27th Jul2015

‘True Detective 2×06: Church in Ruins’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“Christ, you had to show me this?”

It’s the orgy episode, folks. You knew it was coming and now, like the sweaty, bloated captains of industry who remain clothed while their nude pleasure slaves gyrate around them, it has come. And ‘Church in Ruins’ is every bit the soggy disappointment that comparison would lead you to expect.

Surprise of surprises, the show’s vision of trippy sex hell peaks at an “Amish roller rink” on the wildness scale. Tangles of nude bodies(almost all women.  Naked men show up, but it’s women’s bodies the camera lingers over), a series of drug-induced generic rape-as-story flashbacks, and leering old men comprise a tepid view of sexuality run amok. It’s hard to buy that Ani, even high on some version of MDMA that makes you anxious and provides you no pleasure whatsoever(sounds like a huge drag, man), is fazed by a place this vanilla. Women going down on women! Congress in the ways, both hall and door! My lord, what a display. The infernal red palette and Ani’s stumbling, wax-faced progress through the Palazzo della Fellatio both strain for a sense of horror and corruption unsupported by the limp and shopworn contents of the set piece. The best I can say for it is that at least it shows the deeply unsexy nature of gross old men shelling out thousands for sex with beautiful young women, even if it does stop to gawk every now and then.

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Practically nothing in ‘Church in Ruins’ lands. From the opening exchange between Frank and Ray to the odious racial undertones of Frank’s exchange with the Santa Muerte gangsters, the episode flails for gravitas and finds a mixture of camp and schlock instead. Take the above exchange between Ray and the man he now knows is his wife’s rapist. First, we’re asked repeatedly to sympathize with Ray when he discusses  how murdering the wrong man destroyed his life. Then we’re subjected to his Princess Bride-style To The Pain threats to the imprisoned rapist, a scene ending with a clumsy exchange that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of 30 Rock or Arrested Development. Beyond showing us a story of violence and presenting Ray, its perpetrator, as the man in whom we should invest, the show takes a bizarre leap into exploring fatherhood with Frank’s paternal speech to the son of his dead goon and Ray’s open contempt for his complacent son.

The one bright spot amid all the gunk and clutter was the score, a Williams-esque skirl of strings that started up during Ani’s sojourn through the site of the party. Consummately noir while also managing to sell a sense of adventure and fantasy, it injected life into an otherwise rote raiding operation. The dialogue between the suit and Osip, overheard by Woodrugh and Velcoro, also pushes into Lynchian territory with gems like, “The full moon is the best time to ratify alliances.” At first blush it’s unpalatable, but the weirdness grows on you.

‘Church in Ruins’ isn’t good, but its inspired score and willingness to skip sexy and go right for ugliness add up to something a shade more watchable than the season’s previous five hours, even if it is a little…flaccid.

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