The streets of Vinci are strewn with dead cops and bleeding bystanders when a police raid turns into carnage on “Down Will Come,” Episode 204 of HBO’s “True Detective” anthology series.
Ventura County Sheriff's Det. Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) and her special investigation unit think they may have solved the bizarre torture-murder of Vinci City Manager Ben Caspere when his stolen jewelry surfaces at an El Monte pawn shop.
The prime suspect is Ledo Amarilla (Cesar Garcia), a violent Mexican pimp who apparently furnished Caspere with prostitutes. After Amarilla is spotted at his warehouse, Bezzerides quickly assembles a team of Vinci police officers to make the arrest.
As the cops approach the building, they’re pinned down by a gang-banger wielding a machine gun. When police return fire, the warehouse explodes into flames while Amarilla and his thugs speed away in an SUV.
Soon the body count increases exponentially as Amarilla's vehicle crashes into a city bus and he and his men begin slaughtering cops and civilians in a desperate but ultimately futile escape attempt.
About the only people left standing when the shooting stops are Bezzerides and two of her investigators, Vinci police Det. Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) and Officer Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) of the California Highway Patrol.
But is the case solved? Did Amarilla gun down Caspere in a home-invasion robbery? Or was Caspere killed in connection with a multibillion-dollar land scheme involving a high-speed rail project?
Evidence supporting the latter scenario arises when Bezzerides and Velcoro discover that Caspere made frequent trips to abandoned farmland in Central California. The property is nearly worthless because the water table is contaminated with lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury from earlier mining operations.
The land would soar in value, however, if it’s transformed into a commercial development alongside the federally funded rail project.
As the homicide probe deepens and grows more sordid, Velcoro warns Bezzerides that Vinci’s sleazy mayor, Austin Chessani (Ritchie Coster), has vowed to destroy her law enforcement career.
Chessani’s powerful family has controlled the small industrial city of Vinci for 100 years, Velcoro points out, and he owns the biggest mansion on his street in Bel-Air.
“You think men like that exist without a history of high-up friends?” Velcoro asks Bezzerides. That’s why the state’s investigation into alleged corruption at Vinci City Hall is bound to fail, he predicts, and why Bezzerides will become “expendable” once the blame game starts.
Trouble is already mounting for Bezzerides, who's slapped with a sexual-misconduct complaint filed by former lover Steve Mercer (Riley Smith), a Ventura County sheriff’s deputy.
Because Mercer was Bezzerides’s subordinate during their brief affair, she’s suspected of coercion and placed on departmental leave until the matter is resolved. She’s also advised to get her financial records in order before internal-affairs investigators uncover her large gambling debt.
Bezzerides isn’t the only person whose livelihood is in serious jeopardy. Shady entrepreneur Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) entrusted Caspere with $5 million to buy vacant property adjacent to the proposed rail line. Now the money is missing, and Frank is trying to recoup the losses by reverting to his ruthless gangster ways.
Disapproving of this sinister turn of events is his wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly), whose dreams of having a baby and a legitimate income source are evaporating.
“Have I somehow given you the impression I have a choice?” he angrily asks her, adding that his dirty deeds are “gonna get worse” now that someone is trying to take over his lucrative poker club business.
“Is this worth sticking out?” she fearfully asks her husband.
“We walk away now,” he bitterly replies, “what do we walk with?”