Everything Is Papier-Mâché On ‘True Detective’ Episode 2

The season premiere of “True Detective” proved divisive last week, but entertainment editors Erin Whitney and Matthew Jacobs are sticking to their promise to discuss the show every Sunday. This week’s episode dove slightly deeper into the mystery of Ben Caspare’s death. The city manager’s grizzly autopsy report prompted Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ani (Rachel McAdams) to question whether a penchant for prostitutes led to his demise. Meanwhile, we got an unsettling look at Paul’s (Taylor Kitsch) family life, more of the series’ noirish driving scenes, Frank (Vince Vaughn) worrying about his riches and a cliffhanger that could (rightfully) take the show in a whole other direction. Let’s discuss.

Spoiler alert for “True Detective” Season 2, Episode 2, “Night Finds You.”

Matthew Jacobs: Hi, Erin! We were pretty cruel toward last week’s premiere, and the comments on our review seem to indicate a good number of people agreed with us. Then again, we were graced with a slew of ad hominem attacks on Twitter and via email, so clearly some of you took the episode as seriously as it took itself. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be able to please the latter crop, so prep your aggression now, gracious readers.

I will say that Episode 2 was marginally better than the first. But hold on while I nod off as Frank moans about his self-made wealth (“Everything is papier-mâché” is an actual line uttered — twice) and while Ray, Ani and Paul exchange vacant side glares as they examine Ben Caspere’s body. On the other side lies the season’s first intriguing scene: Paul’s mother stroking his back and using what I assume is some sort of creepy euphemism when she tells him twice that he can have his “old room” if he spends the night. What is happening there? Give me more of that — it actually feels like there is a character with layers on the screen and not hollow bodies who shepherd the vague plot from one phase to the next.

taylor kitsch

Erin Whitney: Before I jump into this and thus throw myself into the gladiator pit against “True Detective” defenders, let me at least say that I’m not simply comparing this week’s new episode to Season 1. I will reference the initial season, though, because it’s difficult not to mourn something great in the midst of watching the melodramatic scenes from this week’s episode.

That opening sequence where Frank recalls his childhood with his drunk father is painful to watch, but in the wrong way. What should play as a poignant emotional moment is instead drenched in cheap desperation. Way longer than necessary, the scene feels like it’s ripped straight out of an actor’s guidebook to auditioning: the hardened criminal shows his vulnerability by recounting memories of his abusive daddy locking him in the basement. Pizzolatto has somehow lost all sense of subtlety in his writing to the point that I can’t help but wonder if he’s playing a joke on us.

Jump ahead to the car scenes between Ray and Ani and the group meeting between all three detectives. Each of these plays like a parody of Season 1 and, in general, much of quality television. Their conversations seem superfluous, or at least insignificant to the plot at hand. They don’t reveal any distinct or deeper qualities about the characters. Part of me thinks Pizzolatto has completely flipped his writing style to subvert our expectations of what TV should be, which is what Matt Johnston claimed in his Business Insider review. Even so, that’s not remotely engaging or serving any storytelling or symbolic purpose (at least not yet). I pray my mind will be changed by the end of the season — I desperately want to be in awe of this show. But so far, I’m simply not convinced.

Matt: I can’t say I buy that there is that much self-awareness at play, but I’ve seen others make arguments about its meta relationship to prestige programming, too. The show doesn’t seem to realize what it’s lacking, which is a sense of identity within the world it depicts. Every location featured is a grubby, nondescript part of this fictional LA-adjacent town, and without color from local denizens drifting through the background, it is rendered culture-less. That’s why I griped about the freeway shots last week — they reflect the web of plots the show has weaved, but do little to immerse us in what makes this town tick and why Caspere’s disappearance is worth eight talky hours of television. The same goes for the car scenes, where Ray and Ani carry on meaningless conversations that don’t unearth much about their worldviews or the communities they defend. And that green screen? HBO, please tell me the screeners you provided to press still needed color-correction work, because damn. If we thought the aerial shots do nothing for the season’s world-building, just look at the streets these characters drive down.

I thought the scene with Paul’s mother accomplished what most of the others did not in hinting at a mysterious backstory that we actually want to take the time to understand. I criticized his suicidal bender last week, but could Paul actually be the season’s best character? Not that he has much competition: I still don’t understand much about Ani and it seems like the show thinks we know more about Frank than we actually do, while Ray is so on the nose that I understand far too much about him. But wait! Maybe he’s dead? Those final few moments were pretty gripping, and it could point to interesting things to come. But I find it hard to believe he’s actually a goner.

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Erin: I enjoyed the scene between Paul and his mother as well and finally began to feel a sense of discomfort, which is something this season has lacked so far. But I also really loved the final scene with Ray in Caspere’s secret home. The animal masks and vintage radio amped up the (possible) presence of the occult, and things were just starting to get interesting. Like you said, I can’t imagine the season killing off its lead character just yet. Still, it feels a bit cheap to tease audiences with such a big cliffhanger so early on.

The lack of identity you mention is my main criticism of the first two episodes overall. This season has no sense of place, which is surprising for a plot so grounded in a distinct locale. The corruption and grimy immorality of last season hung over every episode, reminding viewers of the horrors of world Rust and Marty were immersed in. It’s fine that Season 2 isn’t trying to recreate that feeling, but it makes the atmosphere that much less intriguing. Why care about a kidnapped official from a city no one cares for in the first place? Even after two episodes, I still don’t feel like we’ve witnessed enough of the idiosyncrasies of the fictional Vinci — I’m longing to see more of it, but the low-quality crushing car scenes and brief shots of factories do little to characterize it. Whatever happens moving forward, I hope that final scene pays off in a major way.

Matt: It gave me the sense that Ray knew more than the audience did. There was a certain comfort on his face as he lurked through Caspere’s home, implying his power-abusing corruption might extend to the expired city manager. That would give his need to retain custody over his possibly illegitimate son — the part of his life that he sees as a saving grace — a sense of purpose that stretches beyond clichéd daddy issues. Conversely, maybe he’s working to crush Frank’s entire operation after spending so much time indebted to him. That’s a script-flipping I’d sign on for. Either would ground the mystery by contouring the good-or-evil debate the show hasn’t convinced us to invest in regarding these characters. Maybe this is Season 2’s turning point. Here’s to hoping for a more immersive discussion next week.

Erin: The possibility of Ray withholding information and/or conning Frank all along is the most exciting theory yet, and one that could quickly turn me into a fan of this season. I’ve wondered whether scrutinizing this show episode by episode may hurt our perception of it. Last season I fell so deeply down the rabbit hole of uncovering the Yellow King’s identity that I nearly lost sight of the overall story at hand. While I’m still skeptical, I am going to try to pull back a bit and let the next few episodes wash over me, and hopefully they will surprise us both.

“True Detective” airs on Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET on HBO.

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Supreme Court upholds nationwide health care law subsidies

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court sent a clear message Thursday that President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is here to stay, rejecting a major challenge that would have imperiled the landmark law and health insurance for millions of Americans.

Whether you call it the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, or in the words of a dissenting justice, SCOTUScare, Obama’s signature domestic achievement is, as the president himself put it, “reality.”

The 6-3 ruling, which upheld financial aid to millions of low- and middle-income Americans to help pay for insurance premiums regardless of where they live, was the second major victory in three years for Obama in politically charged Supreme Court tests of the law. And it came on the same day the court gave him an unexpected victory on another subject, preserving a key tool the administration uses to fight housing bias.

Obama greeted news of the health care decision by declaring the law is no longer about politics but the benefits millions of people are receiving. “This is no longer about a law,” he said in the White House Rose Garden. “This is health care in America.”

Declining to concede, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said Republicans, who have voted more than 50 times to undo the law, will “continue our efforts to repeal the law and replace it with patient-centered solutions that meet the needs of seniors, small business owners, and middle-class families.” However, he declined to commit to a vote this year.

Several Republican presidential candidates said they would continue the fight, ensuring it will be an issue in the campaign.

Other legal challenges are working their way through the courts, but they appear to pose lesser threats to the law, which passed Congress without a single Republican vote in 2010 and has now withstood two stern challenges at the Supreme Court.

At the court, Chief Justice John Roberts again wrote the opinion in support of the law, just as he did in 2012. His four liberal colleagues were with him three years ago and again on Thursday. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a dissenter in 2012, was part of the majority this time.

Roberts said that to read the law the way challengers wanted — limiting tax credits to people who live in states that set up their own health insurance marketplaces — would lead to a “calamitous result” that Congress could not have intended.

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts declared in the majority opinion.

Justice Antonin Scalia, in a dissent he summarized from the bench, strongly disagreed. “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” he said, using an acronym for the Supreme Court and suggesting his colleagues’ ownership of the law by virtue of their twice stepping in to save it from what he considered worthy challenges.

His comment drew a smile from Roberts, his seatmate and the object of Scala’s ire.

Scalia said that Roberts’ 2012 decision that upheld the law and his opinion on Thursday “will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.”

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas joined the dissent, as they did in 2012.

Nationally, 10.2 million people have signed up for health insurance under the law. That includes 8.7 million who are receiving an average subsidy of $272 a month to help pay their premiums. Of those receiving subsidies, 6.4 million were at risk of losing that aid because they live in states that did not set up their own insurance exchanges.

The health insurance industry breathed a sigh of relief, and a national organization representing state regulators from both political parties said the court’s decision will mean stable markets for consumers.

Shares of publicly traded hospital operators including HCA Holdings Inc. and Tenet Healthcare Corp. soared after the ruling. Investors had worried that many patients would drop their coverage if they no longer had tax credits to help pay.

The legal case against nationwide subsidies relied on four words — “established by the state” — in the more than 900-page law.

The law’s opponents argued that the vast majority of people who now get help paying for premiums are ineligible for their federal tax credits. That is because roughly three dozen states opted against creating their own health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, and instead rely on the federal healthcare.gov site to help people find coverage if they don’t have it through their jobs.

In the challengers’ view, the phrase “established by the state” demonstrated that subsidies were to be available only to people in states that set up their own exchanges.

The administration, congressional Democrats and 22 states responded that it would make no sense to interpret the law that way. The idea was to decrease the number of uninsured, preventing insurers from denying coverage because of “pre-existing” health conditions, requiring almost everyone to be insured and providing financial help to those who otherwise would spend too much of their paychecks on premiums.

The point of the last piece, the subsidies, is to keep enough people in the pool of insured to avoid triggering a disastrous decline in enrollment, a growing proportion of less healthy people and then premium increases.

Several portions of the law indicate that consumers can claim tax credits no matter where they live. No member of Congress said at the time that subsidies would be limited, and several states said in a separate brief to the court that they had no inkling they had to set up their own exchanges for their residents to get tax credits.

Roberts pointed out that the law “contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting,” including three separate sections numbered 1563. He said the court’s duty was to read the provision at issue in context and with the larger picture in mind.

In Scalia’s view, Roberts was engaging in “somersaults of statutory interpretation” that were redolent of the chief justice’s efforts to save the law in 2012.

The 2012 case took place in the midst of Obama’s re-election campaign, when the president was touting the largest expansion of the social safety net since the advent of Medicare nearly a half-century earlier. But at the time, promised benefits of the Affordable Care Act were mostly in the future. Many of its provisions had yet to take effect.

In 2015, the landscape has changed, although the partisan and ideological divisions remain.

The case is King v. Burwell, 14-114.

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Gableman hopes to reel Rindfleisch (and Scott Walker’s secrets) back to Wisconsin

Dear Readers: We have some John Doe II news to talk about. I’m not absolutely positive what’s up – but I have some strong suspicions, which I will go into. Whatever’s going down, the timing of this could not be more threatening to Scott Walker’s impending presidential campaign. First you need to know that the more »

Having survived court ruling, what’s next challenge for health insurance markets?

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather outside the Supreme Court shortly after the court announced it would uphold the ACA on June 25, 2015.  Photo by Corinne Segal

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather outside the Supreme Court shortly after the court upheld the nationwide tax subsidies under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Photo by Corinne Segal

Despite having survived a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal government’s health insurance markets face weighty struggles as they try to keep prices under control, entice more consumers and encourage quality medical care.

The government’s insurance markets — as well as more than a dozen run by states — have been operating for less than two years and are about to lose their training wheels. Start-up funds that have helped stabilize prices and partially pay for administration of the marketplaces are ending, feeding fears that premiums may rise after next year at a steeper rate.

There are still 18 million uninsured people who are eligible for coverage but have not purchased insurance. Without broader participation, insurers may be pressed to raise rates as they get a more complete picture of how much medical care their current customers are using.

“It has proven to be harder to get people to sign up for exchanges and keep them than experts expected,” said Caroline Pearson, an executive at Avalere Health, a Washington consulting firm. “Hispanics, young people and men are still lagging in enrollment and it still seems like the exchanges have not figured out how to reach them.”

Insurers in a handful of states have proposed increasing premiums for the cheapest “silver” plans by an average of 4.5 percent next year, according to an analysis by Avalere. That was slightly higher than last year’s 4 percent increase for the cheapest silver plans in all states, Pearson said. Consumers who want to stick with their current plans may see larger increases, as insurers are trying to enact double-digit price increases for some policies.

Burden For Consumers

More than 10 million people buy insurance through the online marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. About six of every seven of those people are getting financial assistance from the federal government. Even with that help, health care costs can be substantial, with premiums for some reaching nearly a tenth of their gross incomes.

For instance, families of three earning $73,000 have to pay nearly $7,000 on premiums despite also receiving subsidies They still face deductibles, which this year averaged around $2,500 for the most common types of insurance plans, known as silver tiers. If a family required extensive medical care and reached the maximum they would be held responsible for — $13,200 this year—their total health care-related bills, including premiums, would exceed $20,000, or 28 percent of their gross incomes.

“Even some of those who are eligible for financial assistance are still finding the coverage not to be affordable for them,” said Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, Washington think tank.

With the end of start-up funds from the federal government, exchanges need to support their continuing responsibilities, which include running the call centers that offer consumer assistance, operating the exchange websites where people choose plans and marketing their efforts to encourage the uninsured to sign up. Most exchanges, including the federal healthcare.gov site, are funded through an assessment on each plan that is sold, although some receive support from state budgets. Revenue has been volatile, and some marketplaces have been caught short when lower enrollment or smaller premiums led to smaller fees. Some states are considering handing their marketplaces over to healthcare.gov.

“We don’t have a clear sense of how much it costs to maintain these programs,” said Kevin Lucia, project director at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.

If premiums rise, the bill for federal taxpayers who fund the subsidies will increase as well. The government has been giving insurers some breathing room by limiting their losses and taking over the costs of the most expensive cases, but that financial assistance ends in 2017. “As it’s fading out, it’s putting upward pressure on premiums,” said Evan Saltzman, an analyst at the RAND Corp.

James Capretta, a former George W. Bush administration budget official now at the American Enterprise Institute, said it will take several years of exchange experience for insurers to know how much medical care their customers use —and if it matches what they expected.

“The biggest open issue is what the risk profile turns out to be,” Capretta said. “We’ll know more about that in 2016 and we’ll know even more about that in 2018.”

Star Ratings Coming

While the exchange websites have mostly surmounted their early technical problems, they still lack key pieces of information about the quality of the various plans, which the health law required. The federal Department of Health and Human Services plans to require exchanges to display quality ratings for each plan, which will be represented by a five-star scale, in time for people buying their coverage for 2017.

To devise these ratings, the department this year is testing a satisfaction survey for consumers, asking people to rate on scales of 0 to 10 their health plan, personal doctor, specialists, ease of getting care and other aspects of their experience. The agency is also preparing to collect a few dozen measures of clinical quality. Many are rudimentary, such as whether children had a preventive care visit and whether adults received flu shots.

Government quality rating efforts elsewhere have shown how challenging it is to fairly differentiate between providers. A current effort to evaluate the medical care provided by large medical groups rated 85 percent of them as average. The government has been more discerning about private Medicare Advantage insurance plans, though regulators have been refining those scores since stars were first awarded in 2008. A third of plans were given four or more stars this year, and 4 percent earned 2 1/2 stars or fewer.

“This has always been the big question about the ACA,” said Lanhee Chen, a researcher at the Hoover Institution. “Are people going to be able to make educated choices?”

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Every Pick And Outfit From The First Round Of The 2015 NBA Draft

nba draft

So, the 2015 NBA Draft happened. Do you want an introduction? No, you don’t. You want the picks, and you want some outfit grades. Here they are.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves — Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky. Outfit: B

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2. Los Angeles Lakers — D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State. Outfit: A-

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3. Philadelphia 76ers — Jahlil Okafor, Duke. Outfit: B+

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4. New York Knicks — Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia. Outfit: Same as Okafor

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5. Orlando Magic — Mario Hezonja, Croatia.

6. Sacramento Kings — Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky. Outfit: “B” for braces

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7. Denver Nuggets — Emmanuel Mudiay, China. Outfit: B-

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8. Detroit Pistons — Stanley Johnson, Arizona. Outfit: B-

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9. Charlotte Hornets — Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. Outfit: C-

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10. Miami Heat — Justise Winslow, Duke. Outfit: B

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11. Indiana Pacers — Myles Turner, Texas. Outfit: A

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12. Utah Jazz — Trey Lyles, Kentucky. Outfit: Fine

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13. Phoenix Suns — Devin Booker, Kentucky. Outfit: Cool

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14. Oklahoma City Thunder — Cameron Payne, Murray State. Outfit: Sailor

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15. Atlanta Hawks — Kelly Oubre, Kansas.* Outfit: Correct

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16. Boston Celtics — Terry Rozier, Louisville.

17. Milwaukee Bucks — Rashad Vaughn, UNLV.

18. Houston Rockets — Sam Dekker, Wisconsin. Outfit: I guess

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19. Washington Wizards — Jerian Grant, Notre Dame.** Outfit: Sure

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20. Toronto Raptors — Delon Wright, Utah.

21. Dallas Mavericks — Justin Anderson, Virginia.

22. Chicago Bulls — Bobby Portis, Arkansas. Outfit: Very nice

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23. Portland Trail Blazers — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona. Outfit: A+

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24. Cleveland Cavliers — Tyus Jones, Duke.***

25. Memphis Grizzlies — Jarell Martin, LSU.

26. San Antonio Spurs — Nikola Milutinov, Serbia.

27. Los Angeles Lakers — Larry Nance Jr., Wyoming.

28. Boston Celtics — R.J. Hunter, Georgia State.

29. Brooklyn Nets — Chris McCullough, Syracuse. Outfit: OK, I see you

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30. Golden State Warriors — Kevon Looney, UCLA. Outfit: Ehhhh

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*Traded to the Washington Wizards.

**Traded to the New York Knicks.

***Reportedly traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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WATCH: Funeral of Charleston shooting victim, S.C. Sen. Clementa Pinckney

PBS NewsHour will live stream the funeral services for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, scheduled for 11 a.m. EDT Friday, in the player above.

Live coverage of the funeral for South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, will start at 11 a.m. EDT on Friday. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy.

Pinckney was fatally shot, along with eight other church members, in a mass killing during evening Bible study at Emanuel AME Church last Wednesday, June 17. He was 41, and the father of two.

His funeral will broadcast live from the TD Arena at the College of Charleston.

The post WATCH: Funeral of Charleston shooting victim, S.C. Sen. Clementa Pinckney appeared first on PBS NewsHour.