So, what happened in the finale?
Big picture, it seems Nic Pizzolatto, the guy who creates True Detective, was way more interested in exploring his themes, mostly about fathers and sons, than in his mystery: about who killed Ben Caspere, which got solved about halfway through the finale.*
Who did it?
Leonard Osterman, the son of the couple executed in the blue diamond heist. We had seen him for a second in the third episode of the season, on the movie set: he was the set photographer. (He is also this kid from Newsies, all grown up.)
Why did Leonard do it?
Well, Caspere murdered his parents. After his parents’ murder, Len ended up in a group home where horrible things happened to him. His sister, Laura, went into foster care, left at 16, and became a prostitute. She met the never-seen Tascha, who introduced her to Tony Chessani, his hooker-parties, and Ben Caspere, whom she recognized. Len, who was in touch with his sister, found her one night at Ben’s second apartment, and planned to use acid to torture Ben into giving up the location of the diamonds, but he got “carried away” and killed him instead.
Yeah, in an Oedipal turn, Ben Caspere was Len and Laura’s biological father.
Yeah, when Velcoro was talking to Holloway at the train station and trying to get him to confess to everything on tape, Holloway said that the reason they killed the Ostermans in ’92, instead of just taking the diamonds, was because Ben had a long relationship with the “Osterman woman” and she “knew things” and he hadn’t wanted even one kid with her. It was when Holloway revealed this that Len Osterman tried to stab him to death.
What else did Holloway reveal at the train station?
He had the blue diamonds. They had gotten Dixon killed during the shootout because he had wasted his part of the money from the diamond heist and wanted more. The shootout in Vinci had gotten so out of hand because Ledo Amarilla had gotten a tip-off in advance of the raid. And Geldof was definitely in cahoots with them.
Why did Holloway share all of this?
Velcoro was asking, and because he thought Velcoro had the incriminating hard drive, he was trying to appease him.
I thought Velcoro did have the incriminating hard drive.
He did, but it had erased itself when Leonard Osterman tried to look at it without the password.
So the hard drive was never really a threat to anyone?
Yup. Between that and Velcoro’s failure to upload his last voice message to his son Chad, he really got screwed by technology.
Speaking of Chad, we found out who his biological father was, right?
Yes. With 99.99 percent positivity, it is Velcoro. Velcoro must have pretty good sperm because Bezzerides had his baby at the end of the show too.
Back to the hard drive: without it, Velcoro and Bezzerides didn’t have any proof of the conspiracy?
Well, they had some: all the paperwork that Bezzerides gave to a reporter at the end of the episode. But none of it was a complete slam dunk smoking gun like a hard drive full of high-level officials doing awful sex stuff. Velcoro tried to get more evidence by taping his conversation with Holloway, but he lost it during the gunfight at the train station. And then there was Laura, who could have testified on Bezzerides and Velcoro’s behalf, but Bezzerides put her on a bus to Seattle.
Uh, because she thought it was the right thing to do. Without the hard drive, a tape, or Laura, Velcoro and Bezzerides would have had a hard time proving their innocence. Holloway and Burris had pinned Woodrugh’s death on Velcoro too.
So instead, Velcoro and Bezzerides tried to escape?
Right. Bezzerides got away to Venezuela, with the help of the woman with the scar on her face, who owed Velcoro and Frank: Velcoro had put the guy who slashed her into prison and Frank had given her the club. In Venezuela, Bezzerides met up with Frank’s wife, Jordan, and the two of them wore sun hats at night while protecting Bezzerides’ baby and trying to clear Velcoro and Frank’s names.
Velcoro was not so lucky. When he went to say good-bye/salute his son Chad, Burris’s people put a tracker on his car. Velcoro then couldn’t meet up with Bezzerides without leading Burris right to her. So, instead, he drove into the woods and died in a gunfight with Burris and his men.
Why were Austin Chessani and Pitlor both killed?
Tony Chessani murdered both of them (and in both cases tried to make it look like suicide). Tony did this so he could become Mayor of Vinci—which he did—without any loose ends. (Also, this is totally irrelevant because we only saw her for a minute or two in a previous episode, where she talked trash about her father, but Betty Chessani was helping her brother out.)
And who killed Frank?
So Frank and Velcoro successfully robbed $12 million from Catalyst and Osip. (Frank got Ray to help by pointing out that Ray needed the money.) But on his way out of town, Frank was stopped by the Mexicans. Remember, in order to speak with Irina Rulfo, he had promised “the Mexicans,” also referred to as Gonzales, that they could push drugs through his club a certain number of nights per week without him taking a cut. But last week, Frank burned down those clubs, leaving the Mexicans a little irked. Frank gave them the $5 million in cash he conveniently had on him, and that might have been that, except then one of the guys wanted Frank’s suit, and Frank couldn’t handle that—most likely because he had just hidden several million dollars’ worth of diamonds in said suit. So he refused to give up the suit, got stabbed, and died in the desert.
What did the black guys in ‘80s garb Frank saw in the desert have to do with anything?
Frank hallucinated a bunch of people who were important to him as he bled out on the white sand: his abusive father, his loving wife, the first man he killed—and also, apparently, five or so black guys who used to tease him a little.
Read Slate's explainer of the entire True Detective Season 2 plot here.
*Correction, Aug. 10, 2015: This post originally misspelled Ben Caspere’s last name.