True Detective Season 2: We Need to Talk About Frank



Three episodes remain in the current season of True Detective. The first episodes were slowly setting up for what looks to be a seriously action-packed ending to this season. I won’t call the first 5 episodes a waste of time; ever.The set up/shoot-out were amazing. There has been great writing and it has been really nice to remember that Colin Farrell can act. Rachel McAdams is doing a terrific job as Ani, and Taylor Kitsch is portraying CHP Officer Woodrugh very well.

The one problem everyone seems to have is Frank Semyon; some people don’t like Vince Vaughan in the role. It is hard to imagine the same guy from Old School playing a gangster-cum-legitimate businessman. I think that may be the point, though.

Just stay with me for a minute; Frank Semyon is a street thug. He provides booze, drugs, clubs, and girls. This does make sense when you listen to him making reference to his paper-mache life. He has had to find his own way out of the dark. The joke here is Vince Vaughan. No one buys it. The postulating business legitimacy legacy is over-the-top. Frank is full of what I lovingly refer to as Frankisms; moments when the most ridiculous thoughts fall out of his mouth, which are to be taken seriously by everyone listening. For example:

“Behold, what once was man.” – Episode 1

“Never do anything out of hunger. Don’t want to look hungry. Not even eating” –Episode 1

These are just 2 of several weird Frankisms.

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Frank Semyon is not supposed to be taken seriously, in any capacity. He has only been given the opportunity to become legitimate because of his affiliation with Ben Caspere. The other businessmen of California do not take him seriously. I feel Vaughan was picked purposefully. I think we are supposed to be frustrated with him – hell, he’s frustrated with himself. He doesn’t even buy this new life. He can’t afford it. You can tell that he has worked stringently to piece this new life together for a long period of time. He’s been reading books, dictionaries, learning how to be what he has no business being – a good guy. He has gotten married to Jordan. They have a beautiful home. Yet, Frank cannot escape his past. Not only are the water spots on the ceiling proof of this, but if you look closely the very first time we see Semyon he is in a club drinking coffee out of a coffee mug. When we cut away from that scene he is drinking from the exact same cup 9 years later in front of his new, beautiful home. His beautiful wife, his beautiful clothes – yet he second guesses himself at every turn. He’s not comfortable being this new person. But, like he says, he and his wife are trying for kids. He believes that having children who have money and the resources he never had will wipe his slate clean. Eventually, he will be one of the old, rich California families and no one will remember where the money came from.

The joke has been on Frank, though. He’s been robbed of his 5 million dollar stake in the Catalast holding that would have given him 12 parcels of land from the railway. Basically, Caspere used Frank. Frank had a toxic waste company which he used to dump waste over the land where the railway had been intended. The land has been barren since, there is no farming as nothing will grow. The water is toxic. The only use for the land now would be commercial. The City Manager – Caspere, and the heads of the city and state, including Mayor Chessani and other powerful men, basically used Frank to ruin the land, allowing Frank to believe that he could buy in to the deal and then get federal grant money back. This would have been perfect. This is what Frank fought for. But, then Caspere’s body was found on a rest stop in Ventura. McCandless, one of the wealthy men who handles the dealings and holdings now that Caspere has been murdered claims that Frank never bought anything. There is no proof of Frank’s buying these parcels – as Frank is a dirty businessman and can’t leave a paper trail. To add insult to injury, McCandless offers Frank the same parcels  – he must buy them again, and he will receive 7 million back in federal money, instead of the 10 million Caspere promised him.

Another fun Frankism:

“7 is the same to me as 10 at this point. You can’t round off zero.”

Where does that leave Frank? Well, impotent is the word that comes to mind. He has forged his way into a life that was never his. He cannot have children on his own. He now must get back into his dirty dealings to make the 5 million difference, buy back into the railway line and try for his happy ending. Except, he can’t even get his avocado trees to grow.

Some thoughts:

Maybe he can’t get trees to grow on his land because of all that waste he dumped into the railway land?

Maybe he cannot have children because he used the beating and rape of a woman as a means to his own end, without having to get his own hands dirty?

Frank seems to be the only person really worried about finding out who killed Caspere. In a city he has helped make money through dirty dealings, it would seem there really is no honor among thieves.


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