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True Detective: Why it’s OK to kill off Colin Farrell’s character

Is Colin Farrell’s Ray gone for good? Season 2 of True Detective will be a whole lot more interesting if he doesn’t survive his gunshot wounds.

After two tortuously slow outings, True Detective got down to business in the final moments of “Night Finds You.” Ray ventured into the Hollywood party pad of dead city planner Caspere and found sex swings, animal heads and a pool of blood. He also found himself on the business end of two gunshot wounds, one at point blank range, at the hands of a person wearing a bird mask. Is Ray dead? Probably not, but if he is, then True Detective Season 2 just earned itself a much-needed gold star.

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It’s not that I don’t like Colin Farrell in the role of compromised cop Ray. It’s just that after an hour of watching him systematically lose everything that mattered to him only to finally find some smidgeon of decency left within, it feels appropriate for his story to be done. “We get the world we deserve,” Ray told Ani during their car ride, and timing Ray’s awakening with his brutal death would signify True Detective is back on its game.

Season 2 can get along just fine without Ray. His death would motivate Ani to channel her anger into something constructive as she seeks vengeance for her temporary, sad sack of a partner. She hardly knew Ray, but their dark banter in the car forged an instant connection between the two. Ani is the closest thing the show has to a hero or a worthy focal point. Ray’s death would go a long way in giving her a mission.

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Ray himself has nowhere left to go. His redemption arc, such as it was, occurred within the final moments when he exerted a desire to stop taking dirty money from Frank. His son is lost to him, and by his own admittance without his son, there’s nothing but an empty shell of a man left. Ray’s decision to be a better cop was his aha moment. Given the way he wallows in darkness, there’s no happy ending for this man, and he’s of better use to the show dead than he is alive.

His death means True Detective is operating on another level this season. Unlike last year, when the action was based in the past, this season is all about immediacy. The story is unfolding right in front of us and sometimes in stories characters meet their makers early to drive the other characters’ actions: in this case Ani, who seeks justice, Frank, who would be without an ally, and Paul, who needs a mission. Let Ray’s death and wasted life be the tragedy that propels this season forward because it needs some serious propellers.

Until those creepy, final minutes, the second outing was as plodding as the first. It featured even more ridiculous lines (“It’s like everything is paper-mache”) and exposition about land owners and dirty dealings than the premiere. True Detective has to move forward, and it needs a catalyst to do so. Let Ray be that catalyst.

If he lives, does it do any good for the show or for his character? Ray’s hands are too dirty to ever be clean again, he’s drowning himself in booze and he’s lost his son. Farrell embodied the mess of a man well, but spending an entire season with Ray is no one’s idea of a good time. If Ray is dead, the show is not losing an asset, it is gaining momentum.

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Sadly, there have been no exit interviews and no solid proof that True Detective pulled off something as daring as offing one of its leads in the second episode, but I would respect the show so much more if it follows through. Let Ani ascend to the top of the narrative food chain with her knives and assertion that she has no need for flies. Let Ray’s philosophical ramblings strike enough of a chord with her to spark a desire to find the person behind the bird mask, to bring Frank down and to inspire the still green and in desperate need of direction Paul. That is a True Detective I want to watch. I don’t usually advocate unceremonious character deaths, but, in this case, let’s just say forget it, Ray, it’s True Detective, and move on.

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