TV Recap: True Detective, ‘Church in Ruins’

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Church in Ruins Plot Summary:

Ray (Colin Farrell) confronts Frank (Vince Vaughn) about the lying to him about the man who raped his wife. Frank convinces Ray that he believed the information was legit, and promises to hand over the man who gave him the intel, only if Ray helps him find the missing hard drive. Meanwhile Ani (Rachel McAdams) decides to go undercover in the sex ring in order to gain intel. Ray has to have a supervised visit with his son which forces him to make a difficult decision

‘Church in Ruins’ is a frustrating episode.

Vince Vaughn in True Detective's Church in Ruins
Photo Credit: HBO/Lacey Terrell

At times it’s brilliant, and at times it’s maddeningly slow. When the episode takes a big step forward in advancing the plot, it sidetracks to plodding side stories that move at a leaden pace. It’s frustrating to watch, especially now that only two episodes remain and there’s still a million questions that need answering. Then again, the drama and suspense that occurred in the best parts of the episode were white knuckle exhilaration.

The episode opens where we last left off – at the breakfast table with Ray and Frank – both with concealed weapons pointed at the other. The stand-off between these two is frighteningly tense. Would either of them actually fire? It’s the question that screams between the pauses in dialogue. And that dialogue – Vaughn and Farrell just take these words and blow them into the stratosphere. Farrell’s barely containable rage, and Vaughn’s menacing cool are the perfect one-two combination. These personalities mesh so well together, and if the entire episode was just this stand-off, it would’ve been an amazing episode. Vaughn continues to blow me away with just how awesome he is in this series, and it’s really ashamed that not enough people are heaping deserved praise upon him.

Once this scene concludes we’re subjected to a series of inconsequential events. Paul (Taylor Kitsch) continues to investigate the blue diamonds, and gets a long-winded story how they were stolen in a robbery/homicide during the La Riots of 1992. In this story, recounted by the former lead investigator, we learn of the children of the murder victims, and how they ended up in foster care. They must be connected to the bigger picture somehow, but at this point do we really need another wrinkle in this story?

Ain in True Detective Church in Ruins
Photo Credit: HBO/Lacey Terrell

The episode follows this up with another scene of Ani being anti-social, this time to her sister. We get it, she doesn’t like people. This scene needed to be about 90 seconds, not five minutes. Then there’s the meandering series of scenes where Frank is looking for the missing Rulfino girl. He somehow ends up entangled with the two Mexican heavies from last week, who may know a thing or two. The scenes are trying to show Frank’s desperation to get back in the corridor – so much so that he’s willing to cut into his club profits. But again, we already know this. Why are we beating a dead horse?

The one non-case storyline that was focused upon, that made sense to focus on, was Ray’s kid. This storyline has truly been one of the saddest stories this season. Watching Ray trying to bond with his son with a watchful eye glaring at him was heartbreaking. Trevor Larcom, who portrays Chad, does not get enough credit for portraying what could be the saddest, most uncomfortable boy on television. Farrell and Larcom have this amazingly dysfunctional chemistry, they have a perfect disconnect. Farrell punctuates the pure heartbreak of this scene by going on an insane, near suicidal bender followed by him giving up custody of Chad. It’s truly a gutting sequence.

The episode gets back on track with Ani’s undercover work. The scenes are are hallucinatory, bolstered by Ani’s ingestion of ‘pure Molly.’ The direction here is on point because we, like Ani, are completely disoriented. There’s naked bodies flailing about in agony and ecstasy, we’re confused as to whether Ani has a weapon on her, and do we recognize anymore? Then panic sets in for both the viewer and Ani – what if Ani is discovered? Can she escape? Will she have to sleep with someone to maintain cover? Then out of nowhere we get her flashbacks to the commune. This is a bit jarring, but one can imagine being on a major dose of MDMA could do that to a person. We finally get a glimpse at what has damaged her, she was presumably sexually assaulted by a man from the commune. Of course, this information is coming way late in the game, but it’s better than never knowing at this point.

Colin Farell in True Detective Church in Ruins
Photo Credit: HBO/Lacey Terrell

This entire sequence plus Ray and Paul’s antics outside, and the final shoot-out, and getaway sequence were thrilling. Through the final 15 minutes of this episode your heart is in your throat, your knuckles are white, and your stomach will knot up — it’s that intense.

‘Church in Ruins’ is an episode that gave us more questions than answers, and with two episodes left now, we needed more answers here. There are excellent parts of this episode, and there are just mediocre parts of this episode. It’s not the type of episode you want or need at the series end.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10
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Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be seven years old in 2016 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He currently works as a project manager in the telecom world, and is a freelance writer for NJ.com. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites