Pressure mounts when the state launches a criminal probe into reports of widespread corruption in the small industrial town of Vinci on “Night Finds You,” Episode 202 of HBO’s “True Detective.”
State officials took quick action after a newspaper exposé detailed widespread malfeasance in the administration of Mayor Austin Chessani (Ritchie Coster). Now the torture-murder of City Manager Ben Caspere shines an even harsher light on Vinci and related land schemes involving a $68-billion rail project.
“This probe is very important to the governor’s office,” State Attorney General Richard Geldof (C.S. Lee) emphasizes to Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch), a California Highway Patrol officer who discovered Ben’s mutilated body. And if the investigation succeeds, Paul earns a detective badge.
Sounds like a fresh start is what’s needed for Paul, whose girlfriend, Emily (Adria Arjona), wants to break up. She just spotted a tabloid article suggesting Paul solicited sex from troubled actress Lacey Lindel (Ashley Hinshaw) after she nearly caused a traffic accident.
Moreover, Paul is guilt-ridden over his brutal actions as a mercenary for Black Mountain Security in the Middle East.
“Go,” Emily yells as Paul packs his bag to leave. “Whatever happened to you, I can’t fix it!”
Also beset with inner demons is Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), a boozy, burned-out Vinci detective battling his ex-wife Alicia (Abigail Spencer) for custody of their son Chad (Trevor Larcom).
Actually, Ray might not be the father because a methamphetamine addict raped Alicia nine months prior to Chad’s birth. Ray apparently killed the attacker with help from mobster Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn). But now Ray is “owned” by Frank and forced to do his bidding.
Wary of Ray’s criminal ties and destructive habits is Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), a Ventura County Sheriff’s Department detective leading the homicide investigation. Her opinion of Ray softens, however, when he candidly reveals that Vinci officials don’t want Ben’s murder solved.
“Tell me,” Ani asks Ray, “how compromised are you?”
Highly compromised, as it turns out, because Frank has gone full gangster after realizing the $5 million he gave Ben to purchase land along the rail corridor is missing. Looks like Ben, who often spent wild weekends with prostitutes, diverted the cash to other purposes.
“Somebody’s making a move,” Frank concludes when Ray shares confidential facts about the murder case. “There are deals being done upstate. Lots of money moving around.”
Not trusting Ray to “make like Rockford” and discover who killed Ben and why, Frank starts his own investigation. Knowing the city manager’s attraction to young prostitutes, Frank seeks out Danny Santos (Pedro Miguel Arce), a sleazy nightclub owner who also runs an escort service.
One of Danny’s call girls gives Frank the address of Ben’s secret apartment in Hollywood.
“Figured you go in as police,” Frank tells Ray, “see what you can, see what I might need to know,” especially any information on land purchases.
“Things shake out like I expect,” Frank adds, this time next year Ray could earn $300,000 annually as police chief. But Ray protests that he’s tired of Vinci wrongdoings.
“You get some sleep – after you’ve checked the place out,” Frank orders. “And Ray, I don’t want to hear you talk like that again!”
Upon entering Ben’s apartment, Ray sees a blood-stained floor where the murder occurred. Ray also notices soundproofed walls and bizarre sexual paraphernalia, including animal masks. What he doesn’t immediately notice is a gunman sneaking up from behind.
A shotgun blast knocks Ray down. Then he’s hit with a second round in the chest.
So is Ray a goner or was that a violent, last-chance warning?