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‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 1 Recap: The Slow Burn and the Dead Body

By Courtney E. Smith

Season one of True Detective started off centering around one violent, unthinkable and heinous crime, working out from one graphic scene that got viewers invested from the first episode. After we knew there was a crime and found it extreme enough to want to know who would do such a thing, and why, showrunner/writer Nic Pizzolatto reeled us in week after week by revealing layers of the two main characters like onions: one red, one yellow.

Season two is not that same show. It’s an anthology, like all the reviews and casting reveals and trailers prepared you for, so the cast is different as expected. But this does not begin with a bang; it’s a slow burn into what the plot is going to be (spoilers ahead!). First we meet Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), a father with a son who looks nothing like him. In his lawyer’s office we learn he’s also a (washed-up looking) detective whose wife was raped and he may not be the father of his son biologically, but he’s pushing for more custody and claims the kid none the less.

This scene brings us the first clues of when we are. The credits, with Leonard Cohen singing “Nevermind” playing grimly over them, already revealed we’re in Los Angeles. The old square TV with twist knobs behind Velcoro gives us an indication we’re in Pizzolatto’s favorite time period, the recent past.

We go further back when we meet Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) in Velcoro’s flashback. We learn Semyon was some kind of small-time gang lord and he had his crew take out the rapist. Whether or not Velcoro went dirty or not over his debt to Semyon is left ambiguous, but his hair/mustache choices in the future say yes.

TrueDetectiveS2EP1_4(Lacey Terrell/HBO)

More introductions, now we come face to face with Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams).

Read the complete True Detective recap on


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