At this point, we are officially at the midpoint for Season 2 and while it isn’t shaping up to eclipse Season 1, there have been glimmers and highlights. Despite the missteps, it can’t be uprooted as an echo of its former self and showrunner Pizzolatto is digging a new Plymouth Rock to blaze a different path.
Frank’s storyline is one of a fallen gangster empire with Scorsese ultraviolence lined throughout it. In the earlier episodes, a line like “You don’t take on someone else’s grief” would’ve been a blunder but now they sound like second nature for Vaughn. It’s a disenchanting sight to watch Frank’s licit behavior crumble and resort back to channeling his club as an exchange port for MDMA, cocaine and other paraphernalia. Vaughn rustles with accusations towards his underlings and when he assigns Blake (Christopher James Baker) to be pit boss for the time being, he could easily demoralize or kill.
After the Supreme Court’s widespread approval of gay marriage, Paul’s tearful remorse at “letting [himself] go” with his military compatriot is despicably backwards. I really find this subplot to be deplorable and indicative of an archaic gay panic. Also it feels like it is running perpendicular to the main Caspere investigation and I doubt it will intersect without a catastrophic contrivance occurring. Nonetheless, the pregnancy epiphany is a galvanizing twist for Paul to further distance himself from his temptations.
It’s refreshing to see Ray play counselor to Paul about his Black Mountain woes and paparazzi onslaught (“You’re a survivor; everything else is just dust in your eyes. Blink it away man”). It’s the inception of an apotheosis for Ray; it’s an incremental, perhaps hypocritical step for someone with custody issues overhead but Farrell sounds steadfast and more gung-ho than before. The outward, interpersonal growth suits him well.
Overall, this episode is defiantly unpredictable (Ani’s suspension for fraternizing with other subordinates and her partner), dankly funny (Eliot’s tangent about green and black aura around Ray) and tantalizingly vitriolic. It’s probably safe to say that Pizzolatto has apostatized the original sin of the previous installments and he is firing on all cylinders.
In terms of comparisons, Season 2 is Predator 2 to Season 1’s Predator which the crackerjack, 7-minute-long concrete jungle shootout confirms like a feverish Michael Mann sequence. Like that franchise’s second entry, it might be unfairly maligned during its release but it will be ripe for rediscovery in the intervening years. The dive bar is akin to Monk’s Restaurant in Seinfeld or Central Perk in Friends. It’s the recurring nexus between Ray and Frank for the series. Now to bifurcate from Paul’s dead end…
Rating: 4 out of 5