10th Aug2015

‘True Detective 2×08: Omega Stations’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“I didn’t even wear a suit until I was thirty-eight.”

Goodbye, Frank. Your last pre-stabbing line was as intensely confusing as nearly everything else that came out of your mouth all season. For all that Omega Station begins with a promising morning after in which Ray and Ani (their morning clean-up and pillow talk smartly intercut) share the moments the holes in their respective lives first opened up to let the darkness in, the episode ends its extra-long time slot looking much the worse for wear. The 90-minute format does True Detective no favors, opening the door to what felt like a dozen painfully protracted goodbyes to characters we never quite managed to care about. It’s a drawn-out gasp of an episode plagued by all the same problems that have dogged the season from the get-go, last week’s brief spike in quality just a blip on the smeary grey-brown radar.

Nothing in Omega Stations feels earned. Ani’s grief over Paul? Do they even know each other’s first names? Osip’s pleading with Frank, ‘You’re like my son,’ is so left-field it boggles the mind. We’ve hardly seen these two men on screen with one another, much less dug into their pasts. When Frank, after gutting his criminal empire and handing over his heisted millions, embraces death over an apparent unwillingness to give a stereotypical Mexican gangster his suit it seems like that’s just the best reason the writer’s room could come up with to get him to the ending they wanted. As for that ending, it’s a witheringly cliched dead man’s last walk through scary black gangsters, a mean drunk of a father dropping gems like “I never loved you,” and “faggot,” and the obvious end point wherein a white-clad Jordan points out Frank’s own body to him. Having Frank drop dead after realizing he’s already dropped dead really calls into question the line between observed and observer (No, it’s just bad). Going back to the well of Ray’s relationship with his son delivers about the same results it has all season, though it does beg the question of whether or not Chad just carries that badge around with him day in and day out like Frank and his pockets full of teeth.

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There isn’t a conversation in the episode that doesn’t circle back around itself at least three times. Frank and Jordan dance around whether or not Jordan’s going to bounce for Venezuela without Frank, who telegraphs his own heroic death so heavily that its repetition almost overshadows the incredible flatness of his attempt to White Fang his wife. There’s no help to be found in Ray’s tortuously long phone call with Ani, a woman we know he’s barely acquainted with and has slept with once out of desperation. Her line about his having been making up for lost time during their lovemaking is evocative, suggesting a fragile bridge across the darkness between two broken people, but their later call mirrors Frank’s and Jordan’s exchange note for note and shot for shot. Frank and Ray skip merrily through plots distinct only in that Colin Farrell’s hair is worse than Vince Vaughn’s.

There’s a murder to wrap up, a hard drive to find (it’s empty, the shaggy dog having been shot off-screen), and a paternity test to wait for with bated breath if, for some reason, you consider that information important. It’s all wrapped up quickly. Frank and Ray ice Frank’s enemies and steal back his millions in a snoozer of a gunfight, they split up, and then inevitably it all goes to shit. The epilogues for the three leads are visually distinct, but there’s little to be said for any of them outside their solid elemental grounding. Once you get past the cheap plywood of True Detective‘s visuals, there’s nothing left but it’s confused and confusing take on what, exactly, the detective genre and the idea of violent macho action fiction mean. Burris and Tony Chessani (who Gastby-ed his dad and pinned it on his stepmom) get away scot free, maybe to face the scourge of the press when Ani’s story breaks from exile, maybe to just reign eternally in the bland waste-scape of Vinci.

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Chinatown is an object lesson in the power of stories where the villain swims away in the end, rendered untouchable by society’s apathy and corruption. Chinatown, though, isn’t eight hours long and front-loaded with more crap than a manure silo. Frank and Ray go down with guns blazing and eyes on the sky, Ray desperate to send one more oversharing message to his son but unable to get a signal on his phone (the worst attempt to manufacture tension I’ve seen, bar none), Frank presumably wondering if he should’ve just given that dude his suit and picked up some slacks at the Big & Tall, but their deaths are meaningless. The mystery just peters out while Ani pulls a repeat on Paul’s psychic wife by crying into the ocean, certain somehow that a drunk jackass has been shot in the woods.

Ray’s legacy (and the extreme vigor of his sperm in particular) seems to be the note True Detective wants to end on. First we get Ray’s ex-wife sobbing over the paternity test, which confirms that Ray was in fact Chad’s father. Next we learn that Ani, in a truly cheeseball move, has given birth to Ray’s son after their one-night stand. She and Jordan are Baby Bjorn-ing the kid, weeks at best from his first mustache hairs, through South America like he’s some kind of grail. I guess the show wants us to know that even if Tony Chessani, pimp and murderer, is still on his throne, at least a random alcoholic dickbag was super, super fertile.

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