“Those moments…they stare back at you. You don’t remember them; they remember you.”
The past is a painful thing for all these characters. They’re very different people, but what ties them together is the fact that they’re still haunted in some way by history, that the decisions they made prior to this case still affect them in the present. They’re each attempting to hold onto some kind of life raft in order to push through the mud, but only moving forward is impossible in their cases because shit stays with them; it propels them backwards and sideways as well. As Ray tells Frank about being poor: “Nah, that shit never leaves you.”
Throughout this episode, we see various examples of the past catching up to someone. Paul, for example, is hounded by reporters this week about his history with Black Mountain in the military. Ray gives his father’s badge to his son and goes on about being remembered. Ani wanted to leave the manipulation of her sex behind last week when she was asked to make a move on Ray, but this week, she ends up being suspended for her prior relationships and gambling debts. “This wouldn’t happen to a man,” she accuses. In addition, she’s the one responsible for the quote above, referring to memories about her mother as she’s talking to her sister. Those memories bubble to the surface after she questions Betty Chessani, who reveals that her own mother committed suicide a while back. Connections are being found all over the place, and not just through the case.
Eventually, this all leads into the very well staged shootout at the end, one whose intensity is reminiscent of the show’s famous final sequence in “Who Goes there” (although this one doesn’t even come close to the brilliance of that projects scene). Aside from the three main characters showcasing their collective incompetence and getting literally every other cop there killed, there’s also a really telling observation to make at the end. Whereas Ani and Ray are stunned and exhausted after the shootout, Paul looks like he’s been in a situation like this before. And well, he has. He was in the military, after all, and this is a case where his past both catches up to him and helps him push through. In the end, sometimes your worst self is your best self.
-I really like the scene between Ray and Paul in the car. This season really is getting some great scenes through its car conversations, a la season one.
-Avocado trees aren’t bearing fruit, just like Frank! Get it?!
-Interesting to look at different views on kids in this episode. Paul sees Em’s pregnancy as a way for him to move forward, as a way for him to hold onto something. Frank talks about how he doesn’t want to adopt because with his own kids, at least it’s his own sins.
-I watched Mean Girls right before this. Such a weird Rachel McAdams transition.
-Feel free to check out contributor Maria Ramos’s excellent piece analyzing the detective/noir tropes and expectations of the series so far:
Photo credit: HBO, True Detective