TelevisionWho are these people? True Detective Season 2 character guide for the hopelessly confused
There's too many characters. Catch up before this Sunday's season finale.
True Detective Season 2 has been extraordinarily difficult to follow. The drawn-out scenes don’t exactly move the plot forward. Actual explanations of what’s happening are confined to rushed info-spurts where everyone is low-mumbling like Christian Bale in Batman. The plot itself is so convoluted that one can only guess what loose threads will be tied up in the season finale HBO. Most confoundingly, there are just too many characters and characters who are crucial to the plot disappear for long stretches of time, appear on-screen in brief moments, and are only slightly identified when they do.
It's okay to be confused. This pre-season finale guide should help you every time you ask, “Who the hell is this guy again?”
The tortured bolo tie-wearing heart of the show. The now-former cop with a dark past (he murdered an innocent man he thought raped his wife) and a lot of bad habits. If it weren’t for his son, Chad, he would have nothing to live for. He’s only participating in the search for the diamonds/collusion in Vinci that drives the second half of the season because State Attorney Katherine Davis said she would help him get custody of his son, a quest he’s since abandoned. When Davis turns up dead, he’s framed for her murder, so he’s a wanted man going into the finale. He’s also wanted by Chief Holloway and friends because he’s in possession of contracts that document the shady dealings between McCandless and Osip. He works for Frank Semyon, who enlisted his help in finding Ben Caspere’s missing hard drive full of incriminating sex party footage. He’s the last of the True Detectives to speak to Paul Woodrugh before he met his doom in the tunnels beneath Los Angeles.
Ani Bezzerides is a tough Ventura County sheriff fueled by an urge to protect the weak and a resentment of men, both of which come from a troubled childhood. She was raised by a father who didn’t protect her and a mother who killed herself, and was once abducted for four days by a man whose previously repressed face she remembered during an MDMA-induced hallucination at an orgy she’d infiltrated. During that orgy, she found the missing girl Vera and stabbed two men, apparently only one of whom died. She’s now wanted for that homicide.
Frank is a mid-level gangster who’s trying to break into the slightly more legitimate field of real estate development by investing in the land around the planned rail corridor. He gave $5 million to Ben Caspere as a real estate investment. Caspere died and left Frank with nothing. Whoever killed Caspere has his money. McCandless offered him an opportunity to get back into the rail corridor if he found the missing hard drive, an offer that’s probably bullshit. In any case, Frank was last seen burning his properties to the ground after Osip bought them out from under him, buying plane tickets to Venezuela, and acquiring fake passports and ordering a whole lot of guns from some other gangsters.
Poor Paul Woodrugh is a jumble of unresolved character developments. He has a vague past as a mercenary for a Blackwater-like private military contractor in Afghanistan where he may have massacred a village. He’s also a closeted bisexual (?) man with a baby on the way. (He can only successfully have sex with his fiance after taking a dose of Viagra-like pills.) His military history and repressed orientations come together in Miguel, a former comrade with whom he had a sexual relationship. Miguel got back in touch in order to compile blackmail material on Woodrugh, and he and his co-conspirators lured Woodrugh into a trap. Woodrugh fought his way out, only to be shot in the back by Lt. Kevin Burris. Woodrugh is probably dead, but this is True Detective, so we’ll see.
Gena Brune and Chad Velcoro-Brune
Ray Velcoro’s ex-wife Gena was raped in 2004. She may have been impregnated by the rapist. The child, Chad, has red hair and a meek disposition. Gena left Ray after he killed the man he believed was the rapist, and has since been fighting to get sole custody of Chad, since she believes Ray to be a bad man who shouldn’t be around Chad and isn’t even his biological father. She promised Ray that she would never tell Chad "where he came from" if Ray leaves their lives.
Elliot and Athena Bezzerides
Ani’s father Elliot is a guru of sorts who runs a retreat center called the Panticapaeum Institute, a place that has connected him to the Chessanis and Ben Caspere and Vera, but he doesn’t seem to be involved in any criminality himself. He was a bad father to Ani and her sister Athena, but he regrets it. Athena is a camgirl and prostitute. Ani infiltrated Tony Chessani’s orgy using Athena’s name, so Athena is in danger. She and Elliot were last seen heading to Oregon for safety.
Bezzerides’ partner, he is one of the few characters on the show who isn’t mostly a bad person. He has hair sort of like Elvis Presley, but it’s unclear if Elvis is a nickname. He and Bezzerides once had an affair, which he never got over, but he has remained her friend and helped her find Vera. He’s following Athena and Elliot to Oregon in order to ensure their protection.
PAUL’S GROSS MOTHER. She has a wildly inappropriate relationship with her son, whom she alternately appears to sexually adore and resent for ruining her career as a dancer. She basically stole the money Paul stashed in her house. When Paul confronted her about it, she told him she knew he was gay. She’s currently locked in a motel room with Emily waiting for Paul to come say the coast is clear. She may be waiting a long time.
Paul’s bro/lover from Black Mountain, the security firm they both worked for in Afghanistan. Miguel reconnected with Paul with the hidden agenda of making sure he didn’t break any confidentiality agreements about Black Mountain. Miguel still works for Black Mountain, which has changed its name to Aries Security and is contracted by Catalyst, the company behind the real estate deals. Miguel leads Paul down into the tunnel, where it’s revealed that Miguel is working with the crooked Vinci cops. He’s killed in the ensuing gunfight.
A character who takes up a tremendous amount of screentime and has the fewest characteristics. She exists to brood and argue with Frank about getting pregnant. She is probably most responsible for the dragging pace of the early episodes, but after explaining to Frank that she cannot have a child she hasn’t been around as much.
Not a character, exactly, but they’re confusing as hell. They were first mentioned in Episode Three, when Bezzerides and Woodrugh opened the late Ben Caspere’s safe deposit box. We think the diamonds were in the box when they opened it, and then they were stolen from evidence later on, maybe after the shootout from episode four. We doubt even the writers of True Detective could explain the diamonds’ timeline, but the diamonds are currently missing, and no one has any idea who has them. The diamonds were first stolen from a jewelry store during the LA riots in 1992 in a heist that left the owners dead and their two children, Leonard and Laura, orphans. The heist was probably carried out by Chief (no first name) Holloway, Lt. Kevin Burris, Ben Caspere, and possibly Det. Teague Dixon. Holloway, Burris, Dixon, and Caspere all worked together in the same LAPD precinct in 1992. They apparently used the diamonds to bribe Vinci mayor Austin Chessani into giving them high-paying jobs in Vinci, but then why did Caspere have the diamonds? Anyway, Vera, the missing girl, had a photo of the diamonds in her own safe deposit box, as well as photos from an orgy. Before he died, and before our True Detectives knew about the diamonds, Dixon was looking for them, possibly as leverage against Burris and Holloway, who also are assumed to have been looking for the diamonds. So the big questions about the diamonds in the finale is: who has them, and why are they so important? Not a great question to leave viewers with when you’re going into the final episode.
The actions of the late Vinci city manager fuel True Detective even though he’s only appeared as a corpse. He used to be an LAPD accountant, a job he used to acquire some blue diamonds during a robbery and cushy job in Vinci. He was the public face of Vinci’s involvement in the rail corridor. He was also a sex fiend who organized orgies with Tony Chessani. His (and presumably Frank’s) shares in the rail corridor have been given to Tony and Osip Agranov.
and Lux Infinitum
Took over Frank’s club business after the gangster/detective tried to go legit. When Frank decided to take back his racket by any means necessary, he took Santos' blinged out teeth with pliers just to prove who the real alpha male is.
Lt. Kevin Burris
This tall, besuited, curlyish-haired Vinci cop may be the main bad guy. Burris used to be LAPD and probably participated in the 1992 diamond heist, the spoils of which brought him to Vinci. He was first seen instructing Velcoro to keep the other True Detectives from finding out the truth about corruption in Vinci. After Velcoro was shot by the Birdman, Burris showed up before Bezzerides and was telling cops on the scene that all information goes to him first. It was Burris’ idea to pin Caspere’s murder on a pimp, and Burris (along with Holloway) knowingly walked the True Detectives into the shootout in episode four. A “tall white cop” who matches Burris’ description gave Irina Rulfo $500 to pawn Caspere’s belongings in order to frame her and her pimp (killed in the shootout) for Caspere’s murder. He shoots Paul Woodrugh in the back after Woodrugh escapes his ambush in the tunnel.
We only know that he seems to be a small time pimp that was set up by Burris to be framed for Caspere’s murder. In the end, he died in a ridiculous shootout with our True Detectives who’d come to question him, proving he is so dumb that he was the perfect patsy.
One of two black characters on season two of True Detective is the mysterious Chief Holloway. Holloway’s importance to the plot does not mesh with the impression he has made. He’s only appeared in a few scenes and only had a few lines of dialogue, but he and Burris probably murdered Ben Caspere and stole the diamonds back in ‘92. He was spotted at the orgy, and led the crew that lured Woodrugh to the tunnel in episode seven. He found the photos that Dixon took of Woodrugh and his lover, Miguel, as a “happy coincidence” while clearing out Dixon’s apartment after his death. He knows Miguel because Miguel does security for the Catalyst Group, the shadowy holding company that’s brokering the deals for the land along the rail corridor, and Holloway is orgy pals with Catalyst president Jacob McCandless. Holloway gets beaten up (possibly killed?) by Woodrugh, and was last seen lying on the ground in the tunnel. The big questions for Holloway and Burris in the finale are: Did they kill Caspere? How, exactly, are they connected to the real estate deal? Are they working for someone else? Do they have the diamonds? Why, if they’re so important, are they so forgettable?
As the drunk, corrupt Mayor of Vinci, Chessani has mostly served to be the stooge that underworld crime has installed at the top of the political food chain to make sure there aren’t any problems. Chessani’s involvement with the plot has mainly been to stay out of the way and ensure the cops do the same. His daughter told Ray that he’s a “very bad man,” earlier in season but now that he knows his son is plotting behind his back it seems more like he’s just a very out of touch and corrupt man. He has at least two photos of himself with former President George W. Bush.
Det. Teague Dixon
This disinterested-seeming, drunk, Vinci cop got rocked in the dome during the shootout, leaving behind nothing but questions: Why was he tailing Woodrugh that night? Why was he looking for the diamonds? How closely involved with Burris and Holloway was he? We probably won’t find out the answers to these questions, because he’s already dead and there are other things to resolve. Most likely scenario for answers involving Dixon will just be a firm discovery of evidence that he was a low-level goon in the big conspiracy.
One of the orphaned children from the 1992 jewel heist is still around, and was introduced way too late in the show to make any real impact, so “who the hell is Laura?” is a totally valid question. Laura went into the foster system after her parents were murdered, and eventually became one of Tony Chessani’s prostitutes. She is in one of Vera’s orgy photos, and Velcoro recognizes her as Erica, Ben Caspere’s assistant from the city manager’s office (remember her, from like a million years ago?). So the question with Laura/Erica is did she have a long-term relationship with Caspere beginning with his role in her parents’ murder, or did they reconnect by coincidence later on? And why did she change her name?
This milquetoast-looking fellow is a murderously ruthless business man. He’s the president of the Catalyst Group, the company brokering the deals for the land along the rail corridor. He conspired with Russian-Israeli gangster Osip Agrabov and Tony Chessani to divvy up Caspere’s shares in the corridor for cheap after his murder, in the process screwing Frank out of the deal. He may have participated in Caspere’s murder somehow. He offers Frank an opportunity to get back into the corridor by finding Caspere’s stolen hard drive, which contains incriminating video footage of himself and other powerful men at Caspere and Chessani’s orgies. Frank may go to intercept the cash handoff between Osip and McCandless.
Tony Chessani is frustrating. He’s had dialogue in exactly one scene, where he taunted Bezzerides in a put-on Black accent while wearing a bathrobe and Versace briefs, and everything else we know about him we’ve learned secondhand. A “pimp with political ambitions,” he’s Vinci mayor Austin Chessani’s son and Caspere’s partner in throwing orgies. He organizes the orgies both to make connections to powerful people and gather potential blackmail material on those people. One of those people, McCandless, cut him into the corridor deal. He worked with Blake, Frank Semyon’s sleazy and dead right-hand man, to hire girls for the orgies. He killed Tasha, Caspere’s favorite prostitute who got too big for her britches with a blackmail scheme, in the Twin Peaks-esque cabin that Woodrugh and Bezzerides found. He has a lot to answer for in the finale, especially why we haven’t seen him since episode three if he’s so important.
A prostitute who pawned items stolen from Caspere’s house, a job someone paid her to do to make it look like she was involved in his murder. Frank went looking for her, because he figured that she may know who has Caspere’s stolen hard drive. Before he could get a satisfactory answer from her, though, she was murdered by the Gonzalez boys. Their explanation for why they did it? She talked to the police. Even if just to pawn some diamonds, that’s against the rules.
The Gonzalez Boys
Mexican drug dealers who sold their wares at Frank’s club, Lux Infinitum, when it was run by Danny Santos. When Frank took back control of the bar after ripping Santos’ teeth out, the Gonzalez brothers showed up to make a deal with Frank to keep selling, which Frank declined. They then showed up again when Frank was looking for Irina, as they owned the house where she stayed. Frank made a deal with them allowing them to sell in the club on the three best nights of the week in return for delivering Irina. When they delivered a dead Irina, they insisted their part of the bargain was fulfilled, partially prompting Frank to burn the club down. One of the Gonzalezes is very handsome, and the other is some sort of creepy cowboy. They are wholly unnecessary characters, so Frank renegotiating his deal with them will probably take up 15 minutes of the finale.
Vera was a girl whose worried sister Bezzerides met in the first episode and promised to look for. She miraculously reappeared when Bezzerides infiltrated the orgy. She used to work as a maid at Bezzerides’ father’s institute, where she met Caspere, who turned her into a working girl. She mostly added an extra element of confusion, introducing Laura/Erica and more murk around the diamonds, and just as quickly as she appeared, she disappeared. Don’t expect her to appear in the finale, as her sister took her out of the orgy world.
One of Frank’s sub-bosses in organized crime. When Frank realizes Churchman has been double-crossing him, he brings the untrustworthy rat in for a tense conversation. Churchman explains that Osip Agranov and Tony Chessani have been plotting to cut Frank out of the real estate deals and take his clubs all along. Just when Frank is about to kill him, Churchman says there will be a 12 million dollar money exchange in a desperate attempt to save his own life. Now, Frank has his last big score in mind and kills Churchman anyway.
Osip Agranov and crew
Just another big shot gangster wannabe who has taken over Frank’s clubs through hostile takeover. While Frank plays it straight and concedes defeat when speaking to Agranov, he subsequently burns the clubs down and prepares to steal cash from Agranov and his partners.
The guys in the bakery
Their role outside of transactions with Frank is unexplained. It seems that they are simply outsiders with a separate empire who Frank has always had in the back of his mind to help him get a new identity and run if that day ever arrived. Now that he’s out of options the day has arrived. What is their criminal enterprise? Are they Armenians? Will we see them again, since Frank owes them money?
California state attorney who spearheaded the investigation of corruption in Vinci under the guise of Ben Caspere’s murder, and who secretly reconvened the True Detectives under the guise of looking for Irina Rulfo to find collusion between Vinci officials and Attorney General Geldof. She believes in justice, but is not above illegal, immoral tactics to get it. She was the only person in the state government who knew the True Detectives were investigating Vinci. Somebody killed her and framed Velcoro for her murder.
Way back in the the first episode, whoever was driving the car with Caspere’s body had a bird mask in the front seat. Someone wearing that same bird mask shot Velcoro with rubber bullets in Caspere’s Hollywood fuck-den. Narrative rules dictate that we find out who was under that mask.
Who is this morose Chelsea Wolfe wannabe, and why is she singing her glum witch songs every night in the bar where Frank and Velcoro meet? The fact that this workingman’s bar would repeatedly hire her to sing her downer songs every night is the least realistic part of this whole ridiculous show.