‘True Detective’ Season 2 Episode 4 Recap: “Down Will Come”

Last week, I mentioned that it was hard to find the actual crime — solving Caspere’s murder — and any related detective work in True Detective that compelling. “Down Will Come” seemingly challenged that by culminating in a large, extended, and deadly gun fight. But even that failed to really work.

Rewinding to the beginning, there is a whole lot happening that doesn’t make much sense with just one viewing — HBO has stopped providing screeners to critics, and I have also stopped wanting to watch this season’s episodes twice — and a lot that seems superfluous, like Ani and Ray staring at the exploded car without further insight into it. Frank’s “business” stuff doesn’t land, either; although I do enjoy that Vaughn is still having fun being a cool crime boss, I don’t find his rampant macho posturing original or interesting.

And “Down Will Out” goes full speed ahead when it comes to macho dudes and the macho-ness they struggle to possess. Frank is trying to reschedule that whole “having a kid” thing so Jordan suggests talking alternatives (“Another dog?” Frank questions) like adoption which, unsurprisingly, Frank isn’t cool with: “You don’t do someone else’s time.” Frank wants his child (and I’m going to assume he’s gunning for a son) to have his genes, and to be wholly his and Jordan’s. Any other option is insulting to his masculinity. Jordan’s worried she can’t have a child (though she’s been pregnant before) but Frank scoffs away that worry: “You could have a kid; look at you.” Er, OK, Frank. At least you’re not a doctor.

Then there is Paul, beautiful but troubled and closeted Paul. He wakes up in the home of his former military buddy Miguel after punching him, then blacking out and calling him from a club, and after a night of sex that Paul is pretending never happened. He quickly bails and takes a taxi to find his motorcycle which has been stolen, because True Detective loves its annoying and unsubtle metaphors. I mean, Paul is gay and he no longer has a motorcycle? What kind of man is he?! There is a small part of me that likes this internal struggle Paul is facing but there is a bigger, more overwhelming part of me that knows it is falling victim to worse and worse writing every week, and that it just doesn’t shake out with a 2015 California climate.

Anyway, this is actually a relatively big week for Paul who generally has done nothing but shrug and squint and look really good on screen. As he heads to his hotel he gets attacked by paparazzi with war crimes allegations, with one even asking if he has a “history of violence against women.” Then he has a nice little scene with Ray (still soberish, a much better look for the tortured detective) about reporters (one once said, to Ray, “I’d rather be wrong and first than right and second” because well, Pizzolatto has to get in as many jabs to the profession as possible) and hangover cures — Ray’s glovebox is full of them, and Paul opts for a small bottle of vodka before they go grab some Pedialyte.

Also on Paul’s agenda is a meeting with his girlfriend who drops the bomb that she is pregnant — of course, because Frank wants a child but can’t have one and Paul doesn’t like women but obviously will now have a child with one — and that she doesn’t believe in abortion (shocker!) and that she’s keeping it. “I want you to,” Paul lies. “And I think we should get married,” he lies even more. “This is the best thing that could happen,” well, you get it. But there is some truth in that statement, at least to Paul’s warped mind state right now, because he wants to be the macho dude with the hot wife and the adorable child, because that all makes it much easier for him to pretend — to others and to himself — that he’s not gay.

As for the other two true-ish detectives, we get a conversation with Ani and some more insight about her family (particularly her dead mother), and we learn that her father believes Ray has a “one of the largest auras I’ve ever seen. Green and black. Taking up the whole room.” True Detective is really trying my patience at this point. Ani’s biggest issue this week is that there’s been a formal complaint lodged against her: Steve, the officer she broke up with, is complaining about sexual misconduct, because he’s technically Ani’s subordinate. It’s also not the first time this has happened — she also broke up another detective’s marriage by sleeping with him; it’s basically just a master class in giving Ani shit for wanting one-night stands — and is on departmental leave, though she can still work the other case.

All of this ridiculousness is all leading up to the big ending scene, the catalyst being a watch Paul found in a pawn shop. The detectives raid a shop that turns into a major shootout (the detectives against nameless Mexican gang members who have machine guns), a big explosion, and even a wrecked bus. It just escalates and escalates, until our three heroes (?) are the ones left standing, reeling from the countless dead bodies (well, except Paul, who finally showcases the reason why he makes a good cop: he’s the calmest, presumably because of his time in the desert) and unsure of what happens next.