Before we start unearthing clues and trying to uncover the identity of the killer as we head into Season 2 of True Detective, it’s probably beneficial to get everyone on the same page regarding the storyline and all the clues. After all, the opening episode was bleak and grimy, and you can be forgiven for missing some plot points with Nic Pizzolatto throwing four characters at us all at once and sneaking in some subtle shots you might not catch without a couple of re-watches, especially because the events don’t exactly jump off the screen in the opening episode when Colin Farrell is not beating the hell out of a dad (Happy Father’s Day!).
In fact, the pilot episode is much more interesting on a second or third watch, as we begin to pick up some of the clues about the characters and potentially, the killer. Let’s map it out.
The Railway Project and Frank Semyon
The backdrop to Season 2 is a California high-speed railway project going through the town of Vinci, and the episode is bookended to highlight that: We begin with a field covered in survey stakes in what appears to be an area that is contaminated (it’s very brief, but there is signage suggesting “contaminated area”).
The episode ends with our three main police characters converging around the body of Vinci city manager, Ben Caspere, who has had his eyes burned out with acid and who bled out from a “pelvic wound.” In other words, he had his junk removed.
Obviously, the survey site and the death of Caspere are related: The survey site is where the high-speed rail project is meant to go through. Caspere is the corrupt guy holding the money of sketchy career criminal/casino owner, Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn), who is trying to push the project through and set himself up with a “legitimate legacy” and be wealthy enough that his grandkids will never have to work.
The death of Ben Caspere is not the only obstacle to the railroad project. A Russian mobster by the name of Osip is also set “buy in” to the project, but he’s having misgivings.
Another potential obstacle is Dan Howser, a reporter looking into the past of Frank Semyon. However, Detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) potentially takes care of that problem for Semyon by roughing up Howser.
That will presumably put an end to the eight-part series on Vinci being the most corrupt district in L.A. County.
Semyon also has a wife, Jordan Semyon, who is clearly the Lady Macbeth of True Detective. I suspect she’s guiding a lot of her husband’s actions, including turning him from a criminal into a businessman. She’s ambitious, and I suspect she has an evil, ruthless streak. If you’ve seen A Most Violent Year, she’s basically the Jessica Chastain character.