'True Detective': All the Best Cops Have Daddy Issues

Ranking the show's main characters in order of how much their fathers messed them up.
HBO

Amid all the murder, weird sex and mayhem on season two of True Detective, the show has had a consistent undercurrent running just below the surface: broken relationships between the main characters and their fathers.

It hasn't been hard to spot — subtlety is not really the name of the game on True Detective, so when we say "just below the surface," we mean "right on the surface for at least a little while in every episode."

The story contains elements of Greek tragedy, so the paternal issues that plague the primary characters aren't exactly a surprise. They do run wide and deep enough, however, to rank the four main characters by level of daddy issues. Here it is, from least to most messed up by their dads.

Paul Woodrugh

Paul (Taylor Kitsch) never really knew his father, so he gets the "least daddy issues" trophy almost by default. He does, however, have a horrible relationship with his mom (Lolita Davidovich), who in "Other Lives" is revealed to have taken $10,000 Paul had stashed in a backpack in her mobile home.

During their fight about the money, Paul sneers that his mom wasn't even sure who the father was, which is a huge low blow but probably something he's needed to say to her for a long time. You get the sense that he was introduced to a lot of "Mom's new friends" growing up.

Ray Velcoro

Ray (Colin Farrell) is the only character who's a parent himself, and he is really, really not good at it. That, however, stems more from the circumstances of his son Chad's (Trevor Larcom) birth — he may be the biological child of the man who raped Ray's then-wife (Abigail Spencer) — than Ray's own relationship with his dad.

Not that dad is Ward Cleaver. A former cop himself, Eddie Velcoro (Fred Ward) is an embittered retiree nostalgic for the above-the-law days of former Chief Daryl Gates and strongly implies that Ray is something of a disappointment. Yet part of Ray still appears to idealize his old man, which probably contributes to Ray's general feeling that he'd be better off not in this world anymore.

Frank Semyon

The show gave Frank (Vince Vaughn) a whole monologue in episode two about what a bastard his dad was. He certainly was, in Frank's retelling — a violent drunk who would lock Frank in a basement after a bender, once for days on end.

That trauma clearly influenced who he became and it currently is weighing heavily as he and his wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly), try to have a child. He has the self-awareness, at least, to wonder if his experience makes him less likely to love a child they adopt, but somehow he still thinks he'd be OK if he and Jordan manage to conceive on their own.

Ani Bezzarides

When your own parents name you "Antigone," you're sort of set up for a fraught relationship with them, aren't you? So it is with Ani (Rachel McAdams), who has disappointed her spiritual-guru father (David Morse) immensely by becoming a cop.

Whatever Ani experienced at the commune her dad ran has hardened her to the point where she always carries multiple knives, reads books about a warrior's mentality and flippantly arouses her fellow attendees at a sexual harassment seminar because she can (though that last moment was pretty funny). She's a relentless crusader who abhors violence against women yet is also drawn to hardcore porn.

Ben Caspere's murder is pulling her back toward her former life, as it appears her father is at least tangentially connected to it. It's likely those connections will come back up for her before the season ends — and perhaps in Sunday's episode, where teasers have shown her undercover at one of the sex parties Caspere organized. Who wants to bet her dad might be in attendance?

True Detective airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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