“There’s a certain stridency at work here,” Frank Semyon tells Det. Ray Velcoro during one of their meet-ups in the World’s Most Depressing Bar—a remark which sets the tone for the entire episode. Everyone’s chasing their tails in this one, and just like dogs, nobody’s catching anything.
We start out (spoilers ahead!) with Velcoro seemingly awakening from the dead. (Apparently that psycho in the crow mask from last week’s episode packed his shotgun with buckshot pellets, not real shells.) Our crooked cop is only a little nicked up, though he did take a hard one to the ribs. “My heart aches,” he tells Ani Bezzerides. It’s a line so true it doesn’t even feel ironic. It would be safe to say that Velcoro is still experiencing suicidal ideation: his ex is threatening to cut off custody, and a state investigation is closing in hard on the dirty deeds of his past. But the tough guy act is just that: Ray is a man with a broken heart, and it’s hard not to feel sympathy for him. Especially when, on an errand to drop off medical marijuana to his retired-cop and non-retired-jerk of a dad (ably played by Fred Ward), he remarks that “It’s hard being a kid.” It is. We remember.
Bezzerides is cruising to avoid heartache herself. Upon dumping her boyfriend in the middle of the squad room, the guy tries to save face by telling her she’s got a lot of problems. She shoots a good one-liner right back at him: “I’m whittling them down.” She’s doing the best she can to lead this investigation, but they’re gunning for her from every direction. That includes the female D.A., who suggests that as a means to get the goods on Velcoro, Bezzerides doesn’t actually have to sleep with him, but she might just “let him think [she’s] willing to fuck him.” (Note to Nic Pizzolatto: If you are trying to quell those concerns regarding your misogynistic tendencies, this is not the way to do it).
But are we getting any closer to figuring out who killed city manager Ben Casper? We know that a big Caddy was stolen from a movie shoot, and officer Woodrugh is out working the working boys and girls trying to figure the sex angle. Turns out there were some pretty interesting private parties going on with “Euro-tricks” and guys in suits willing to pay top dollar.
Speaking of dollars, Frank Semyon is putting the squeeze on anyone he can to cope with his cash-flow problem—at the same time, his wife is putting the squeeze on him at the fertility clinic. It’s no use. He can’t produce a sample. Issues of impotence and frustration run rife through this episode; they reach their peak when Semyon beats the hell out of a gold-toothed strip club manager. The guy tells Semyon, “You’re big, but you’re really little.” Semyon corrects that misapprehension by pulling out all of the man’s brightly colored dentition.
The pent-up violence of the ep concludes in an incendiary chase scene, when a masked man—presumably crow guy—starts setting fires while Bezzerides and Velcoro are pursuing leads in a dodgy neighborhood. They give chase on foot through a homeless encampment, but again, it’s no use. The masked man escapes, and they’re left empty-handed. Ray saves Ani from death-by-truck, and when she goes to thank him, he demands to know what the State has on him. Alas, as disappointment is the name of the game this week, she doesn’t give him a thing. “I don’t know,” she lies.
Final shot: Semyon’s empty house drenched in moody hues of brown and dark gold. There is a certain stridency at work here, but it’s not getting anybody anywhere.