Warning: This story contains spoilers for the second season of “True Detective.” Of course, the show already did a great job of spoiling itself.
Sunday night’s season finale of “True Detective” had a few great moments.
If you’d already abandoned all hope of a coherent plot in which writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto’s characters acted in a rational fashion, it had even more great moments, including a second instance of a pregnancy turning a woman psychic.
The story, a convoluted mess involving orgies, industrial pollution, human trafficking, jewel thieves and a light-rail corridor, tried for hard-boiled but wound up hard to swallow.
This “True Detective” installment was so uneven, it can only be embraced as camp. The fatal mistake of having four acting leads was just compounded by unnecessary tangents, heavy-handed fatherhood metaphors, gratuitous bloodshed and some of the most ridiculous dialogue to be uttered on a prestige channel like HBO.
The whole eight-episode exercise was unfair to everyone involved. Especially poor Vince Vaughn. As Frank Semyon, a gangster trying to go legit, he had an uphill battle all season. Whenever Frank strode into a room, he was going to say something menacing, quippy or nonsensical — usually all of the above, with some casual racism and SAT-worthy vocabulary thrown in for good measure.
“You can’t act for (squat),” Frank’s wife told him Sunday night when he tried to make her flee town by being mean.
But Vaughn actually did the best he could with lines like “Sometimes your worst self is your best self. Know what I’m saying?” Not really, man.
At one point, he asks one of his henchmen, “You know the word ‘louche’?” Sure, buddy. Doesn’t every underground criminal?
Part of the reason Matthew McConaughey’s “time is a flat circle” philosophizing worked so well in Season 1 was the presence of Woody Harrelson, who was around to tell him to stop talking like that in front of people. Season 2 had nobody to temper its bizarre monologues. Vaughn got the worst of it, but Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch were saddled with some doozies, too.
▪ “You’re a survivor. Everything else is just dust in your eyes. Blink it away, man.” | Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell)
▪ “The things I’m planning, black rage goes a long way.” | Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn)
▪ “You don’t want to look hungry. Never do anything out of hunger. Not even eating.” | Frank Semyon
▪ “Crime exists contingent on human desire.” | Frank Semyon
▪ “A good woman mitigates our baser tendencies.” | Frank Semyon
▪ “You’re asking me if he’s that kind of guy. He looks half anaconda, half great white.” | Nails (Chris Kerson)
▪ “When you walk, it’s like erasers clapping.” | Athena Bezzerides (Leven Rambin)
▪ “I told you. I don’t talk about the desert.” | Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch)
▪ “One day you might find cause to ask yourself what the limit is to some pain you’re experiencing, and you’ll find out there’s no limit at all.” | Ray Velcoro
▪ “That’s one off the bucket list. A Mexican standoff with actual Mexicans.” | Frank Semyon
▪ “I used to wanna be an astronaut. But astronauts don’t even go to the moon anymore.” | Ray Velcoro
▪ “Those moments, they stare back at you. You don’t remember them, they remember you. Turn around, there they are, staring.” Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams)
▪ “Your compensatory projection of menace is a guarantor of its lack. And it says something about the depths of your misperceptions.” | Dr. Pitlor (Rick Springfield)
My favorite exchange came in the third week, when Ray, recovering from a shotgun attack, gets saucy with his buddy Frank at the smoky bar booth where they meet.
“There’s a certain stridency at work here. I’m going to put it off to you getting blasted,” Frank warns him.
“Aw, frankly,” Ray responds lethargically, “I’m apoplectic.”
To which Frank replies, “I’m feeling a little apoplectic myself.”
After spending two months with these guys, I couldn’t agree more.
To reach Sara Smith, send email to email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SarawatchesKC.