[Warning: This post contains spoilers from episode two of HBO's True Detective.]
The discussion of "Night Finds You," the second episode of True Detective's second season, needs to start at the very end.
Sunday's episode ends with Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), following a tip in the death of Ben Caspere, getting shot by a man in some sort of bird headdress. The faceless gunman then stands over him and fires again.
In most circumstances, it would be easy to write off Ray as a dead man. But it seems rather unlikely that the show would kill what is thus far its most interesting character at this point.
Had the show spent as much time establishing Ray's fellow cops, Ani Bezzarides (Rachel McAdams) and Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch), it may have worked as a shocking! twist! "Night Finds You" did shade in the other leads a little more clearly, but Ray is unquestionably the center of the show at the moment, and losing him would be a crippling misstep.
In better news, the actual case of Caspere's death, and the competing interests working on it, come more to light in the episode, giving it some forward momentum that the premiere lacked.
The three cops are put together on a task force, with Ani as lead officer, to solve Caspere's murder. Ray is still running errands for Frank (Vince Vaughn), who's more interested in the millions Caspere apparently made off with rather than investing in land around the high-speed rail corridor. The state, meanwhile, is launching a corruption investigation in Vinci and wants Paul to keep tabs on Ray and Vinci PD partner (W. Earl Brown) in case anything shady happens.
Ray and Ani chase a few leads seemingly all over Southern California, giving them ample time in the car to talk about why she carries knives -- "The fundamental difference between the sexes is one can kill the other with his bare hands," she says -- and him laying out the various bad deeds he's done (or, as he frames it, people claim he's done -- whether he actually believes it is up for debate).
The car scenes also feature the first attempts at lightening the mood ever so slightly, as when Ray raises an eyebrow and Ani's e-cigarette and her retort when he mentions the idea of catching more flies with honey: "What the f-; do I want with a bunch of flies?" Ray also admits that the powers that be, at least those in Vinci, don't necessarily want the case solved.
Frank, meanwhile, is playing at detective work himself as he attempts to track down whoever may have taken what's essentially his life's savings, which disappeared with Caspere rather than going to buy land along the rail line. If he doesn't find it, he's screwed, basically -- nearly every dollar he had went toward the plan, and the mayor (Ritchie Coster) and others are starting to sense that Frank is vulnerable, and the innocuously named but undoubtedly sinister company Catalyst that seems to have its hands in everything in Vinci is unmoved by his situation. (Frank discussing his situation incessantly probably doesn't help with the idea that Frank is impervious to these kinds of things.)
No one is really any closer to solving the murder case, but the characters -- and the show as a whole -- have at last inched forward. Until, that is, Ray goes to check out a bungalow in Hollywood Caspere kept.
Enter the bird-man, and exit Ray, or so we're led to think. There's a distinct lack of blood flowing from Ray's body as he lies on the floor, which further suggests Farrell isn't going anywhere yet. TV series are no longer shy about bumping off lead characters, but they usually make sure that we feel at least a little bit of sympathy toward them when they go.
Ray hasn't really built up much goodwill with viewers, so killing him here would both hurt the show and fail to deliver a satisfying gut-punch to an audience. He's in a bad way as the episode fades out, but chances are he'll be back in a week.
What did you think of episode two? Sound off in the comments section, below, and check back to The Live Feed on Monday for our weekly deep dive into the episode.