The ‘True Detective’ Season Two Finale Explained

Here’s exactly what I wrote in my recap of last week’s True Detective after surmising that the assistant, Laura/Erica, was almost certainly involved in the murder of Ben Caspere:

The wildcard here is the identity of Laura’s brother, Leonard, who probably actually killed Caspere with Laura’s assistance. I can’t tell you who that is, and the only guess I could hazard is beyond ridiculous, which is why I haven’t ruled it out: The set photographer on that movie set.

As it turns out, “beyond ridiculous” is a fairly good way to describe the True Detective finale, “Omega Station.” The worst excesses of the entire second season of the Nic Pizzolatto series played out in the silliest possible manner, providing us with a finale that seemed to over-correct the mistakes that Pizzolatto made in season one. In the first season, viewers were upset with the too-happy ending in which both Marty and Rust survived.

This season, he decided to kill his three male leads, but in service of what? Rust Cohle’s death would’ve felt right: He was an existential nihilist, after all, and to see him suddenly embrace “the light” felt like a kind of character assassination. Here, he killed off Ray, Frank, and Paul for no other reason than to prove just how bleak he could make the season, as if to say to his season one critics, “I’ll show you! I’ll kill them off, but not before I nearly get them to salvation! The audience will be gutted!”

And they might have been, had it not been so predictable and yet so utterly preposterous. Why kill Ray because he wanted to see his son one last time? What’s the message there? Don’t let your misguided affection for your offspring get you murdered? And Burris just decided — very soon after a shootout at the airport that left his boss dead — to hang out at the school of Ray’s son just in case? And the ginger kid just had to take his dad’s badge to the lunch table with him? And what’s up with the salute? That was one waving American flag short of a Michael Bay scene.

Why kill Frank for no other reason than to deliberately rob of us a satisfying ending for him? Even with $3.5 million in diamonds in his jacket pocket, why die over it, especially after taking pains over the last few episodes to show us the decent guy Frank really was? And why have Gonzales — minor characters the audience barely knows — be his killers? There’s gotta be a reason to kill major characters in the end besides, “Last season, I gave you a happy ending, so, this season, I’m going to do the opposite!” But thanks for that 20-minute walk through the desert, Nicky P!

Speaking of minor characters, Caspere’s mystery killer, Leonard/Lenny, had exactly one scene (and a cutaway) of him all season, way back in the third episode. The reveal may have been surprising to some, but only respect to the cluelessness of it. If you got up to use the bathroom in episode three and missed a brief scene in which Ray and Ani interviewed the set photographer, you would have zero idea who the killer even was. I’m guessing that the 95 percent of the viewers at home who don’t re-watch episodes still only had the vaguest idea. An eight-hour series, and the killer had all of 45 seconds of screen time! It’s not like Laura — the sister — had a lot of screentime, either. She had two scenes prior to tonight’s episode — in the first and third episode — which is as many scenes as Stan had, and who the hell is Stan?

Then again, “the assistant did it” is Police Procedural 101. In 65 percent of all cop procedurals, it’s the assistant or secretary or right-hand man who is interviewed first or second by the police who usually commits the murder. For those of us who thought Pizzolatto was better than that, we were wrong.

So, what exactly did happen, for those of you who may have tuned in and out all season long? It all began with a coincidence that had nothing to do with the land deal. Back in 1992, Burris and Dixon — with the help of their boss at the time, Holloway — stole some blue diamonds in a jewelry robbery, and, in order to cover their tracks, they murdered the jewelry store owners.

More than two decades later, the daughter of murdered jewelry store owners, Laura, got involved with a shady element and, by coincidence, ended up running into Caspere at a sex party. She was clued in by Caspere’s girlfriend Tascha about the blue diamonds. Laura got herself hired as Caspere’s assistant, told her brother Leonard about Caspere, and Lenny killed Caspere because Lenny had a screw loose. (As it turns out, Laura was also Caspere’s illegitimate daughter.)

Caspere’s death set off a chain of events, because he was both holding the $5 million Frank was going to use to buy into the land deal and because he was in possession of a hard drive containing blackmail material from the sex parties. Without the $5 million, Catalyst cut Frank out of the land deal and Osip took his place (with the help of Frank’s right hand, Blake). Frank ended up killing both Blake and Osip out of revenge.

Meanwhile, Burris and Holloway were trying to ensure the hard drive didn’t get out, which would’ve implicated them in the jewelry murder. They ended up killing Woodrugh — and later Ray — to ensure that it didn’t. They also set up Dixon — who was trying to get an extra piece of the blackmail pie — in the raid that took down Amarilla, a raid that Holloway/Burris orchestrated with the intention of killing Woodrugh, Ani, Ray and Dixon.

In its simplest terms, that’s the gist of the entire season’s storyline, and if you need a visual reminder of who all these characters were, check out last week’s recap.

That’s it, except for one thing: Both Ani and Frank’s wife, Jordan, survived and made their way to Venezuela. This was apparently Pizzolatto’s way of answering those who were critical of the female roles in season one. “The women survived! See how feminist I am!”

Ani gave birth to Ray’s second child (because we found out that the ginger kid was actually Ray’s), and Ani gave all the evidence she had to the reporter that Ray roughed up in the first episode (we know the baby is Ray’s because Ani told the reporter that Ray’s “sons” need to know their dad wasn’t a bad guy). Presumably, the reporter will publish the story and clear Ray’s name, and Burris will finally see some justice because, even when Pizzolatto decides to give us a bummer ending, he only half-asses it.

Hey! At least Nails survived. That’s something we can all be happy about. After all, someone has to carry the diaper bag.