News broke yesterday that Vince Vaughn (The Dilemma) and Colin Farrell (Ondine) would be playing two of the four purported leads in the second season of HBO’s popular existential cop drama True Detective. According to a confused unpaid intern at Rollingstone, the eight-episode season will “revolve around three police officers, one of whom will be played by Vince Vaughn, working with a criminal (Colin Farrell) as they untangle a conspiracy in the wake of a murder.” This all sounds well and good and comprehensible, until you reach the next sentence. That sentence reads, “Vaughn will play Frank Semyon, a life-long [sic] criminal attempting to shift into honest work [?] when the murder of a business partner [?] threatens his newfound livelihood. Farrell is set to appear as Ray Velcoro, a detective [?] caught in the middle of dealing with both corrupt police [!] and the mob [!].” Fittingly for this pointlessly convoluted show written by a stoned plagiarist cloaked in H&M leather, comprehensibility doesn’t last past sentence one. Let’s unpack.
If the above synopsis is meant to be taken at face value, not as a subtle meta-comment on the inept, bathetic plotting of True Detective, the setup for the second season of the show goes something like this. Former life-long [sic] criminal Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) has decided to go straight and become a cop, because life-long criminals are notorious cop becomers, a la Catch Me If You Can. After the murder of a (present tense by omission) business partner (which would be a cop) he enlists the help of a criminal, Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), who also happens to be a cop. Together these lifelong cop criminals simultaneously investigate the respective conspiracies surrounding the murder, the police department, the mob, and the California transit system. Which, as you’ve already guessed, are all part of the same conspiracy. For the love of god. Thomas Pynchon wouldn’t drolly poke this plot with a ten-foot pole. Needless to say, time for flash fiction.
True Detective Season Two Episode One: “Ashes of the Monorail”
By. Nick Pizzolatto
California. Read it like you’d say it like the prayer it is. Cal-i-for-ni-a. Repeat the word, but only in your head. Your head makes the world. California makes your head. Your head is a state of mind, no realer than a state on a map. Like California. But maps can’t help you here. Maps aren’t maps, anyway. Especially not in Cali, California, Cal-i-for-ni-a. Say it and make it be and not be. Deserts without horizon. Sleeping men, unable to rest. Cal-i-for-ni-a. Check your dreams at the door, motherfuckers. There’s no gold left in these rivers. Manifest thy destiny or die. Welcome…
Vince Vaughn stands in the shadow of the abandoned monorail in the desert, looking as bloated as any person currently living. This is a man, a spiritually adrift man. He doesn’t just shield his eyes from the sun; he shields his very soul from it. The sun can get to a man, way out here. Make him crazy. Make him see things that aren’t there. Or worse, see things that have been there all along, unseen. And you can’t un-see the unseen once you’ve seen it. Then it’s goddamn seen. Sweating profusely, Vince lumbers to the rusted support pillar of the monorail. He reaches his bloated hand out, just to see if it’s real…
It is. He feels it and he knows it, in his soul. A film of dust on his thumb after the fact. That proves it. He stares down the long track of the monorail, seeing it stretch toward heaven–or hell–only god can say. Psh, Vince Vaughn thinks, kicking a succulent. God. Disgusted, he spits right onto the insignia of the monorail: a drawing of a monorail. It’s so damn hot out his spit sizzles, evaporates, is nothing but a slick of salt on the pillar after a minute. Vince Vaughn sits on his bloated ass in the sand, takes out a cigarette. He speaks to the monorail, like it’s a horrible, unknowable God.
“The only place you’re taking anybody,” he whispers, “is nowhere.”
Colin Farrell, star of the impressionistic mermaid movie Ondine, sits in a jail cell in the California State Penitentiary. He is a man, a spiritually adrift man. The bars of his cell are the fucking least of his problems. His body is a cage. His soul is a prisoner. Except when his body is a prisoner, and his soul is a cage. After devoting his entire life to crime, after hundreds of arrests and a criminal record stretching back decades, he decides, finally, to give it all up. He is a spiritually adrift man, about to become a detective. He calls the guard over, tells him he’s changed his mind about being a criminal, and the guard, obviously, sets him free.
Or does he?
“Are we ever truly free?” Colin Farrell asks his cab driver, after his release from prison.
“Shut the fuck up, you blabbering white person,” says the cab driver.
No, Colin Farrell thinks, easing back into his seat. We can’t be free. As long as we’re human, we’ll never be free. Our enslavement is what defines us. Our definition is our enslavement, and yet there is no definition. Men are only defined by their lack of definition. We are only what we never become. Like that monorail, he thinks, staring out the window at the abandoned monorail in the desert. We are all monorails…
“Pull over,” Colin Farrell tells the driver. He gazes out the window in disbelief, spotting the bloated form sitting in the sand next to the monorail.
“Is that…” Colin Farrell starts. “Is that a…true detective?”
California! Muse! Lover! Mistress! Murderer! What havoc you wreak on the souls of men! Is there no end to it, California? Are you not an ending? Are you not this country’s destiny–our destiny–made manifest? Is a man anything more than a monorail? Is a monorail anything more than monorail? Are we nothing but the ashes of monorails, waiting for the wind? I hope not, California. I’ve been in your deserts, and there is no wind. There’s no goddamn wind, California. For what truly do we wait? Tell me. Come on. Whisper it in my ear.