It’s Mason Cross’ turn to take on the mantle of True Detective reviewer and he does so with gusto, recapping episode six of HBO’s detective masterpiece. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)
Like episode 4, ‘Church in Ruins’ takes its time to get going, gradually advancing the various strands of the plot before exploding into an exciting and bloody climax – a structure that seems to be becoming a True Detective trademark.
We pick up where we left off last week, with Velcoro confronting Semyon with the revelation that the gangster’s faulty tip-off led Velcoro to kill an innocent man in revenge for his wife’s rape. It’s a tense scene, and what makes it so interesting is that Velcoro isn’t just blaming Semyon for this action, he’s blaming him for the way his life has spiralled out of control ever since.
Impressively, Semyon coolly manages to talk Velcoro into putting his gun away. Persuading him not only that he didn’t know the intelligence was flawed, but that Velcoro already had everything he needed to take that next, murderous step without any prompting from Semyon: “That choice was in you before your wife or any of this other stuff. It was always there, waiting.” It’s a nice summation of the problem common to all of the lead characters: they’re all prisoners of their own inbuilt flaws.
This faceoff resolved, the episode settles back into a slow burn groove as Velcoro, Bezzerides, Woodrugh and Semyon – only two of them cops now, but all of them acting as detectives – continue to investigate the conspiracy surrounding city manager Ben Caspere’s death. Among other pieces of the puzzle, they turn up a torture scene at a remote hillside shack, a connection to the 1992 LA riots, and a trail that leads to an opulent mansion where some powerful and decidedly shady characters gather for decadent parties. Along the way, Semyon gets to indulge in a little more light torture, and Velcoro pays a prison visit to the real perpetrator of the assault on his wife.
There are a lot of threatening exchanges and long, moody pauses this week, so by the end of the episode it’s time for some pulpy, violent thrills. Bezzerides, for obvious reasons, is chosen to go undercover at the next house party while Velcoro and Woodrugh launch an incursion into the house to see what they can turn up. A few minutes later, after witnessing an orgy through a drug haze and fighting off the attentions of a sleazy partygoer, Bezzerides has stabbed a bouncer to death and fled the party in a hail of bullets with Woodrugh and a missing person in tow. Velcoro makes a well-timed arrival with the car and the three beat a hasty retreat, hopefully with the information they need to close this case in two more episodes.
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. His second novel, The Samaritan, is out in hardback and ebook on 16 July, and the acclaimed The Killing Season is available now. 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.