Photos: HBO

Yeah, You've Got That Something; I Think You'll Understand

Velcoro wants to hold Bez's hand. Sarah D. Bunting ain't quite buying it.

To pick at True Detective for straining credulity is to miss the point of the project. The idea is to create an atmosphere, a heavy fug of irreversible compromise and justified paranoia. The trick there, though, is to arrive at "weighty" without missing and landing on "humorlessly ponderous," a trick Pizzolatto pulled off with S1 by whatever means -- Cary Fukunaga's direction; his lead actors' facility with finding glimmers of humor -- but isn't landing here, the odd snarky line delivery from Colin Farrell excepted. And the problem there is that, even in a situation like the one True D has drawn, it's not all dour pronunciamenti and pointed parallels to Splendor In The Grass, "strength in what remains behind." It's hard to relate to a fictional world in which the characters, if they have heard of Simon's Cat, so much as chuckled at it.

The credibility chasm kind of widens from there, and on the eve of a finale showdown, it's time to assess the events of "Black Maps And Motel Rooms" from most to least believable.

Frank burns it all down.

I have a handful of issues with Frank deciding to bust Osip LLC out before they can force him out (read: "kill him"), starting with the timeline of the physical fires, whether he'd waste time gloating in a turnout with a view, and why he didn't just cash out and become someone else in a tropical land in the first place instead of trying to go legit with a rail corridor. (The rail-corridor McGuffin is another discussion entirely; I've said it before, but I keep coming back to that meeting in Singles when Campbell Scott is patronizingly told that people like their cars.)

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With all of that said, this is the most believable Vince Vaughn has read to me yet. Even his nervous line-readings seemed more confident and true. Semyon's the one they should have had watching Splendor In The Grass, stone-faced.

Bez 'n' Velcoro, sittin' in a tree.

I didn't entirely buy that Bez would crawl up on Velcoro, even all mollied up, but I liked that he was like, "Welllllll yeah no this is a horrible idea," and then it was weird and they were kind of eyeing each other in a half-awkward, half-hubba way for the rest of the hour. I don't even mind, in theory, that they got drunk and bored waiting for Woodrugh to call or come back, and decided to bone. These are not the worst-looking people on earth and they'll probably be killed momentarily, so why not.

It's just...uninspired. Lazy. I didn't like it last season when the Maggie in the first act went off in the third, and I don't like it here. "Everything is fucking" is a bullshit generalization and it's not going to get Pizzolatto out of doing the work.

Woodrugh's McClane escape.

The first major shootout of the season, lethal to everyone except the credits cast, was already beyond, but Woodrugh's calm and capability tracked; that that situation is the closest he's felt to at home made sense to me. But to have him Die Hard his way out of a five-on-one situation with the equivalent of the old "you've got something on your tie [bink] OHHH"? Yeah, I don't know. I can swallow (so to speak) his bumbling into the meet thinking it's true blackmail, but that he's going to set up in various underground blinds in a catacomb system he's never been in before, pick off the members of the security team one-by-one, and not check his six when he comes outside? I don't know. I mean, insert "when the bogeyman goes to sleep at night, he checks under the bed for James Frain" joke here, but "Woodrugh's a Viking under fire, until he ain't" won't cut it.

Davis, just shot in the chest and left in her car, in broad daylight.

She wouldn't have seen that coming? It's a shocker, a game-changer, and it squares the paranoia levels; it gets over because, in the end, we haven't seen that much of Davis and we can't really say this is something we don't buy her allowing to happen? But: I don't, quite.

Yogi David Morse is so sorry, you guys.

Okay? Look, I prefer my Morse characters not to be condescendingly remote asshats, so I guess this is an improvement, but it doesn't exactly track with his initial appearance, and the particulars of Bez's childhood abduction/abuse feel like Pizzolatto threw them in last minute.

Emily and Cynthia's roommate sitch.

Neither woman would agree to it, or tolerate it for more than an hour and a half. Emily starting awake after Woodrugh gets shot, then misting up at the sight of the baby in Splendor In The Grass, is egregious.

The vastness of the conspiracy.

It's not just the byzantine complexity; it's that pretty much every citizen of the state of California is implicated. I sometimes think Watergate and All The President's Men nurtured a belief in some people that no conspiracy theory, no matter how ridiculously broad its reach or flamboyant its kills, is off the table; now and then, I get a hit of Alan J. Pakula's ATPM and The Parallax View (which y'all should Netflix, like, yesterday) from True D.

But fictional conspiracies can fall short credibility-wise when they don't take human nature into account. People blab. People brag. People brick burglaries. It's not that "they" couldn't have faked the moon landing; it's that someone would have said something by now. You could explain this conspiracy's size and persistence by saying that it's Vinci and nobody outside the county gives a shit, but people did give a shit, if only publicly, and now you've got bodies dropping everywhere.

And with half the law-enforcement community of the Southland now dead, lamming it, or trying to cover up a 23-year-old double murder, is this strangling octopus of a brain trust going to put up a lightning rod in the form of a BOLO on Bez?

The conspiracy only goes if, as I mentioned, nobody outside the story's geography cares. Announcing that a cop is wanted for questioning related to a murder at a hooker party is going to make someone care. Don't be daft.

That motel room.

Only in visual fiction do you still have motels like that. Maybe boutique properties that rebranded an old roadside dump as The Lodge At Lodi and charge $289 a night, but a legit dump? No. I half-expected the stag man from Hannibal to bring the room service.

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