentpole of the conspiracy, was handled with a brief visit to a surveyor and a couple of explicit statements by Frank in random conversations, with the mysterious "Chessani Lodge" studies proving so straightforward as to be a nonissue. After spending multiple episodes on these mysterious sex parties, all it takes is Ray to tail the most suspicious man in Frank's organization to uncover all the substantive details of those parties, about which everyone suddenly seems to have always known afterward, and then it's trivial for multiple people to infiltrate (I shouldn't be so hard on this aspect, since it's the closest the show gets to actually solving a mystery). The whole business with the pawnshop was understood in its entirety over the course of two episodes, needing only a photo, a talk with a retired cop, and a brief search through a database to expose. The Ostermans are discovered by an improbable connection between a random mention from Vera, a comparison between two blurry photos, and then some conjecture. There's nothing at work in the second season that wasn't just sitting there, waiting for literally anyone with an interest to find.

 

Maybe that's why the finale was so limp for me. Literally every aspect of the several conspiracies was out in the open and clearly understood (at least on paper; thanks, Slate!) by the last couple episodes, so what was left was for the male characters to act out their largely boring martyrdoms (Frank's demise was fine, I guess, but Velcoro was doing so well until he decided to jump out from behind a tree into full view of his pursuers) while the women are all sent away to survive and to embody new life after tragedy has struck or something. With literally all of the mysteries solved already, the writing had to resort to tedious speeches about not running away and doing it for pride to give its characters motivation, which feels like the last resort of any crime drama. I don't know, I know I'm going on without much of a point.

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