Crime writing duo Mason Cross and Steve Cavanagh are avidly watching the return of HBO’s True Detective and reporting back to The Murder Room. Episode two falls to Mason Cross to review, and he finds the case has immediately heated up.
Thanks to my partner in crime Steve Cavanagh for his blog on the eagerly-awaited return of HBO’s premium cop show, freshly transplanted from rural Louisiana to the City of Angels.
Whereas episode one took its time introducing us to the characters, ‘Night Finds You’ quickly drops us into the case proper, as our three mismatched cops start to investigate the murder of Ben Caspere: the former city manager of Vinci, California. And a fairly gruesome murder it is too, reassuring anyone who might have worried that Nic Pizzolatto might have been tempted to stray from the dark side in the show’s second season. Caspere, a shady character with a couple of homes full of weird porn, has been tortured – his eyes burned out with hydrochloric acid and his genitals surgically removed by shotgun.
Following some interdepartmental wrangling over who gets to investigate the murder, the case is naturally assigned to the three cops we got to know last week: Colin Farrell’s bad detective Ray Velcoro, Rachel McAdams’ Antigone ‘Ani’ Bezzerides, and Taylor Kitsch’s Highway Patrolman Paul Woodrugh.
As the trio gets to work shaking loose some leads, we check in with gangster Frank Semyon – played by Vince Vaughn with his usual smooth menace – as he realises that Caspere’s murder has really screwed up his plans to go legitimate with the commuter rail project. That gives Semyon an interest in the central mystery and, towards the end of the episode, he starts to do some detective work of his own.
But this is True Detective and, just as in season one, it often feels like the procedural element is merely a sideshow to the personal demons of our protagonists. So we spend plenty of time seeing the leads interact with one another and their immediate families, starting to explore just why each of them is so screwed up.
Last week, Steve talked about this incarnation of the show as a love letter to the LA crime fiction gods. There’s the obvious Chinatown reference in the way the plot is structured around corruption and a big municipal project, but when it comes to the characters, the show really wears its James Ellroy influences on its sleeve. It’s evident not just in the way the characters are all painted in shades of very dark grey, but in the way the three central cops are the same type of archetypes Ellroy has returned to again and again, from The Big Nowhere to American Tabloid. Farrell is the corrupt bruiser with a secret conscience. Kitsch seems to be the green-around-the-gills kid who is more driven than the others put together. McAdams fits into the role of the more outwardly-stable, streetwise cop, but you suspect she’ll be in over her head before she knows it.
But she won’t be the first, because a jawdropping cliffhanger leaves us in doubt as to whether one of the main characters will even make it to episode three . . .
Mason Cross was born in Glasgow in 1979. He studied English at the University of Stirling and currently works in the voluntary sector. His short story, ‘A Living’, was shortlisted for the Quick Reads Get Britain Reading Award. The Killing Season is his first novel. He lives in Glasgow with his wife and three children. To find out more, visit Mason Cross’ website or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.