True Detective: How Are These Cops So Bad at Their Jobs?


Just the Lady Parts is a new TV review series wherein Jezebel reviews just the lady parts.

While looking for a female angle on the first 30 minutes of “Down Will Come,” last night’s episode of True Detective, you might come to the conclusion that this series has its fair share of mommy issues.

Frank Semyon’s wife—always peering at Frank over someone’s shoulder like a ginger, pillow-faced Gollum—longs for a baby, Ani Bezzerides and Mayor Chessani’s daughter bond over both having mothers who died by suicide, and later Ani laments not serving as a better caretaker for her sister, who—despite Ani’s constant hemming and hawing and her vague connection to Caspere’s sex parties—actually seems to be doing okay for herself. (She wants to go to CalArts! She has a nose ring! And a job that doesn’t lead to the mass murder of dozens of citizens! Chill the fuck out and look inward, Ani. Your sister is fine.) Then, of course, there’s Paul’s girlfriend who’s knocked up with a baby and won’t get an abortion, which he’s fine with because it all feeds into his narrative of self loathing and pushes him ever deeper into the closet. Ladies having babies, am I right?

Don’t worry, though. The women of this show aren’t all being viewed through the lens of motherhood. Well, they kind of are, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t contain multitudes. Take Ani, for example. When she’s not worrying about her sister’s well-being or her mother’s death, she’s either (poorly) fighting crime or having sex with her coworkers. The latter issue comes to the forefront midway through the episode when a sexual harassment complaint is brought against her by her ex-fuck buddy and subordinate and she’s placed on departmental leave. “This would not be happening to a man,” she tells her boss. “If a complaint were lodged? You bet it would,” he replies. “They just wouldn’t be able to use that line.”

You can debate whether that’s true or not, but there is at least one part of True Detective where egalitarianism prevails. Ani, just like her coworkers Ray and Paul, is a very bad cop! Case in point: The True Detectives’ raid on the warehouse that hides their murder suspect Ledo Amarilla is a front-to-back disaster (it starts with gunfire and ends with a civilian massacre)—not because of the mass violence, but because of the detectives’ overwhelming incompetence. I mean, what kind of police officer stages a dangerous ambush on a volatile (and well-guarded) suspect without noting that there’s a public (and well-publicized) protest happening just outside the building? What kind of police officer has so little regard for public safety that they continue their shootout even as bullets pass through the windows of crowded city bus? Or completely ignores the safety of a hostage? Or just stands there and doesn’t call an ambulance once the carnage is complete?

To answer my question, it’s these detectives! Ani, Ray, and Paul are exactly the kind of detectives that do that! And worst of all, despite the violence and recklessness, it’s still all so boring. If I want to see bad, selfish, and poorly organized police work, I can—quite unfortunately—turn to real life. In fiction and entertainment, it’s one (forgivable) thing to represent a cop as corrupt. It’s another (forgivable) thing to represent them as hapless or stupid. But to make them dull, all while subjecting us to endless conversations about mining and development deals? That’s just sadism.

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Image via HBO.

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