I try to avoid speculative rumors about where this season is headed but if the theological conversations about Ray trapped in limbo are true, I’ll be sorely disappointed. This might not be the best season of any crime drama but it has been gaining traction with each new episode. For instance, the staredown between Ray and Frank in the kitchen with their guns adjacent from each other is accusational and menacing in a Tarantino way. Farrell dropped his voice a few octaves and he was in full Christian Bale smoky-vocals mode. It still worked beautifully in a long-fuse powderkeg moment.
Vaughn countervails Farrell’s indignation with the that Ray was just transmogrifying into his intrinsic, corrupt nature (“You think you were Superman before?”). Though it would be facile to stigmatize Frank as a superficial, manipulative villain, Pizzolatto scuttles this platitude for a multi-dimensional guise of ambivalence. I earnestly believe that Frank wasn’t cognizant that he was “setting [Ray] up” and the scene ends in rare appeasement. Ellroy Leonard’s fingerprints are incontrovertible in the bedeviling sign-off from Ray (“I’m going to see about killing a man”).
Now Ray is a sardonic vigilante with a Dirty Harry ulterior motive. It’s a bit nonplusing that Ray’s mercenarial activities have supplanted the blue-diamond investigation for the viewers’ focus. While I enjoyed checking in on Paul and Ani, their storyline is of waning interest next to Ray. Once again, the semiotics of parenthood reemerged during a Q&A between Paul and an informant where he discusses a reconnaissance mission’s orphaned children and Frank’s heartfelt interaction about resilience with his deceased colleague’s son.
I’m more impressed with Rachel McAdam’s feral, steadily volatile performance with each subsequent appearance. Fiddling with knives while her sister is exhorting her not to go undercover in a sex-worker party of Caligula-scale debauchery, McAdams never staggers and seems fully prepared for the dangers ahead. I love the murky perspective of Ani on Molly, it was a surreal Brian DePalma journey into a socialite den of iniquity ala a less abstruse, less pretentious, but equally disturbing Eyes Wide Shut.
This was a less plot-driven episode and the trio of McAdams, Vaughn and Farrell truly shined incandescent in their respective roles. Kitsch is still perpetually stuck in neutral and this might be his most utilitarian episode. He only infiltrates the party with his black-ops skills. Meanwhile, just when Ray had our approbation for his rehabilitation, he collapsed back into a bender of cocaine, alcohol and self-loathing.
Ironically, his non-contest of custody was the most lucid decision Ray ever made.In relinquishing his thwarted efforts at being a father, Ray is Pizzolatto’s figurehead for his condemning statement that Los Angeles (Vinci in particular) is an Island of Misfit Toys whose owners (parents) have abandoned them and they’ve had to harshly become autodidactic and self-reliant. With contractual documentation about the land deal and the thread about Ani’s missing person solved, it might be convenient but we are speeding towards the conclusion of this highly polarizing season.
Rating: 4 out of 5