Moving into the last quarter of a season that has paled in comparison to an amazing first season, we learn to appreciate these characters a little more after this week’s episode “Church In Ruins.” We appreciate some of the characters’ taciturn qualities, their arcane motives and history before the show, and Nic Pizzolatto’s way of turning a laconic phrase into an ocean of meaning. In this episode, Pizzolatto tugs at the façade of Ani’s hard exterior, inviting us into her past – which most of us have already accurately surmised – putting the characters one step closer to getting themselves out of the labyrinth of filth and corruption they found themselves in while trying to find Caspere’s killer.
After discovering DNA from Gena’s rape kit matched DNA from a man police caught recently, Ray goes after Frank for giving him a wrong name, i.e., he killed the wrong man. He goes to Frank’s house personally to talk, finger caressing the trigger of his gun under the table the whole time in case things get ugly. Frank thinks the wrong name was a set up, a way to procure blackmail on a sheriff’s deputy. He tells Frank he was, unbeknownst at the time, selling his soul to him. But Frank retorts. “Didn’t you use that name to be what you were always waiting to become?” Franks asks. He tells Ray he didn’t set him up. Another one of his men gave him that name and Frank, supposedly, had no way of knowing if that was Gena’s rapist or not. He does mention that the man who Ray killed was “scum” and deserved what he got. This “wrong man” could have just been a guy Frank wanted to wipe his hands of, a job he got Ray to do for him, not knowing he’d ever find out. For some reason though, Frank seems sincere, but that’s probably because he knows Ray’s pointing at him under his table, while Frank only has the bluff of his cell phone in his robe pocket. In the end, Ray leaves Frank unscathed, but wants the name of the man who provided the false name, while Frank wants the hard drive that was missing from the Hollywood home he asked him to investigate in the second episode.
In Sonoma County, Ani and Paul meet with Davis about the cabin they discovered with blood. The DNA in the shed turns out to be female. Ani thinks it might be the missing girl she’s been after, Vera. Davis tells Ani to investigate further into Vera’s disappearance, while Paul investigates the missing diamonds from Caspere’s security box.
After his talk with Frank, Ray pays a visit to the man who actually raped his ex-wife. In a scene that can only be described as disturbingly awesome, Ray, draped in ominous shadow, unflinchingly threatens the man’s life using words like “cheese grate” and “pecker” if he doesn’t get life or if he does get life. Regardless, he’s going to cheese grate the man’s penis off. Why did Gena leave him again?
As ordered, Paul follows the missing blue diamonds. He ends up on the porch of an ex-cop who investigated the Sable Fine Jewelers robbery during the 1992 L.A. riots. He tells Paul that men in masks robbed the jewelry store, owned by a couple. The couple was executed in front of their two children who hid in a display case and saw everything that happened. The security tape was missing and no suspects were ever discovered. The kids: Leonard and Laura never talked about it and ended up in the foster system.
Back in Ventura, Athena tells Ani that she was able to get her into the party – the party is at the house run by Blake (Frank’s guy, who he asked Ray to tail) who’s been running Tony’s girls through to throw parties for rich men. Athena warns Ani that this party is strict – no phones, no purses, no weapons, it’s “fuck or run” she tells her sister.
Ray spends his first supervised visit with his son Chad. It’s awkward. Chad doesn’t want the model plane Ray bought for him, “it kills people,” he says. Ray reassures him that no matter what, Chad is his son and he is Chad’s father. That night Ray spirals downward, going on a binge of coke and alcohol. He calls Gena and tells her he won’t contest custody to avoid a paternity test. She tells him she needs the paternity test to know herself. Ray offers that he’ll vanish from her and Chad’s life altogether if she doesn’t get the paternity test. He’d rather not see Chad anymore than have him knowing that he is most likely the product of rape, have him knowing that anyone other than Ray is his real dad. By doing this, Chad will eventually grow to resent him, but maybe it’s for the best. Ray may be acknowledging that Gena was right when she told him he’s not fit to be around Chad. Ray’s life is too chaotic and violent to make room for someone as innocent as his son. Gena agrees to his deal.
Frank meets with a member of a Mexican gang, one of Amarillo’s boys hoping to get information on Irina Rulfo, the woman Amarillo was pimping who cops found was pawning Caspere’s stuff after he died. The man, after a few nails driven through him, cracks and mentions a place called “El Monte” that should lead them to Irina. Later, Frank and his men break into a house. They’re discovered in the home by the owners who turn out to be the two Mexican men who asked Frank for a partnership a few episodes ago. Frank, of course, ran them out saying he didn’t need partners. He offers the men to push their stuff through his clubs for one year for free in exchange to see Irina face-to-face. Later, while Frank is in his office at one of the clubs, Irina calls him. She tells him a man who she thinks was a cop paid her $500 to pawn Caspere’s stuff. They agree to meet. At their agreed upon location, Frank and his men find Irina dead, throat slit. When Frank asks them why they killed her, the Mexicans say she was working for cops. She couldn’t be trusted. They also tell Frank they held up their end of the deal, he got to see Irina face-to-face, albeit dead, and they would push their stuff through his clubs.
Meanwhile, Ani goes to the party Blake is running. The girls line up outside a club in Ventura where a bus is waiting to transport them to the real party. Men pat them down, making sure they’re not armed and they are forced to forfeit their cell phones and purses. As Ani boards the bus, Paul and Ray double-tail her to the house where the party is held. Once inside the house, the girls are lined up and given Ecstasy, to help the girls “relax” as one girl says. Ani walks around looking for her girl Vera, who she believes is still alive. With no weapon, no way to call for help Ani is in danger. As she walks around she sees familiar faces (Tony and future governor Geldof) and fears she’ll be spotted. She runs into a man who has his eye on her. He takes her upstairs, where the more lascivious activities are taking place. Even in her debilitated state, she’s on guard and swipes a small paring knife from an appetizer plate. Upstairs looks like a scene from the last half of “Eyes Wide Shut,” sans bird masks. Ani begins hallucinating. She sees an older man with a wild mane of dark hair and dark eyes. It explains quite a bit. These are most likely flashbacks of her childhood, at a time when she was molested by this strange man she keeps seeing. It explains her demeanor, her innate habit of carrying knives everywhere she goes, why she resents her father (it was probably going on while she was in his coven) and why she’s so protective of Athena, upset that she would sell herself to men. It also, unfortunately, perpetuates this archetype of a female who becomes empowered through sexual assault. Why can’t she be bad ass just for the sake of it?
Downstairs, Paul is able to break into the office and steal some important documents, contracts with signatures that are sure to provide names and missing links to their murder case. Ani is able to get away from the man who picked her for a moment and goes to the bathroom to vomit the pill up. There she finds Vera, hunched over in the corner, passed out. She carries her out by herself. On the way out, she runs into the man again who won’t let her go. She stabs him and tries to run downstairs with Vera. She runs into another man, this one a body guard. She stabs him a few times, but he grabs her by the throat and lifts her a few inches off the ground. Quickly losing consciousness, she’s eventually let go when the man collapses from his wounds. She takes off again with Vera and manages to make it outside where she finds Paul. The three of them are able to get away from more body guards who begin shooting at them, but miss as the three of them get away as Ray pulls up to the street and drives off. Ani, visibly shaken, admits they she may have killed a man. Ray, knowing all too well, what that feeling is like looks sympathetic and worried, while stone-cold Paul in the back – remember, he’s been through war and lacked emotional reaction when the massacre with Ledo’s men went down only a few weeks ago – is interested in other things (“these contracts…”). But maybe Paul’s right. Those contracts could be the thing that solves this case. Maybe those contracts are NDA’s signed by all the men who visit Blake’s house. But such respectable, affluent, illustrious men would never damn their lives by committing their signature to something that can easily be found in the wrong hands. Maybe it’s another form of contract, one that involved Caspere and his friend the mayor. One that leads to the person who murdered him.