I'm officially late to the party. I got to watch the episode only today
So, Full-fledged spoilers from now on
Though Nic Pizzolatto has specifically mentioned there won't be nothing occult this season, there're a few references made . Maybe, it's all just MacGuffin.
Corruption. Sexual fetishism. Existentialism. Greek mythology. Mysticism. Egyptian practice of mummification. Corporate conspiracy. Masked rituals. Occult symbols everywhere...
invoking Raymond Chandler's era of hardboiled detective stories and Paul Thomas Anderson's latest release (I'm guessing..) The show continues its artsy-lewd display of female structure. I love the creator's grittier noir setting and Eyes Wide Shut meets David Lynch kinda symbolism. Nic Pizzolatto, as usual, throws in a few hard to figure out literary references. The ravishing film detail and colossal aerial camera-hovers is visually enticing but one rented from Fukunaga. (Kinda like how the DCCU has borrowed Nolan's Dark Knight setup and is making all its movies thematically dark and grittier.) But having Justin Lin has not undermined the tone of the series . Where else do you see an aerial shot of a beautifully orchestrated bunch of federal officers silently closing in on a target. It's mesmerizing...
But I really hated the edit when it came to Vince Vaughn's coffee (or whatever) sipping past and present. They missed out a masked transition sequence there..
A mystical, spiritual occult crime cop drama conspiring around the development of a high speed railway system is all I could gather from the first episode compared to Season 1's supernatural horror setting. Season 2 will send the detectives looking for truth and personal redemption at places higher up in the society - an elitist affair as compared to the rugged locations of swampy Louisiana in Season 1.
The heavy set non-linear story telling has faded and so has the philosophical subtleties; amusing dialogues, shattered souls, tight close-up shots of damaged faces, twice the character lineup and set in a glamour-less part of the City of Angels showcasing the region with the same vibe Louisiana received in the premiere- it's a neo -noir feature done right.
Episode 1 spans across a two month timeline or so, baring the flashbacks ,from all the clues I could find.
VINCI, THE CITY
One look at the above gif of the water tank is enough to prove that Vinci and the real city of Vernon parallel each other in every detail.
With an approximation of just over 90 residents and more than 1,200 industrial establishments, much like the fictional Vinci, the town is an industrial hotbed with longtime loyal residents supporting corrupt, economically enriched officials. Vernon is an exclusive establishment of transmission lines, power plants, sweatshops, meatpacking warehouses, refineries and vast freeways adjoined with spreads of housing establishments - a striking similarity seen in the visual blueprints of Episode 1's beautiful aerial shots of underpopulated urbane landscapes. Eventually, the city of Vernon and its scions went down in corruption charges. Vernon happened back in 2010. Vinci is happening now...
Vinci is an industrial money making machine built and shared by mutual parties. Massive cases of land-grabbing, countless acts of extortion, heavenly salary hikes for Vinci City Council authorities and dubious police interferences has put heat on the city of 95 living beings which is so small that the entire municipality lives in the City Hall. California Central Rail Corridor, a shady $68bn central high-speed railroad is the talk of the town but it get scandalous with the advent of Los Angeles Times leading an eight part investigative series already labeling the city as the most corrupt district in LA County on its Tuesday edition on 27th November 2015.
Frank Semyon, after years of criminal life decide to go straight, but his chance of moving into legitimate business is hindered by the disappearance of City manager Ben Caspere.
Full name : Raymond Velcoro
In the very beginning, we are welcomed by a scene where Ray Velcoro is being interviewed by Harris, an attorney/custody lawyer (set up by Frank) which brings back rich memories of McConaughey sitting across the desk, sipping from his big hug mug and delivering wicked liners. Ray Velcoro admits that the guy who wronged his wife was never found amidst much doubtful dramatic air. It's safe to tell he did kill the guy as we see how Colin Farrell's character ferociously leave Frank's club that night. That night, he entered hell and never quite came back. It might be explained in a later episode..
former LA Deputy Ray Velcoro is introduced as a Vinci Police Department Detective who loses his allegiance to duty the day he meets Frank Semyon, a career criminal who helps Ray find the amphetamine addicted perpetrator who violated his supposedly pregnant wife. (Ray and his wife have been trying a long time now). Absence of male virility is a commonality all 3 characters share and it seems to be a major issue in Nic Pizzolatto's universe.
Since then, he's become Frank's paid muscle; recently, he roughed up Dan Howser, a senior writer behind the investigation on corruption and delivered the files and laptop to Frank at the Carta Blanca bar shutting down the inquiry for now. The scarred waitress reminds me of Noomi Rapace from the movie Dead Man Down starring our very own Colin Farrell.
While the Police is busy shredding every issue of the newspaper released that day, they're also relieved they won't be receiving any subpoenas with a huge missing asset to look out for. Ray is tasked with finding Ben Caspere, the missing city manager.
Ray plays a struggling father to Chad, an estranged boy who may or may not be his biological son. (Velcoro’s son was born nine months after the incident). I believe deep down Ray knows that he's not his son. He's trying to get custody of his alleged son although he's unwilling to do a paternity test. (He's convinced that Chad is his.)
but not in a way that can mess up his job routine, Velcoro can go fully erratic and can take a brass knuckle to your face if you're the dad of the boy who bullied his son. When Ray arrives at Ass-pen's house, its more Halloweeny and could be the month of October, 2015. Ray displays a cycle of love and hate on Chad, (he meets every weekend) from protecting him to even calling him 'a fat pussy'. (Not to hurt anyone but True Detective is built upon diversity and human nature; Chad is a pudgy, chubby mate which makes him a subject or in fact he gives in to bullying and doesn't fit Velcoro's description for masculinity. The first scene is of Ray telling his kid to be proud and always be strong.. "head up", he's trying to toughen him up.) Ray carries a dictaphone which he uses to send affectionate messages to his son but mostly ends up apologizing for previous angry instances. An inebriated remnant with total disregard to personal health, he has lost his desire in woman and with no sense of direction, his son is probably the reason he exists. He wants his visitation rights to be expanded. After all, Ray raised Chad all by himself for two months when his wife came back seeking divorce.
When Ben Caspere's body is found, Ray calls it a missing persons case and tries to contain the situation, failing which, it could expose Vinci's unfathomable corruption. No matter what, he has to work with Ani, this should be fun.
A volatile Colin Farrell as the exhausted Ray Velcoro gets the meatiest role with his excellent facial wrinkles, gloomy weariness, tragic past and all those dialogues Pizzolatto puts in his mouth.
I'm secretly waiting for him to attain Mcconaissance this season. Oh and that Moustache, Ray Velcoro is nothing without his moustache.
"My son is my son" ...Goddamit, I love that line. He's my fav character already
Given the Californian intoxication and noir cop drama setup, initially, I thought Ani Bezzerrides was a slight nod to this American novelist up until she met her hermit hippie dad Eliot, who goes around dropping Greek literature and stuff about Allen Ginsberg. From him, we get her full name as Antigone Bezzerides named after the heroine of a Greek tragedy by Sophocles in which she is an offspring of an incestuous relationship.
A Ventura Sheriff CID who loves to drink, stay late at clubs, gambles a lot, pick up fight with bouncers, has a thing for knives(blades, whatever), and is introduced to the audience through her sexual preferences. Apparently she has a proclivity to do something really, really unconventional on the bed that can freak out a guy. There's something about a tough lady cop with daddy issues who's angry with the world, despises men, uses them as boy toys and sends them away in the morning with a stern "'fuck you" warning - that's Ani Bezzerides. This character development could be a result of the severe backlash the series received in its misogynic premiere season. She believes her job is a virtuous plastering for personal failings like her failed marriage. She meets her green haired sister Athena, a former druggie, during her line of duty following a wrong tip-off, knocking up on a legitimate brothel finding her working as a porn performing webcam girl.
So who tipped off Ani? Was it misdirection or was it just a pure directorial incentive of creating a scenario for two characters to meet?
While Ani is disgusted and tells her sister to get back on meds (what kind of advice is that!), Athena believes it to be a venue for creative expression. Over the course of the episode, it is revealed that Ani's mother committed suicide and her father did nothing to stop it (I'm guessing..it was hard to pick up the dialogues).
Ani, kinda like a female assassin, carries a hidden blade in her sock to protect herself from men. A pause into her apartment showcases a wooden dummy with head and heart targets that is a subject of Ani's knife wielding practice session, a wall portion full of knives made of wood, metal, ceramic of various sizes and her reading materials are all self defense, martial arts related - Musashi's A Book of Five Rings and Hagakure: Book of the Samurai; Master of the Blade; and a book simply titled "Knives". Oh..and she owns a surfboard.
Anways, she ain't got no time for friendship not even with her partner Elvis Ilinca (what a name!). Ani Bezzerides as the kickass vape pen smokin' crusader will more likely be tempered by Ben Caspere's really, really odd eroticism and could shift away the course of investigation from Ray Velcoro's motives.
Vera, the missing maid and the Panticapaeum Institute
A New Age spiritual retreat (which brings to my mind The Mentalist in which Bret Stiles leads a philosophic and spiritual missionary called 'Visualize.') named after an ancient Greek city maintained by Ani's hippie dad Eliot. He's seems to be in peace with whatever challenge that's yet to come or the decisions his daughters' make. A very 60's styled guru Eliot asks his daughter to drop of her negative vibe and stop creating problems for herself.
I couldn't help notice the fragrant incendiaries and what seems to be like a Hindu idol ( Not sure...) A follow-up after delivering an eviction notice to a woman whose sister goes missing leads Ani to the Panticapaeum regarding the disappearance of a Vera, a 24 year old maid working at the holistic centre. According to her sister, Vera's phone has been disconnected and her roommate accounts she moved out. A calendar in the house shows the date as 23rd September 2015 and a butterfly imagery which gets repeated in certain places. Not sure what it means - could be metamorphosis or mind control stuff or nothing.
Something tells me that the girl smoking crack here could be the missing maid. Just a thought...nope
Questioning with the employees (cleaning staff) reveals she quit for a job with better pay two months back (probably) somewhere near Sonoma's club circuit exactly where Caspere seems to be nabbing land deals.
Why did the City Police not take any step to look out for the woman even after repeated complaints? Is it b'coz she was in crossroads with all the shit that's been happening. Was she a victim of sexploitation? Maybe murdered? Maybe we will find the answer in Sonoma?
Eliot makes a mistake calling out Athena as the Goddess of Love, she is not, but Goddess of Wisdom and Courage. Maybe, he's just a sham with the donation signboards et al. He actually has no issues with his daughter being a so-called performance artist. He also delivered the most alluring question of the century?
Is Panticapaeum Institute receiving a funding from Caspere's wallet? How is Eliot related to the case? I doubt David Morse to be a character just sitting there with his hair down, hanging around whispering to statues, watching over departed souls, teaching yoga and stuff.
A calculated move by a career criminal desperate for legitimacy. But all sorts of illegality ensues in Frank's bid to go legit from roughing up a reporter to a never ending fountain of cash flow with no paper trails. Again, we've a character that is trying hard for progeny. Frank reveals he's gonna opt for IVF. As mentioned before he has a long history with Ray Velcoro but an even longer relationship with the missing Ben Caspere. His wife and business partner Jordan Semyon whom he calls "the brains" is a redhead and she's definitely not a trophy wife. She sure can be authoritative, boosts his husband's self esteem, feels like a secretive femme fatale and strongly reminds me of Jessica Chastain's persona in A Most Violent Year. For more evidence, let's throw in that Leonard Cohen's song - " Our law of peace, Which understands, A husband leads, A wife commands.."
Frank (probably) owns or rents a casino called the Vinci Nine Garden Casino where he holds a buy-in party for the proposed California Central Rail Corridor( which is happening as I write...for real) inviting investors, contractors, developers and Osip Agronov, an overseas associate and Russian gangster. We also get to see the Mayor (drunk and rubbing his hands around a woman's butt) who is part of the deal.
Frank, in particular, is anxious dealing with the Russian. Earlier, they had a business meeting in Paris. Though Osip has complete confidence in Frank, he believes in thoroughness and assures that the deal will be closed when he's ready.
Does Osip have anything to do with the Panticapaeum Institute given the Russian/Ukrainian influences they share?
Ben Caspere, the medium of communicator who was supposed to pitch the idea at the party goes missing crashing Frank's hope. Frank's a longtime professional pal of Ben Caspere. He should have know his odd taste of sexual preferences and everything referenced in his palatial apartment. Frank's been funneling a lot of money for him and a quick screen grab of the newspaper will show how his yearly income has increased multifold.
Why would Frank kill Caspere, the guy to whom he entrusted with his fortune. Was he acting? Was Caspere getting insatiable? I hope not...
The scions of Vinci are filthy rich and are looking forward for more dough. Guessing by the dialogues, Vinci gained commercially when a subway line was introduced. (So..there's a subway underground Vinci?) The same thing is to happen with the high speed rail corridor, but on a gigantic scale. This is evident from Frank's gentle confrontation with Osip. All shares will be owned by holding companies through some group called Catalyst/Catalast.
Frank is not in a hurry but is definitely frantic, for, his investment seems to be in trouble with the chief architect missing and the Russian playing games. Plus, he really wants his legacy to last and speaks of 'old California families'.
Vince Vaughn's Frank Semyon must have a fragmented past going by the nature of other characters but it's not revealed in the episode. Right now, he's shown as an ambitious fella, doubtful at times, supported by his wife and comes off as a guy who seems to have a good heart and will go to extreme limits to fulfill his desire. But behind that straight faced eye-gaze sleeps a notorious mastermind, a terror of the 90s.
So, a criminal turned businessman gets down on a case, with officers from three different law enforcement agencies, one on his side, in which he could probably be the first suspect.
In the party, Osip introduces his lawyer Michael Bugulari. I know this is a long shot, but give the meth freak who supposedly raped Velcoro's wife a few years to mature, get him half tonsured, buy him a costly suit, buff him up, attach a beard and you get Michael Bugulari...Damn. Plus, look at the spellings - his second name begins with the letter B. They have the same nose!!
Who the hell is this guy and why does he keep looking at Frank's wife?
We know that he was an army vet, he was a patriot. His body is physically wounded, scarred and burned on one symmetry but it has nothing to do with his time in the military. He keeps saying the word "Black Mountain" and I've no clue what it means. His designation is California Highway Patrol officer (CHP). His face is way to emotionless and constipated to the point that there's no way to differentiate if he's in pain or if he's receiving oral sex. Coming to the issue of invirility , Woodrugh needs a blue pill of viagra and good half an hour break in the bathroom for it to kick in - a necessity to spend his time with his girlfriend Emily. He's severely damaged and it seems almost irreparable. The butterfly imagery makes abundant presence in Woodrugh's shelter.
receive an ankle monitor-wearing starlet's offer of sex in exchange for letting her skip traffic violations and parole. His boss knows this claim is bullshit and so does his work colleagues but Internal Affairs was deep into the case.
While the former puts him on administrative leave with pay ( to avoid the tabloids from blowing the issue), the latter make merry out of it. He never stays at night and ventures into the highway; this behavior could be an outcome of PTSD. He loves his bike and tries to break the sound barrier at night with the intention of self destruction. With frustration seeping in over his dismissal, he contemplates suicide, turns off the light and drives into the dark (like David Lynch's Lost Highway) until he chickens out at the last moment skidding of the road and stumbling upon the asset who went AWOL two days ago.
Although he is on administrative leave, Paul Woodrugh was the first at the scene, he called it in and, he'll be working on this case to make sure he gets back to CHP.
I know it's time to let go of Season One, but a theory of mine is that Paul Woodrugh could be, maybe one of those young kids enrolled in Tuttle funded schools - the home of bizarre rituals and sexual molestations. The scars could be a reference to some kind of initiation ceremony or just plain bodily abuse.
But a little rewind brings back thoughts of Black Mountain. Paul Woodrugh worries about how everyone is looking deep into his murky past. He must've been a mercenary working for this private contractor where he had to do things beyond moral policy but still it was a fight for America. Wounds probably happened then. There goes my 'short-lived 'Tuttle theory.
There's so much self destruction going on, it feels like a major character will die. It's soo foreshadowing...
The City Manager has been missing for the last two days. His phone has been shut off. Frank Seymon is in a fix without him. Mayor Chessani is on DEFCON (top level military readiness). Everyone in Vinci is searching for him. The guy is literally a customs radar - every transaction, every freakin' movement in the city goes through him. Suddenly he goes missing..
Somewhere, a man in sunglasses is shown seated in the back seat of a maroon Cadillac Brougham /1978 Pontiac Bonneville coupe (not sure..). The chauffeured ride pulls onto Mulholland Drive ( a synonymous nod to the iconic movie and twisted roadway much like the characters) and joins the serpentine LA freeway. The driver all dressed in black sits next to a creepy raven/falcon/hawk mask. We already know that a huge masked orgy scene has been filmed with real porn actors. Next time we'll get to see someone wearing it! So who is this caddy/perpetrator?
Meanwhile Velcoro and his partner Dixon start with interviewing Caspere's recently appointed secretary at his office who provides valuable input of his frequent visitation to Montorey Hills and the Russian River Valley, but assures he never takes off without prior notice. We know Caspere is buying up property and investing for future commercial opportunities along the proposed rail line.
The Russian river valley is located in Sonoma County. The missing maid was last reported to be heading towards Sonoma. It was the home to the Pomo people, Native American folks. There're documented reports of gay rituals, illuminati references, brotherhood fraternity stuff happening around these areas. The occult members of a well known club used to worship a giant stone owl - one of these days, I hope to see an owl shaped totem at the Panticapaeum
Google 'Bohemian Grove' for more
Even Velcoro wears a bolo tie, a fashionable necktie influenced by Native American tradition
Velcoro and his partner arrive at Caspere's private property and find objects strewn all around. A struggle. More than that, they get to know that the City Manager was one helluva man ; an unmarried definitely old aged, deviant guy with a predilection for odd sexual activity living in a besmirched sex mansion rife with paintings of naked women, a depiction of Ophelia's death, several phallic sculptures, a copy of the Kama Sutra (sure..why not) and assorted visual crafts including a standalone shot of an 'odd man out' Santa Muerte skeleton (also mentioned in Breaking Bad.) Maybe he is a follower of ' Our Lady of the Holy Death' cult.
Velcoro points out to an art installation of a woman afloat on milky waters which has an interesting origin. They find a computer missing. A book with pull-out map reveals Caspere's land buying spree. Velcoro considers the case to be a 207, a kidnapping and says " 'We don't belong in this' - which calls for numerous interpretations.
The most common elucidation being he did not know Frank was involved until then or that the case was kinda like national emergency and more people need to work on it. Anyway, the difference here is that Rust Cohle would've taken it up personally to the bulletin board but Velcoro gives no shit about investigation methods.(this is all just a tragic guess work). He also believes that his bosses already know what happening.
Suddenly this (the gif above)happens and now for sure we know, he's Ben Caspere and he's dead. The long transport (reminds me of Dan Brown's Digital Fortress) ends with the body being dragged and placed in a park intersecting 3 jurisdictions.
Finally, Motorcycle Cop Woodrugh stumbles upon the guy in sunglasses sitting on a bench on the Ventura Pacific Coast Highway near a sign that reads 'Catalyst Group', the name that made its presence in Semyon's party. A little closer, he removes his eyewear to notice his eyeballs missing and a wallet placed strategically on his lap reads BENJAMIN CASPERE. Woodrugh calls 9-1-1. Ventura County Medical Examiner reveal Caspere's eyes have been burned by an acidic component and his pelvic area has ruptured which could be a possible trauma linked to a sinister cult, ritual aftermath or just plain beatdown.
Was Caspere killed for his role in the giant land deal or did his nightmarishly vivid lifestyle have something to do with the way he was mutilated? Casper, a missing person and a resident of Vinci whose body is found in Ventura County by a CHP officer makes it a strained trio investigation.
Nic Pizzolatto is a powerhouse English major. But there's unnecessary exposition and superfluous usage at times. He was ready to serve True Detective season 1 as it was in his head for a pretty long time. A writers' room could help this time.
True detective Season 2 picks up in the final moments of the pilot episode
This confrontation and Nice Cave's magic