True Detective — Down Will Come
My grand theory about this season finally begins to take shape.
I want to spend most of my time talking about the grand theory, but there are a few plot points and clues to cover first. Frank’s storyline about going around and extorting money is kind of boring. I don’t really care about Frank that much. What’s important is that I think his wife, Jordan, is a much bigger player than her screen time would lead us to believe. Whenever she’s around, we get a cut to her reaction. She looms over all her scenes with a presence that outweighs the character’s relative importance in the plot. I think she’s manipulating Frank — for some reason she really wants a kid, even if it’s an adopted kid. Why?
Ray is planning to kill himself. Last week I noted how he changed, was less angry, no longer willing to take Frank’s bullshit (plus that weird scene in the doctor’s office). I hinted at Frank’s suicidal tendencies earlier too — when he tells Frank, “Everyone has the same option.” This week he surreptitiously tells his son goodbye (“Are you going away?”) and gives him his dad’s old badge. Seeming at peace and giving away possessions? All possible signs someone is planning suicide.
Now for the big theory. I started to put this together on a long drive down an interstate highway, and the events of this episode put a few more pieces in place. Now, I said I’d refrain from metagaming here, but I keep coming back to Nic Pizzolatto’s statement that the show is about “the occult underpinnings of the interstate highway system.” He doubled back and said he was joking, but…let’s take him at his word. Because it makes a lot of sense.
First, we have so much highway imagery in the opening credit sequence and almost every single transition and establishing shot. It’s hard to capture in a still, but these shots of cars traveling down these gracefully curving, crossing, looping highways brings to mind blood cells moving through arteries.
Then I noticed the image from the top of this post at the end of the credit sequence. Pretty striking. Some kind of eclipse or whatever. Wait, no. That’s a small planet passing in front of the sun. Maybe Venus or Mercury. You know what the astronomical term for that is? A transit.
So these highways and modes of travel and transit are a very important part of the plot. The interstates were first built in the 50s, and the same family has been controlling Vinci for 100 years, plus the highways have been added to and rebuilt over and over since then. You know what else those cloverleafs and exit ramps remind me of? Intricate figures needed to cast a magic spell. Maybe a spell of power, to keep your family rich for generations. You know what powerful spells often require? Blood sacrifice. How many people die on highways every day? Hell, Ani almost did last week.
Now maybe Caspere (as the subtitles inform me his name is spelled) was killed because he was pushing this high speed rail system that was going to take people off the highways. A rail line that was going to draw a long, straight line through all those intricate symbols. Who did it? Maybe the mayor of Vinci (“My father is a very bad man.”). I want to look at the EPA guy’s map really long and hard and see what clues we can glean. Do those roads make what could be the beginning of a pentagram? What do the circles indicate? I’ve altered this image a bit to make it easier to see details.
Or maybe there’s something beyond a spell of power being cast here. Every lead the cops are tracking down is drawing them toward this hippie cult Ani’s dad is or was involved with. He’s the guy who talked about this being the “final phase” of humanity, remember. I went with apocalypse death cult earlier and I’m sticking to it. The highways are part of some grand ritual to bring about the end of the world. I know, that theory is utterly insane. (Also that little beat about Ray’s enormous aura and his deadpan tiny little reaction to it was spot on perfect dry humor).
How does that shootout play into it? For what it’s worth, I thought that sequence was better, more vital to the story, and more emotionally, viscerally powerful than the famous “one-shot” from last season, which felt to me more like a cinematographer showing off.
Well, there was a protest going on nearby, about a “subway that serves no purpose.” And the vehicle the bad guys crashed into was a bus.
But those gunmen were lunatics. Supposedly just some crook pimping his girl and killing Caspere for his money, they started blasting away out the window as soon as they saw cops. They didn’t act like they had any real goal, not even escape. Ani was on foot, I’m pretty sure they could have gotten away if they’d wanted to. But they intentionally veered into the bus, then hung around blasting away at civilians and cops, and directing a ton of attention at blasting the bus itself, killing as many people on it as possible. It wasn’t collateral damage — the goal was to massacre as many people as they could.
And the only three who made it through alive, our three primary characters, Paul, Ani, and Ray. As if maybe there’d been a directive not to kill them, because someone’s pulling strings, lining up to serve some other purpose. Ani suspended. Ray shot in the ribs. Paul hounded by the press about war crimes.