So last week ended with Ray banging on Frank’s door for answers. This week, sex, drugs, hard music, and some bloodshed make for one crazy episode. This is “Church in Ruins.”
The episode begins immediately following Ray confronting Frank at the end of “Other Lives.” Both men sit down and skip the pleasantries. Ray demands to know the name of the man that Frank delivered him on a piece of paper a long time ago. Is it because Frank knew what Ray would do? No, as he barely knew Ray at the time. He only knew what he would have done to this greaser crankhead.
Frank, though, isn’t the originator of this information- he received and passed it on. After all, why not get blackmail on a sheriff’s deputy? Ray informs Frank that Gena’s attacker has been caught. Frank didn’t know much about this since he thought the information was solid. Despite Ray’s anger, Frank doesn’t falter. He doesn’t see it as using Ray’s tragedy to get him to kill someone. All he did was give Ray a name. Ray made his own choice and he should own up to it.
So who gave the name? A man that one of Frank’s men knew who told Frank all about Ray’s story. Up until then, Frank had never heard of the crankhead or Ray- he just knew that he was scum. If Ray wants out, then he’s got it, as Frank doesn’t feel that he’s had the nerve for this for some time. Frank insists that he didn’t set up Ray.
So Ray fills in Frank about Blake running girls outside the clubs, which isn’t too much of a surprise to Frank, but then he learns that Blake is also in deep with Tony Chessani and has a special stable of Eastern Bloc girls that received surgery at Dr. Irving Pitlor’s clinic. Caspere attended these special parties where men went to get deals done. Ray needs Frank to look up the man who tipped him to the rapist. Frank, who appears to have time on his hands, promises to look into it.
Both have their mutual interests beyond this, as both Frank and Ray are searching for Irina Rulfo. If Ray helps find the hard drive, then Frank will give Ray the man who did him wrong. Ray then heads off to see about killing a man.
A tech team investigates the cabin that Ani and Paul found. The team finds that the blood all over is female- dead gonorrhea biophages. Davis shows up at random as Ani tells her that this discovery is part of the bigger picture involving Vinci, Caspere, and these parties. Davis, though, is just interested in collusions, but maybe these parties are where the collusions get sealed.
The sheriff doesn’t have any word of parties being thrown up here as of recent. The area itself is private property, not state forest. As per the previous episodes, Ani is tasked with working the girls and parties while Paul works the diamonds. Maybe they can finger whoever took them. Ha. When Davis asks about Velcoro, Ani covers and says that he’s looking into the Rulfo girl.
Well, not right now. He visits a prison to take a stroll down memory lane with one prisoner, played by Marco Rodríguez, in particular who he thought he killed. Ray starts by reminding the man about an incident that took place 11 years ago on September 2004. The victim in particular was a 29-year-old female attorney and this incident occurred in an underground parking garage. The man claims to have done a lot of things, but he forgets things as well. Some kind of brain condition.
Ray tells the man that the victimized woman was his wife. He just came here to look into the prisoner’s eyes. He then warns that the man will be burned, but if he gets life, Ray promises to have every inch of the man’s flesh removed with a cheese grater, starting with his dick. He’ll then cut off his nose, lips, and nuts as well, but Ray will make sure that the man lives. Hell, if the man gets life, Ray may do it anyway. Nothing about father butt-fucking, though.
As Ray leaves, the man yells that he doesn’t even know Ray, but Ray insists that he did- he just didn’t know that he did.
Paul takes part in his episodic ritual of looking into the diamond and learns about a robbery at the Sable Fine Jewelers in Hollywood on April 30, 1992. A retired officer tells Paul about the tumultuous time that was 1992: fires starting everywhere, snipers taking shots at cops, ‘Fuck the Police,’ all that fun stuff. A lot of officers just up and quit. The Sable Fine Jewelers robbery resulted in a loss of $2.5 million in blue diamonds.
But it goes deeper than just a robbery: it was also a double homicide, husband and wife proprietors. The woman, named Margaret Osterman, was pregnant. There was no crime scene integrity and the police report doesn’t list a single suspect. No looters, either, the officer figures, since the security tape was missing.
Paul shows a photo of the two kids, Leonard and Laura, who were at the scene but hid for a long time in one of the display cabinets. The riots overwhelmed the system- if a case didn’t get closed soon, you just kept moving. The kids ended up in the foster system.
Ani gets in some knife work while Athena explains the routine for this party operation at the Kali Klub in Ventura at 6:30 pm. She’s to use Athena’s name and has to wear a dress that makes her look like she’s $2,000 a night. This is Ani we’re talking about, so that could take time. She won’t be allowed to take anything in like a purse, phone, or even a knife. Even if she snuck something in, the pat down and strip search will find any hidden items. Whatever Ani plans, she gets on that bus and it’s fuck or run.
Frank and Jordan talk with Stan’s widow, Joyce, played by Sprague Grayden, about the loss of her husband, and give her some cash, but not for consolation. Joyce asks if Blake is present, as he stopped by her place after the funeral and asked how she was doing. Joyce is just worried about her son, Mikey.
So Frank heads out and speaks with Mikey, played by Austin Nash Chase, about Stan. Even though Mikey has received enough sympathy, he agrees to sit and listen for some time. Frank tells Mikey that things will be hard for some time, but Mikey, like his father, has a fighting spirit. This sort of loss splits your life into a before and after. Frank has a few, but this is Mikey’s first. If you use the bad thing right, it can make you stronger.
This, Frank says, is what makes you stronger and shows that inside of you is pure gold. Frank knows that, as did Stan, and now Mikey does as well.
Played against this nice little moment is Ray’s supervised visit with Chad. It doesn’t go smooth, as Ray has to watch his words and tone around the supervisor. Despite giving Chad a stealth bomber- which Chad points out can kill people- all Ray’s son wants to do is sit around and watch Friends. I guess Ray didn’t have any idea that these visits were gonna be this way.
Chad learned from his mother that he may not be able to see father that often. When he gives a nonchalant to Ray’s admission of love for him, Ray turns his attention to the supervisor.
Ray then returns home and heads down a spiral of angst as he drowns himself in alcohol and cocaine. He later rummages about his wrecked living room and calls Gena to concede. He won’t contest custody, saying that Chad will be happier with Gena and Richard. However, Ray doesn’t want Gena to tell Chad about where he may have come from, since no kid should have to know that. Let him believe that Ray is his father. Though Ani needs to know the truth, she eventually gives in when Ray promises to leave her life forever.
In a parking garage, Frank and his men meet with one of Ledo Amarillo’s friends for information about Irina Rulfo. When the man doesn’t initially fork over information, Frank has one of his underlings put a nail through this man’s left hand. That doesn’t get him talking, so one goes through the guy’s back as well. Frank promises the man a flat thousand…or the next nail goes right through his eye. He learns of a location: El Monte. Frank drops off the cash, but this is still gonna hurt.
Ray, Ani, and Paul meet for updates on things that we already know: the diamonds from the unsolved robbery, double homicide, headway on the Rulfo girl, and Ani’s undercover plans. Paul and Ray will be tailing the bus- Paul even provides Ani with a transponder that she can stick somewhere like her shoe.
This scene was kind of pointless.
Later that night, Ani goes in under Athena’s name. After clearing with Blake, she boards the bus with other women.
As the journey continues, she’s given some pure Molly in order to keep her in a good mood. Sheesh, Ani, don’t you do your drug research? Come on.
Frank, meanwhile, gets into an actual Mexican standoff with actual Mexicans: Gonzalez and his posse. Frank tells Gonzalez about his search for Irina Rulfo. Sounds like a deal, but Gonzalez remembers that these two never had a formal agreement. All Frank wants, though, is to speak with Rulfo.
If Gonzalez can help, Frank offers him a chance to peddle his stuff through Frank’s two clubs for three nights a week for one year. At the end of the year, the two will renegotiate based on mutual performance. First year, Frank won’t take any percentage. Gonzalez keeps what he makes. Gonzalez agrees to get Irina to call. It’s a start, but Frank insists upon a face-to-face encounter soon.
Soon enough, the phone encounter comes as Frank speaks with someone on the phone going by the name Irina. She refuses to talk in person at the moment, but she does admit that, as far as the stolen items from Ben Caspere’s place go, a man gave them to her. In addition, Irina received $500 from a man she describes as a thin, White male cop. How does she know it’s a cop? She just knows one when she sees one and this cop in particular, she remembers.
Again, Irina won’t talk in person, but when Frank says that her people can come with her, she agrees.
Frank then assembles some men to meet Irina at a construction site, only to find her with her throat slit. Gonzalez and his men approach and take the Thursday through Saturday club option. Frank is reasonably angry at this discovery. Why hurt Irina? She was working for the cops.
Back at Ani’s Most Excellent Adventure, many prominent men, such as Jacob McCandless and the attorney general, are in attendance. The Molly blurs her vision as she tries to maintain her composure. She runs into Mr. Wyman, played by Brett Rice, who calls her a real woman and tries to whisk her away. She heads with him, but not before grabbing a knife from a table.
In the middle of this, Ani has flashes to her youth when a man brought her into his van…
In another room, McCandless discusses a secure exchange with Osip. They can enter the money into the system as marketing costs, investment overlay, just like with Frank Seymon.
When the two leave, Paul enters through the window and rifles through the drawers until he finds some documents.
Back downstairs, Ani walks among the tons and tons of sex all around her. It’s a strange sequence, I’ll admit. Not too strange for True Detective standards, in my opinion, but it is an interesting change of pace.
Anyway, it’s Ani’s extremely lucky day because she manages to find Vera, played by Miranda Rae Mayo, who also happened to be attending the party. Ani helps her out and cuts down two men in the process, but outside of that, she has little to no trouble escaping the mansion. Sure, she almost gets choked to death, but she did stab the guy before he got his hands on her and he bleeds out in under a minute. Ah, so now we get that payoff.
Ani and Vera rendezvous with Paul outside and escape gunfire from men who have the accuracy of Stormtroopers. Ray picks up the three and they whisk off into the night. Ani announces that she may have killed someone while Paul and Ray see that those contracts have signatures all over them. Contracts do tend to have those.
“Church in Ruins” does manage to ramp things up from previous episodes and build on the detectives trying to get to the bottom of what’s happened in Vinci. While I have some issues with how this episode ended, I did enjoy a lot of how it dealt with characters battling their inner demons.
Like Frank told Ray, all he did was supply a name. If Ray wanted to act on his violent tendencies, he didn’t need Frank to push what was there all along. And I think that’s true for a lot of us. If we hold any resentment or deep hatred for someone, sure, a little push may help, but we had that inner anger inside from the beginning. Own it, Frank says. If doing less keeps you out of Heaven, he wouldn’t want to go because he’d rather walk the Earth as he truly is, not by repressing his darker side.
These characters have struggled with their demons from start to now and we see how people like Ray and Ani crumble under extreme duress, not made any better through drug usage. Though in Ani’s case, she didn’t have much room to object.
Sticking with Ani and that ending sequence for a minute, I did like how it felt different from most of what we’ve seen this season. From the choice of music to the blurred sexual encounters to Rachel McAdams’ spaced out expressions as Ani acted out of impulse, I think the whole orgy at the mansion was a well-done sequence.
And given how Ani was undercover, the tension came from the possibility that something could go south if she made a wrong move or exposed herself. Figuratively, anyway.
We dug a bit into Ani’s past through the dream sequence where she was literally lured into a van with a strange man and, presumably, lost her innocence. This worked well against the orgy atmosphere because it just screws with Ani’s psyche and makes her feel vulnerable and fragile, just as she was during that fateful moment.
It’s a sharp contrast to how we’ve normally seen Ani, who makes a point of not caring that she’s alone and not becoming attached to people, even her flesh and blood. She needed Athena’s help and yes, it was for her case, but she spent the majority of the time cutting away with her knife. Hell, Athena even worked on a piece of art for Ani: a painting about a woman who drowned, just like their mother. But Ani’s response is that she’s never been into art.
This shows how disconnected Ani is from everyone around her. She’s married to her job and possibly even herself. Rarely does she lower her defenses except in the rare cases she’s with her father or sister. But in this charged, drugged atmosphere, until she finds Vera and has to fight her way out, Ani is exposed.
She experienced the pain of losing her innocence, and those memories rushing back when she’s already emotionally unstable just meant that she was on the verge of doing anything. Ani didn’t really have many options here, but I doubt her killing the two men was her first option. It felt unplanned, which is what made it more surprising, but still a bit calculated for her. Remember that this is the same woman who said that if a man put his hands on her, they’d bleed out in under a minute, and that’s exactly what happened.
Now I do have a problem with this sequence, but I’ll get into that later.
Since the two month time jump, Ray may have cleaned up his appearance, but he’s still as lowdown as before. This isn’t anything new or something that someone like Frank brought about, but it’s who Ray has always been: a man with a dark past.
He’s still committed to being a good father and being there for Chad, but just going off of his son’s indifference, Ray realizes that he’s fighting a losing battle, despite Davis’ help.
So he backs off the custody battle, thinking that he’s doing the right thing by letting Chad and Gena go. In the end, he just wants Chad to have a happy life, which we see when he pleads Gena to spare Chad of the details surrounding his potential true father. He says that no child should have to grow up with that. Ray has already seen plenty of darkness, but he hopes that his son doesn’t have to grow up with traumatic news or incidents that could shape his life- the same sort of bad things that Frank would say make a person stronger.
Ray’s self-destruction is another example of Colin Farrell’s acting prowess, I’ll admit. We’ve seen Ray drink before, but when he dips into drugs as well, we see how hard the pain of potentially losing his son and family for good is affecting him.
It was a bit shocking to see him observing a model in one moment, but when we return to him after he calls Gena, we see that the entire room is in shambles. Those models are just painful reminders of a time when Ray had a bond with his son. Through his desire to let his son grow up with some semblance of normalcy and happiness, that bond has been severed with Ray realizing he wants what he can’t have.
The prison visit was also very well done and Ray’s threats to the man felt familiar to when he threatened Wit Conroy in the premiere. And going off of the evil in Ray’s eyes, I don’t doubt that he meant it, but I wonder whether he would follow through on that threat.
Vince Vaughn gets to show a tender side to Frank through his scene with Mikey about using bad things that make you stronger. Frank, just like Ani, Paul, and Ray, has had his life split into before and after moments. They are still enduring their share of demons, but Frank isn’t letting the negativity envelop him. And Frank comes off as more genuine to Mikey than others apparently have because he’s not saying what he thinks Mikey wants to hear, but what he should hear when it comes to dealing with the death of his father.
Frank may not be the most upstanding man, but he’s at least to the point and cuts through the bullshit when it comes to his friendship with Ray. The conversation between the two was tense and I never thought they would come to blows or gunshots, but even then, the talk never got explosive. You can tell that these two have known each other for years that, even though Ray wanted nothing more than to shoot Frank, he just wanted an explanation. If he could get that, there’d be no need for violence. And it speaks to their strong bond that Frank would trust Ray to not shoot him.
And part of me does believe that Frank didn’t set up Ray. He didn’t know much about him, so there’d be little to no reason to blackmail a deputy. And with Ray so hell-bent on getting revenge on who he thought hurt his wife, there’d be no reason for Frank to try and tame the beast when he’s already on the verge of exploding.
Again, Frank is someone who likes to remain in control, despite his circumstances, but Gonzalez has thrown that off track with him killing Irina. And Frank did look genuinely concerned that someone not directly tied to this situation or his money loss, so if he can avoid violence, he will.
Now my problem with this episode is how it ends. It’s too neat of an escape to end on, even though we know that the detectives’ problems are far from over. Vera has been missing for quite some time, or at least since the season premiere. There’s no telling where she might have been or if she was even alive.
But this was either laziness on behalf of the writers or the stars aligned perfectly for Ani Bezzerides. That or very little thought went into this rescue. I don’t doubt that Vera could always have been alive, but I find it too easy that not only is she alive, but she also happens to attend the exact same orgy as Ani, who was only undercover for the first time when looking for her.
If Ani had attended several parties and eventually found Vera, I could buy that, but I don’t accept that Ani just happened to get lucky and rescue Vera on her first attempt. That’s too much of a coincidence and it ruins an otherwise well done sequence.
But we are far from done. There’s still the matter of Frank finding his money, what to do with Vera, Ray’s family woes, and I’m certain that Ani using Athena’s name will come back to haunt her. Like the shooting, this was an unfortunate series of events, but made even worse because the three are working off the grid and one of the detectives assaulted two people, one of whom we know is dead.
“Church in Ruins” was pretty good at tying the threads of these storylines together and gave us an interesting and different sequence for this season as the detectives finally rescue the missing Vera and get the documentation that they may need. Again, Ani finding Vera on her first go is lazy writing and could have been handled better, but I’m interested in seeing where things go from here.