(Written for Filmoria)
When an episode starts with every warning going, you know that it’s going to be good. ‘Church in Ruins’ takes its time, but the final 20 minutes are some of the most haunting yet suspense-filled moments of TV that you will have seen since… well, the last series of True Detective.
The pacing certainly steps up in this latest episode of True Detective, ending on an intense climax after disturbing revelations involving the case, and even more upsetting revelations about Ani’s (McAdams) past.
This opening scene is the closing once of last week’s episode, as Ray (Farrell) confronts mobster Frank (Vaughn) after releasing that Frank has been feeding him false information, leading him to kill an innocent man over more than a decade ago.
Ending this way last week meant that we were all eager to see how it would go down, but in fact it built up to very little, and the most intense moment ended up being when Ray left the apartment, as Frank’s partner, Jordan (Reilly), steps out of the bedroom with a gun, letting us know that she was ready to take action.
A lot of these background stories have become quite mundane and irrelevant, although over the past few episodes they have started to lose focus as the characters and the case take lead once again.
There’s a few scenes in this week’s episode which seem to have no purpose but to tie up a few loose story ends and to fill in some time, but whilst these backstories are starting to drag the episodes down a little in terms of engagement and excitement, they are also where we get to see a more personal side to the characters.
‘Church in Ruins’ has a heavy focus on themes of fatherhood, this week, as Frank comforts the son of a dead colleague, after agreeing to start his own family with his partner last week, and as Ray has his first supervised visitation with his son.
Vaughn gives an excellent performance once again, opening up to show that he’s more than just a gangster and that he is trying to change, whilst Farrell‘s character gives up completely and goes on a mini-bender.
It is McAdams who takes the spotlight, once again, with another phenomenal performance, though, as she leads the intense final 20 minutes or so, which really are quite scary.
But this is what we wanted to see. The past few episodes have been building up to somebody infiltrating one of the notorious sex parties held by the Vinci mayor’s son, Tony Chessani, and the late Caspere, and this week sees Ani step up to go undercover. And now I kind of regret wanting to see what went on in these parties..
Through Ani’s blurred vision, after she was forced to take drugs to get her through the party, and a slow sweeping camera movement, we get to move throughout the party and see every corner of what’s going on.
For a scene that is nothing more than a house full of orgies, it’s handled incredibly well, especially with having a female lead taking us through it.
There’s some big revelations too, or at least more hints to them, especially involving Ani’s character as horror emerges from the past as well as the present. Under the influence of the drugs she was given, Ani’s hallucinations – a repressed memory – explain her disturbing past that we’ve all been guessing at from episode one.
We don’t know who the man in her vision is just yet, but the insinuations are quite heart-breaking and stomach-churning nonetheless.
The episode ends with the trio and their found missing persons – and a handful of stolen files – speeding through the woods in their getaway, and with Frank left face-to-face with the Mexicans.
It looks like the case is starting to come together as well as the series is, with next week’s episode promising some big revelations, and hopefully some real answers.
True Detective airs Mondays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic HD.