True Detective Season Two Finale

The only question of interest the show left me with was “Why did Ani Bezzerides get to live?”

In movies, as in real life, people die for no reason to prove that there is no reason to live.  Usually, people die (or are killed) for a reason.  Some meaning must be made of the death.

Ray and Frank had to die because their strident blow at the heart of darkness created a debt against the system.  They could not escape and leave the scales unbalanced.  They had both shown pride or entitlement and had to be punished.

Ani did kill a bouncer in relative excess, but this was her own balancing of the scales as revenge for her childhood sexual abuse.  This may seem odd since the two had no connection except Ani’s unconscious.  This relates to the infinite substitution of objects.  Freud’s theory goes that the Id is only over “soldered” or loosely connected to the objects it attaches to.  So killing any man unsoldered this connection and everything it had been holding in place for Ani.  Ani was already feeling shame so her guilt in killing an innocent man balanced the scales between self and other.  The system owed her a mulligan.

Ani’s father in a previous episode had called her “the most innocent person” he had ever met.  Shame and innocence go together like guilt and pride in a double sea-saw.  To punish is to increase shame and innocence and reduce pride and guilt.  To seek revenge is to reverse punishment – to increase guilt/pride and reduce shame/innocence.

The final nail in the coffin would be that both Jordan and Ani suffered the loss of their love objects (Ray and Frank respectively).  As they pass on the story to a news reporter and carry on alone with the immaculate child I am lead to imagine that they have set aside their revenge, mourned their loss and passed the torch on to the journalist.  Their love can be reinvested in the child they now share together, which thus serves as the remembrance of their loss and completes the cycle.

Analysis of True Detective S2-E3: Maybe Tomorrow

Picture via HBO

This episode proved disappointing.  Only a few things to say:

  • Frank & Jordan Semyon (Vince Vaughn and Kelly Reilly):  Semyon returns to his nature, what feels comfortable and avoids powerlessness, and begins to create distance in his relationship.  I predict they will continue to part ways as Jordan becomes an uncomfortable reminder of his failures.
  • Raymond Velcoro (Colin Farrell):  Instead of dying, Raymond experiences a rebirth.  Now that he has paid the symbolic price of loss and death his debt (felt sense of obligation) to Semyon has waned.   His new-found stridency,  drinking water and attempting to leave the case all point toward a salvation plot line for Velcoro.  In Semyon’s own words:  “Things change for me, they change for you, too.”

I didn’t find anything interesting to say about the other characters.  Overall this episode seemed cramped to me – sacrificing the characters at the expense of inching the plot forward.  This involve meaningless detective work (stopping by the mayor’s house, the car).

What advanced the plot was neither the characters, nor the detective work, but once again the random acts of a disguised other.  This is so disappointing because it limits the credibility of the narrative and the importance of the characters.  I still think it’s beautifully shot and well acted and is good compared to most t.v. – who knows, maybe next week…



Analysis of True Detective S2-E2: Night Finds You

Image Courtesy of Lacey Terrell/HBO
Image Courtesy of Lacey Terrell/HBO

Episode two of this season continued my suspicion on the key underlying drivers of guilt and shame.  A tag line for the show in both season 1 and 2 being “We get the world we deserve.”

Frank & Jordan Semyon (Vince Vaughn and Kelly Reilly):  The opening scene by Vaughn introduces the dream like feel of this episode and,really, the show.  The Kafkaesque open questions of episode one (Ani’s sex act, Paul’s guilt or innocence, Ray’s killing the rapist) play well with the dream like atmosphere.  Jordan continues as a window character into Frank.  In this case, I’d say a mirror.  She helps convey things about him he can’t convey himself – maybe because they aren’t true?  He appears to have been scammed out of his money.  A traditional interpretation of gullibility is a desire for loss or punishment.  This is one of the ways the return of his dark side is being foretold.

  • Raymond Velcoro (Colin Farrell):  Raymond’s denials crumble beneath him in episode two as he loses his son, the illusion of importance as a father and former husband.  Encountering the reality of himself, much like in a dream, wakes him up – or in our case encounters death in a Lacanian sense of encountering the real.
  • Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch):  I found it hard to say much about Paul in this episode.  In his breakup he was mostly concerned with responsibility – fitting with the overall theme.  Is Paul getting the life he deserves?  What is he being punished for?
  • Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams):  One of the problems with responding to audience expectations for important female leads is that it puts the creator in an awkward spot of trying to figure out what conveying something authentic and meaningful is.  Most action movies just turn chicks into ninjas or archers, with plenty of sass.  I was pleased to see Ani’s interest in the call girls she was researching – that hanging moment of passing curiosity.  Further, her exposition about knives to Velcoro as I said in episode one will reveal whether the directors are hacks (who will make her a ninja) or visionaries (who will reveal her use of knives as a ridiculous paranoia which belongs in high fantasy).  The correct move will be for her knives to be taken from her and then used against her, representing the collapse of her defenses and her encounter with her own warded off self.
  • The Night Finds You reminds me of The Appointment in Sammara – where running from death runs you straight into his arms.

True Detective – S2-E1: Character Analysis and You

The Western Book of the Dead

(Image via

Here are my notes on the first episode, the characters, and a bit about shame.


First of all, the ensemble cast was a mistake.  If there is one thing that Breaking Bad taught us it is the lesson that years of therapy will teach you:  Even spending an hour a week, or a day with someone’s deepest secrets only scratches the surface of who they are.  Season one of TD allowed the partnership of the detectives to play off each other to accomplish a mutual character arc of sorts.  I predict there is nowhere near enough time to develop four characters.  That leaves the writers with the choice of making the characters take back stage to the story.  We’ll see how it works out.

  • Raymond Velcoro (Colin Farrell):  Raymond was never much of a husband or father to begin with.  Murdering his wife’s rapist was a magic gesture to defend against that realization.  The marriage didn’t end because of the rape, or the fact that they couldn’t have children (because of his weak swimmers).    The same goes for his “son.”  If this red-headed punching bag weren’t his son it would mean he was less of a man.  Read that again.  He takes the bullying personally because it’s not his son.  He needs to win custody because he knows he’s a bad father (read: prove he’s a good father).  His reason for why his visitation rights should be expanded was to blame the mother.  His curious use of the voice recorder to send his son messages (this may be a lie and just a diary, or a message in the bottle for after his expected death) leads to monologue.  Again, he needs to record it because it isn’t true.  He enjoyed beating two people up, proving he’s not powerless.  Violence is driven by shame – usually repressed (defended against) shame.  (Gilligan, 1996,1997,1999, etc.).  Will his shame be relieved by bringing the truth to the light of day?  Or will he spiral deeper into his attempts to disprove his sense of inferiority?
  • Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch): Here we see a repetition of the unknown known we saw for Raymond (“Did he get the blowjob?”  “Did he kill the rapist?”).  In Paul’s case we see male sexual response anxiety.  The ego analytical way of looking at this is that Paul feels inadequate, and furthermore is ashamed about feeling inadequate.  It’s no surprise he picked a girlfriend who objectifies him narcissistically in order to feel her own sexual adequacy.  She thinks his boner is for her.  This is a delusion they both share.  If Paul was fucking for his own sake, it would never occur to him to pop a pill in secret to please his partner if he wasn’t in the mood.  Instead, he’s probably thinking he’s supposed to be in the mood.  Like the good soldier he was? (We’ll see).  For the record, if he told her he wasn’t in the mood she would erupt in a histrionic lamp-throwing rage where she projects her feelings of inferiority onto him.  He seems to suffer shame and loneliness during the closeup.  Maybe he is distanced from his feelings and thus needs a strong sense of duty combined with thrill seeking to get through the day?  *Blogger Gadfly, a former military man himself, noted that Blackwater=Black Mountain and thought that perhaps Paul also has PTSD and can’t sleep in the same bed as his girlfriend (NB:  who he also can’t talk to.).  If you interpret his traffic stop as that he actually really did receive the blowjob from the celeb, then we’re dealing with guilt.
  • Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams):  Ani likes it in the pooper, which wouldn’t ordinarily intimidate guys.  The way this came up (or didn’t, in the Woodrugh sense) is what put him off.  That’s because she’s doing it to prove her superiority – and the received message is the transference effect which makes her partner feel inferior.  What comes across is not how much she wants it but how much she needs you to believe she wants it.  The fact she thinks he’s inadequate (“nice guy”) is also why she picked him in the first place.  The other thing I like about Ani is the fact that she carries knives.  In the real world, this means you’re a paranoid delusional who thinks a woman will beat a criminal in a knife fight.  In the movies, it usually means the woman is an invincible ninja warrior.  Which do you think it will be?  She seems to present as if she cares about people, but is constantly ignoring what everyone around her has to say.  She can’t risk the threat of empathizing with their perspective because she is on the run from her own sense of vulnerability.  Loss of mother, withdrawn (eclectic version:  non-responsive) father.  I am reminded of Nietzsche (Thus Pake Zarathustra, 1954 p. 100) and his warning to mistrust anyone in whom the desire to punish is strong.   Ani lashes out in censorship at her love interest, partner, sister and father.  She also responds with marked disappointment when no evildoers were nabbed at the sting operation.  She is driven by resentment. (Feinburg, 2008).  This contrasts with her father who noted he does not want to impose his will (guilt) upon anyone.  Her resentment is wrapped up in the need to be punished, possibly with guilt over her dead mother or shame from being abandoned.  Thus the gambling (need to be punished).  Finally, moralizing and disgust can be seen as reaction formations against your own repressed desires.
  • Frank & Jordan Semyon (Vince Vaughn and Kelly Reilly):  They have the kind of relationship only co-conspirators and  people who think they want to be swingers can have (until the girl wants to bring another guy).   I read them as either (a) sharing common secrets, (b) deceiving each other.  I predict their character arc will be about guilt, not shame.  The Semyons are the guilty nobles, the rest of the cast the rag-tag bunch of bloody-kneed wayward crusaders, hoping the next big case will absolve them and  make it all go away.  It won’t.  I have odds that Jordan will be murdered since she is presented as a humanizing extension of Frank.  This will drive him back to his criminal roots.
  • You:  What you need to know is that this show is full of fucked up people whose unique problems will help them crack the case and find salvation, with some rough spots along the way.  The thing to note is that you want life to work this way.  In reality, their problems (much like yours), would not help them.  People without problems would just be doing their jobs (without hangovers).  Neither can a solved case (or you cracking one of your problems) produce transformation of the self and relieve the guilt and shame.  This is because guilt and shame are not a thing that can be escaped, they are a process.  The process won’t be stopped because you are watching the process.  
  • The book of the dead, the Egyptian one, was a funerary text.  This refers to the removal of Ben Caspere’s eyes and implies a sex-cult tie in.  People ritualize sex because it helps with the boredom and allows you to avoid your partner.  A ritual is something you can be good at, after all, and perform correctly.   The same cannot be said for sex unless, like Paul Woodrugh, you’re not having it for yourself.  That’s right, hyperbolic sexuality comes from being unable to enjoy it, not from hedonism.  If you can’t enjoy it, flaunt it.