Time for a slight jump forward, but don’t worry. That shootout from “Down Will Come” is still fresh in everyone’s minds as our characters grapple with the fallout of that battle, but also come across some key opportunities and leads that will give them a second chance at redemption. This is “Other Lives.”
The episode begins with the aftermath of the shootout from the end of “Down Will Come.”
Frank watches a news report detailing the 66 days that have followed since Ben Caspere’s murder. After checking in on Jordan, he gets ready and heads off for the day.
Lieutenant Burris stops by Ray’s place and the two chat about Ray’s decision to leave the force. Burris reminds Ray that he didn’t have to quit, but Ray doesn’t think that the previous events were well-handled. The state made its move and Ray found it better to walk before the investigation made him run. Geldof closed the case, so Ray is in the clear. There’s a chance that word is being spread about the Mexicans being behind Caspere’s death.
Then Burris asks Ray if he and Dixon ever talked when they worked together. Why? Turns out that Dixon knew some things and has some photographs that show he may have been into some people. Also, bad news for Ray: he’s being evicted, as the row houses are reserved for municipal employees. It sucks, but Burris was at least nice enough to give Ray 60 days’ notice.
Never mind this. Ray gets to work as Frank’s muscle. He heads to the apartment complex where Luca Relles lives in order to collect, but there’s $200 missing. What gives? If Relles can buy beer, he can pay rent. Ray, after looking inside and seeing a room with kids, tells the tenant that she and Relles have until tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Ani sits in a circle with other people who have a history of sexual misconduct. And she’s the only woman. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that there aren’t a ton of women who have complaints brought against them for sexual misconduct. But anyway, this is a time for sharing stories about how apparently complimenting a woman means that she’s going to hire a lawyer.
Ani, though? What’s her story? Apparently, she just likes big dicks. It’s not just about length, though. It’s also girth. She really wants to have trouble handcuffing the thing. The men, with the exception of the moderator, are willing to let the lady finish. How kind of them, I guess.
Then there’s Paul, who may have received a commendation for his work, but now works insurance fraud cases and still has to contend with Lacey Lindel, who just wants to put this terrible thing behind her. You bitch. Paul claims his innocence, but Lindel’s representatives start to ask him question about his Black Mountain days and whether he was at Pandahar village.
Lindel feels that she’s learned a lot in therapy, as she got her publicist to try and smear Paul, but now she wants to drop the allegation. Though there could still be a civil suit, Paul stands his ground.
Over at Lux, Frank receives a visit from a man named Gonzalez, played by Robert Renderos, who had an arrangement with Danny Santos. But hey, nobody’s seen Santos, so Gonzalez wants to ratify his agreement with Frank, even though he never had one in the first place. Gonzalez and Cisco Kid leave.
Following this, Frank visits Mayor Chessani to discuss Archeron Waste Management, which was sold off after they sprinkled the corridor valley with heavy metals. The guy who Frank sold it to, Ali Komunyakaa, whom Frank never saw finish a beer, got drunk once and drove off of a hillside in Ventura. Now how does that happen?
Frank reminds Chessani about how there were outside interests looking into the poker room. Who? Chessani says that they’re foreign interests, but he hasn’t been in touch for some time. However, he does order Frank to pay an extra five a month for running girls through the poker room.
Now let’s see how Ray’s troubles can just pile on for him today. He and Gena attend a hearing regarding Ray’s role as a person of interest in the state investigation, which yielded nothing. After the firefight in Vinci, he resigned under scrutiny and pending a substance abuse charge. Ray voluntarily submits to take a drug test, so it seems like he’s in the clear.
Then he learns that Gena’s attorneys are contesting Ray’s paternity and wish to establish whether he qualifies for father’s rights. After all, Gena believes that her rapist is the biological father of her son. So there’ll still be a paternity and toxicology test, but until those results are in, Ray must have supervised visits. Needless to say that Ray is livid. He’ll fight this, but he needs to get some cash.
So he meets up with Frank and lets him know his situation. He offers to work more hours at Lux, but Frank may have another job for him. The guy who bought the waste corridor died and the place has been cleaned, but Frank is going to start listening to the hot feeling in the back of his neck. He wants Ray to tail Blake and learn his life outside of Frank. Ray is curious about Frank’s reasoning and guesses whether it has to do with running girls, but Frank isn’t in the mood for confession.
The two then discuss whether the Mexicans really did in Ben Caspere. No idea, though, since it was bullshit surveillance. Regardless of who was responsible, Caspere still died with five million of Frank’s money. More than that, Stan is dead and Ray has been squeezed out of the rail corridor. The enemy won’t just reveal itself. It stymies Frank’s retribution, like blue balls in your heart. Make of that what you will, because I can’t think of something snarky.
Paul tells his mother the good news that he’s getting married to Emily. Cynthia is less than enthused about her son getting hitched to a woman whose four years pregnant. She thinks it a stupid decision since Paul is a good-looking White man with who could do anything he wants. And how!
But then Paul isn’t happy when he searches a backpack and realizes that the $20,000 he brought back from Afghanistan is missing. Yeah, Cynthia took it. After all, she thought it was for her. She’s been out of work and had every reason to expect a little help. And Cynthia has had a hard life, you know! She carried Paul in her stomach while still working as a dancer. She claims that Paul ruined her career and she’s still carrying him due to his weirdness. Yup. Mom knows all about Paul’s good friends, the boys. How’s a son to respond? Call your Mom a fucking poisoned cooze and storm off. That’s how you get under Mom’s skin.
Ani shows some photos to Vera’s sister. The police never found anything. There’s not much to make of the photos except that it looks like a party scene. Vera’s sister didn’t get any follow-up with the Sheriff, though, and she didn’t want to just hand this over.
Because of Ani’s sexual misconduct, she’s been reduced to the dungeon of the department and deals with handling evidence. She examines a photo and notices one face looks familiar to that of State Senator Fred Jenkins. Elvis stops by and reaffirms that he did not rat out Ani, as the Sheriff already knew about the two of them. Somebody was trying to do Ani in- perhaps if she had a few more friends, it might have been harder to get done.
Ani brings up the foreclosure from way back when involving the missing girl, Vera, and how Elvis looked up her old roommate’s phone records. Elvis found an address up north from where Vera last called. If he can get it to Ani, she promises to do a fearless and searching moral inventory of herself. Bullshit, but okay. Let’s keep moving.
Ray tails Blake and spots him not just greeting Osip, Rick Springfield, and Tony Chessani, but bring along some females as well.
Back at the Lux, Jordan tells Frank that Danny Santos’ books are bullshit. She can’t make out what was made here, but that’s expected. Frank says that can be wiped clear. Jordan is wise to what’s going on in what she calls Backslide City. She knows what’s going on in the poker room- she and Frank aren’t just running a club
But what’s happening now, Frank says, is that they are surviving. It’s like having a design. Such a design doesn’t work when someone has stolen your money, leaving you knee deep in dirt. This isn’t a situation where you bring in a kid.
This has to be about more than them, as Jordan isn’t interested in being a fucking gangster’s wife. Frank hates that word. He didn’t ask for this world- he was just born drafted on the wrong side of a class war. Jordan doesn’t falter- going as far as calling Frank a pimp, but Frank refutes that. He’s just trying to keep the two of them above water. Crime exists contingent on human desire. These are the avenues left for him.
But what’s the expiration date for this? Their child? Well, the child and being legitimate are part of the design. Right now, that’s on hold. If Jordan loves Frank if she’s not with him, just say so. Jordan ultimately doesn’t think that she can have kids. She’s been pretending that it might not be that way, but she went to the doctor alone for multiple visits. Frank is upset, but he also wants to know why Jordan picked this time to come clean. Well, it helps that they’re both out in the open.
Jordan thought about when she first talked adoption a few months ago. She thought of a young Frank and what it would have meant if someone looked out for him. Jordan does love Frank, yes, but she doesn’t want to see him lose who he’s become, and she doesn’t mean the money. Her problem is with Frank not coming to bed and both of them being half in the bag each night. She thinks that when Frank said no to the adoption, he said no to the kid he once was. With that, Jordan leaves and hopes that her husband makes time to join her.
Later on, the two do just that.
Paul has dinner with Emily and her mother, Irma, played by Saundra Santiago, who is looking to move in until the marriage, which she thinks needs to be sooner, rather than later. They’ll want her around. Also, Irma likes Paul in a suit instead of being on a motorcycle. I suppose somebody should.
Over at the bar that time forgot, Ray and Ani meet to discuss the evidence and how Ani has hit dead end after dead end. But the folks in the photos look familiar, though, and the pictures themselves had to have been taken before Caspere died. In addition, the diamonds from Caspere’s safe deposit box went missing from evidence. That’s not unheard of, though.
Ani speaks about the missing girl who disappeared shortly before Caspere’s body turned up, so it’s time to return to those talks about those escort parties that Caspere attended. Judging from the photos, these types of parties wouldn’t allow cameras, so maybe whoever took them wanted them for blackmailing someone else.
Though the Caspere case may not be completely clear, Ray doesn’t see why Ani even cares. But that’s just the point: this girl is missing, the interior’s poisoned and suddenly worth billions, and a bunch of people got shot to shit, but no one gives…well, a shit. Either way, Ray isn’t a cop, Ani isn’t a detective, and Paul is miserable. Granted, we’ve known that since the season premiere, but sure, let’s hear it again, two months later.
Paul, Ani, and Davis are ready to start a confidential state investigation. The slated goal is to track down Irina Rulfo, who was never brought in. The real purpose, though, is to find out who killed Caspere: uncover any evidence of collusion between Vinci PD, the mayor’s office, attorney general, and any other state bodies.
Ray, though, is hesitant to join since he’s not a cop, but he has his PI license. Davis, therefore, could detail him as a state attorney’s investigator into a missing person. She needs people who won’t who won’t ping on the radar. Though Ray has a job, Davis tells him that the job won’t help him get Chad. It’s not looking good for him, but the State Attorney’s office could intercede on his behalf with Family Services and offer recommendations and testimony.
Ray agrees to help, but all he can offer is that the camera and hard drive were never found. In addition, Ray doesn’t think that the nut who shot him was in that crazy shootout. Ani wants to take a look at some land up north, and she may have a line on those hooker parties. Yes, Ani can’t be cleared for this, but luckily she’s using vacation time. She’s being placed as a confidential investigator, meaning Davis doesn’t have to register. Well, that’s a tad convenient.
Paul can follow up on the diamonds, but Ray asks why Davis wants him. Her response- he’s out of the system, but knows Vinci PD. With proper motivation, he’s a good bet to get the dirt. Ani tells Ray to think it over since it’s never too late to start all over again. I get a feeling that the writers and directors of this season thought the exact same thing…multiple times.
Ray is still a bit skeptical since Davis once thought Ray was an awful person. But then Davis saw that the rumor about Ray killing a guy was bullshit. Wait, what? How did Davis know it was a rumor? Ray has been so out of the loop that he didn’t know that the guy had been captured a few weeks ago in Venice for sexual assault. His DNA matched that six unsolved rapes, including that of Gena’s rape kit. Sounds like he’ll get life.
Frank speaks with Jacob McCandless about some land owed to him, which McCandless will have trouble explaining to his board. Frank threatens to spread word of how the corridor’s been brought up over the past five years and how it came to be so cheap, though McCandless can’t see that being of any interest. Archeron Waste Management is dissolved. There may still be something for Frank, though.
McCandless asks Frank if he knows of Caspere possessing a collection of films, home movies, to be specific. If Frank is interested in helping out, this could put him back in the corridor. The police never did find that hard drive in either of Caspere’s houses, though.
Ray visits Rick Springfield, who we can now identify as Dr. Irving Pitlor, to start asking the right questions about Pitlor, Chessani, girls, and human trafficking. Ray figures that Pitlor does their implants and nose jobs- he’s not just a psychiatrist. As Ray begins to beat the hell out of Pitlor, Pitlor spills that, for these hooker parties, he turns eights into 10s and makes sure that they have the proper prescriptions.
The parties are a conclave for men of influence. Caspere came up with the idea of the parties with Tony Chessani- a pimp with political ambition. Tony’s service makes him friends with these influential men. Caspere facilitated the deals. Pitlor thinks that the men used the occasions to compile potential blackmail material on their guests. Caspere may have had footage of important people, possibly including McCandless.
But Ray keeps going, saying that Pitlor must have put Chessani’s first wife in a mental hospital. He did everything that he could for Helene. The Chessani family, Pitlor says, is a highly inventive family.
Ani and Athena go for a walk on the beach. Ani wants Athena to get back into this party scene and get in touch with some girls, even if she has to lie, though Athena isn’t about that life anymore. She’s busy getting into Cal Arts. And Ani’s reaction has about as much enthusiasm as a brick.
Paul checks various jewelry and pawn shops to find anyone that can identify the Caspere’s blue diamond. He finally gets to one owner who not only recognizes it, but tells Paul that other policemen came by a few months back with pictures of identical diamonds. The detective left his calling card that the man still has. And the detective’s name? Teague Dixon.
Later, Paul shares this with Ani. He would have to have come around before the two of them found the safety deposit box. The two are en-route to the address Elvis found- a spot that used to be a commune on River Valley.
Meanwhile, Ray tells Gena about the captured serial rapist. Gena isn’t swayed, though. What Ray did ruined everything, including Ray himself. She’s having the paternity test to put everything where it’s supposed to be and so Chad doesn’t have to continue living this family fantasy. An incensed Ray says that Frank set him up, but Gena doesn’t know what that means.
Paul and Ani follow carrion birds- not high on Paul’s list of things to do- and end up at a cabin. Inside the cabin is a worn down chair and arterial spray decorating the walls and floor.
After Frank and Jordan have some bed time, Frank notices that the damn water stain in the ceiling is finally gone. Well, no more monologues about that, I suppose. The two talk of selling what they have, leaving this life, and buying a farm so they can grow organic products as farmers. As far as Frank getting back in the game, though, with McCandless, Jordan asks if he trusts him. Frank just trusts self-interest. But this talk is interrupted by pounding on the door. Frank gets his gun and heads to the door.
The episode comes to a close as Frank comes face to face with a furious Ray, who tells Frank that the two need to talk.
Very interesting, this episode. As easy as it is to latch onto one line, Ani telling Ray that it’s never too late to start over again really does, I feel, represent the approach taken for “Other Lives.”
In the aftermath of such a bloody shootout, it would be easy to just move on and not acknowledge it. Time skips are tricky like that, depending on when and how you do them, as we’ve seen with recent examples on Masters of Sex, Fargo, and hell, even the first season of this very show. You want to bridge the past with the present and not just gloss over something huge. A lot went down in that battle and there should be some aftermath.
For that, I’m grateful that there are repercussions for what took place, as the detectives and even Frank aren’t in good places. It’s only been two months, yet their lives feel very different: Ani is reduced to evidence work, Ray is Frank’s muscle, Frank himself is back to gangster work, and Paul, while he technically looks more presentable with his work, is miserable.
So really, we’re not in completely different territory since we’ve seen these people be unhappy for four episodes now. I understand the need to bring them back together to get to the bottom of Chessani’s murder, but for my money, I wouldn’t have minded seeing a full episode dealing with the aftermath of “Down Will Come.” What we got is fine, but I think a longer episode just about what happened after the shooting would show us much more how far the protagonists had fallen.
But they continue to weather the storm because they’re built for this and will encounter much more. Ray says at one point that there’s no limit to pain we experience- pain is inexhaustible, it’s just the people that get exhausted. We can try and protect or cover ourselves as best as possible, but we aren’t invincible.
I think one way this comes across very well is in Ray’s fight with Irving Pitlor, who has spent so much time changing and altering his face, but even if he feels that he looks better, he still registers pain like anyone else.
At the end of the day, they just want to find out who murdered Ben Caspere, and it’s not as simple as ‘There was a shootout. Problem solved.’ Geldof used the massacre to springboard a gubernatorial run because he wants to ‘protect’ locations like the always corrupt Vinci. He’s doing it because he claims that he cares, but he’s being opportunistic.
And that’s because, for the longest time, no one gave a shit about things that went on in Vinci, as Ray has known. He even wonders why Ani would put so much stock into this case. She’s not even from the area and this should be far from her mind, but it’s because no one cares about things like the people who died during the shootout or Vera’s disappearance that’s pushing her to get to the bottom of this and bring herself some real closure.
But, this being True Detective, it’s never that simple, as we now learn that not only was Frank right in suspecting that Blake played him, but that it was Tony and not Mayor Chessani himself- as far as we know- who played a part in this seedy business.
It’s interesting how some moments or subplots that could have been interpreted as throwaway have more significance as a result of not just the time jump, but the reinvestigation into the Caspere murder. Ani and Elvis looking into Vera’s disappearance was strictly their own work and had no bearing in the Caspere investigation, but with these sex parties and cases of trafficking going on around them, it connects to the larger case.
In addition, the address where Vera called from led to the discovery of the cabin where someone was tortured. It could have been Caspere, Vera, or any number of victims, but I do like how this unconnected thread now has a bit more importance due to where it takes Ani and Paul at episode’s end.
But their journeys are still rough ones, as Ani is not just stuck dealing with evidence, but she has to share her stories about sexual misconduct. Whether Ani actually meant what she said, was exaggerating, or wanted to see if the guys would freak out, I’m not sure, but it seemed to have the opposite effect since most of the guys were suddenly interested in hearing Ani share her story. I can’t help but smile at Rachel McAdams’ straight face when she talks about big dicks.
She’s trying to be a supportive sister, but her family life isn’t much better since she barely reacted upon learning that Athena got into CalArts. In addition, she hasn’t returned any of her father’s calls. Ani isn’t the best of sisters, we’ve seen, as she tries to get Athena to jump back into this party scene.
In a nice nod to continuity, in a line that easily could have been a throwaway, keep in mind that Athena did say during “Down Will Come” that she never went to the serious hooking parties and how she would leave the business in two months- which is just how much time that has passed between “Down Will Come” and “Other Lives.” It’s small, but it does show how, I feel, the writers mapped out how certain lines and plot points would play bigger roles in later episodes.
At the very least, Ani isn’t smoking e-cigarettes anymore.
Paul looks more presentable with his circumstances, but he’s not happier. Again, this is a man who enjoys a huge rush, which is why he felt so comfortable riding his motorcycle at blistering speeds or how he never shirked during the shootout. As Ani and Ray note, he belongs in the field, not working insurance fraud. Despite his situation, he hasn’t been neutered and he remains firm on how he didn’t accept sexual favors from the lying harlot that is Lacey Lindel.
So he’s still trying to go on with a cover life by going through with his marriage to Emily, even if he knows that he’s living a lie. And he still drinks, so he hasn’t kicked all of his bad habits. His mother certainly isn’t a stranger to his weirdness, which many suspected that she knew all along. That said, the scene with Paul and Cynthia arguing over the money wasn’t as impactful for me as it could have been.
Five episodes in and only now do we, as an audience, learn a bit more about Cynthia’s history and how much she resents Paul for ruining her career. This seems like an odd moment to bring it up when this can’t be the first time the two have clashed like this.
If it’s more volatile because of the missing money, then maybe, but that’s part of the issue: Paul knows that his mother has had trouble with work and isn’t the best with money, so I’m not sure why he’d think it was ever a good idea to keep $20,000 at her home. And even then, why is he only looking for it now? If he’s been with Emily all this time and even wanted to marry her prior to this episode, why not keep it at her place? The two obviously trust each other to stay together, despite what they’ve endured. This is just a case of Paul not thinking straight. I guess being weird does that to you.
Ray finds himself still indebted to Frank by being his loan shark and while this apparently allowed him to get a quick shave, he’s still got family problems. Gena warned Ray that a custody battle wouldn’t be easy and, of course, it isn’t. He’s already at a disadvantage due to his past and isn’t in a position to barter, despite his good intentions.
And yet, he may have a chance to set things right when he learns that Gena’s attacker is still alive. No, this news didn’t let Gena and Ray make up, but now Ray has motive to find out why Frank set him up. I really enjoyed Colin Farrell’s performance when he learned about the captured rapist, as if he were relieved by this revelation, but didn’t know how to process it. He now has a chance to reunite with his son and clear his name.
Though I question why Davis would use Ray’s happiness as a bartering chip just to get him to help her. After all, he’s right: Davis wanted to pin him to the wall. Sure, she now doesn’t think he’s as bad as she previously believed, but it came off as a bit convenient to me.
I’ve said that Jordan reminds me of Anna Morales from A Most Violent Year, but now I’ll go one step further and say that Frank almost reminds me of Abel, Oscar Isaac’s character from the same film. He abhors the word ‘gangster,’ as if he considers himself above it- which could explain spout lines like ‘blue balls in your heart’ or ‘There’s no bandwidth for that right now.’
He doesn’t like the gangster lifestyle, but he acknowledges that he’ll need to get his hands dirty to ensure that he, Jordan, and whomever else they bring into their lives will have a promising future. Right now, that involves Frank reverting back to sleazy tactics that pull him away from the businessman and more towards the mobster.
He also gets a second chance at redemption through McCandless’ proposition, and right now, after all Frank has been through, he needs a win. He needs to prove that he’s not a gangster and that he has what it takes not just to be a capable leader, but potentially a capable father as well.
Oh, I know that we’ve been following the main characters since the season premiere, but keep in mind that this is just Ray’s jurisdiction. So from a writing perspective, I see why Davis would corral in Paul and Ani so we don’t have to be introduced to two new characters, but if it’s not their area, why not just go with officers from Vinci? What, are there no other officers in the Vinci PD besides who wouldn’t pose a problem? Or does the narrative just necessitate that Ray, Paul, and Ani reunite to finish this investigation?
Why do Ani and Paul pass Jesus?
“Other Lives” showed that not only do serious actions lead to serious repercussions, but that, if you commit to it, you can have a second shot at redemption, which I find also speaks to those who have found this second season of True Detective to be lackluster in comparison to the first season. The episode took us forward a bit, but also had some payoffs to minor moments in previous episodes that hold more weight as a result of their importance. While I had some issues with this episode, I like where the story is going now that the detectives are asking the right questions as we dig deeper into the corrupt hole of Vinci.