True Detective: “Church in Ruins” Season 2 Episode 6 Review

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Six episodes in and just two to go, season two of True Detective finally warms up to its own noir roots. “Church in Ruins,” like the only other episode this season that can be referred to as good, “Maybe Tomorrow,” had a little extra pulp.

This season has been best when it goes the over-the-top route. The opening standoff under the kitchen table between Ray and Frank set the tone perfectly for an unruly hour that didn’t make a whole lot of sense but managed to inject some life into the season anyway. Just about all of the good things in season two link back to Colin Farrell. The anger in Ray’s eyes as he stares down Frank is what gives the scene some tension, not the actual narrative in the script.

Then, of all the characters’ personal lives, Ray’s is the most interesting. Again, this is mostly because Farrell gets it. He’s crying and shaking for most of his mental breakdown. It’s an unhinged moment from an actor allowing himself to go there. If only the other characters were written and played a little bit less together.

Just to be clear, “Church in Ruins” was by no means a great piece of television. There is just nothing about Frank’s story that works. Not a single thing. Yet the show continues forcing it upon us almost like it wants each episode to be wildly uneven. The number of great Ray scenes is about equal to the number of terrible Frank scenes.

Still, praise has to be given to Ani finally getting something to do besides looking like she’s holding in a fart. The end set piece was intense while actively turning Ani into a heroic character. What could have been a sexist disaster of a sequence ended up showing a lot of strength. Sure, it also highlighted how socially problematic this season would be without Ani as a lead, but she is and she’s strong. Having her in mortal danger and overcoming it was exactly the spark her story needed. It helps that the whole set piece was constructed and executed incredibly well.

So with two episodes left, the problems of True Detective season two aren’t going away. But “Church of Ruins” showed us a series that’s willing to acknowledge its pulpy material and even have some fun with it (maybe “fun” isn’t the right word). If the final two episodes keep things heightened just outside of reality, this season might not end up being a complete disaster. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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