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Saturday 3 December 2016

Spoiler alert: True Detective serves up bittersweet finale

Vince Vaughan and Colin Farrell in the finale of True Detective 2
Vince Vaughan and Colin Farrell in the finale of True Detective 2

Spoilers: Don't read if you haven't seen last night's finale of True Detective

IF True Detective were a football match, the final score after last night’s gut-knotting final episode would be Stupid Critics 1, Smart Viewers 20. Judging from the comments across the internet, that seems to be roughly the correct ratio between the paid TV reviewers, particularly American ones, who’ve poured scorn all over the second season of Nic

Pizzolatto’s drama, and “ordinary” viewers who embraced and enjoyed it for what it was, an exceptionally fine piece of television.

The finale certainly deserves a better summing up than one written yesterday by a critic with Rolling Stone, who sneered at the idea that Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn), having just surrendered a suitcase containing a million dollars to Mexican gangsters to secure his survival, would then get himself killed by stupidly refusing to give one of them the suit off his back.

Maybe this clown was having a bathroom break during the scene, minutes earlier, when Frank concealed $3.5 million worth of diamonds in his suit jacket.

TD2 was never likely to wind up with our heroes (and heroine) walking into the sunset linking arms. The conspiracy was too wide and too deep for Ray (Colin Farrell), Ani (Rachel McAdams) and Paul (Taylor Kitsch), shot in the back last week by the slimy Burris (James Frain), to beat.

ALIVE

If you know your noir, from Chandler to Chinatown to James Ellroy (all influences on this season), you’ll know it’s a common theme. The best they could hope for was to get out alive. It didn’t take a lot to recognise that solving the murder of Caspere – although Ray finally put the pieces together and figured out movie-set photographer Len had done it – wasn’t the most important element.

The much sought-after hard drive turned out to be a MacGuffin; whatever was on it from those sleazy parties had been erased.

Pizzolatto pleaded with the fiercer critics to wait until they’d seen the extended final episode before indulging in premature evaluation. After all, nobody judges a novel without reading the final chapters. What we got was a taut, satisfying, but fairly bleak 90 minutes with a last-minute surprise or two.

Hope of legitimately bringing the guilty to justice vanished the moment Ray’s dictaphone containing Chief Holloway’s incriminating admission was symbolically crushed underfoot during the train station melee. Frank and Ray, tooled up to the teeth, wiped out the obnoxious Osip and McCandless in one hell of a shootout.

Frank’s plan was for him, Ray and Ani to follow his wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly), who it transpired really was true and uncomplicated in her love for Frank, to Venezuela.

Frank met his end alone in a desert, trudging through the sand while hallucinatory ghosts from his past taunted him. It was an extraordinary and surprisingly moving scene.

Ani did make it and, in a scene set a year later, we learned she’d borne Ray a child. Ray, however, having taken a risky detour to see his son one last time, died in a hail of bullets at the hands of Burris and his mercenaries, his final farewell voice message to the boy remaining unsent. In a final bittersweet twist, we learned that Ray and not his ex-wife’s rapist really was the boy’s biological father, despite the kid’s conspicuously red hair.

I suspect that, once the more hysterical professional critics’ jets have cooled, a second viewing of True Detective 2 on boxset will ultimately see its reputation enhanced.

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