TV Review: True Detective (2×03) “Maybe Tomorrow”

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Well, now is as good of a time as any to get weird. For True Detective, it almost goes off the rails. But hey, at least something’s happening.

First off, the obvious: No, Detective Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) is not dead. After a strange dream sequence (not uncommon on this show) with a singing Elvis wannabe, Ray wakes up in Caspere’s hooker home to find he was actually shot with pellets. What he’s still uneasy about is how a guy in an animal mask with a shotgun managed to find out where he was going to be snooping around. Naturally, he meets with Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn), the only one who told Ray to go to the house and possibly the one who set Ray up. Frank’s got his own problems: two more of his work associates are missing, he’s getting screwed out his prized land deal, and he can’t give his wife (Kelly Reilly) little Semyons to make a baby. Frank is starting to get his hands dirty again (figuratively and literally) to gather some cash back.

With Ray briefly out of commission, Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) and Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) go searching for more clues. Ani is wondering why she wasn’t invited to Ray’s impromptu home invasion, and her department wants her to get closer to Ray (so far as suggesting naked intimacy as a method) to see how screwed up he is and if he’s not the only screwed Vinci cop. Ani and Paul check out the mansion of Vinci mayor Austin Chessani (Ritchie Coster), complete with a much younger (more intoxicated) wife (Agnes Olech) and a son (Vinicius Machado) who changes accents and appearances depending on what party he’s hosting. They check the house because apparently Caspere made quite a few phone calls from his secret hooker homestead to Chessani, who is not too happy about Ani coming into his home. He wants Ray to wrap this case up ASAP, while Ray is still debating whether or not he should still be alive (he visits a doctor who asks if Ray even wants to live, with Ray giving no response). On top of that, Ray’s ex-wife (Abigail Spencer) offers Ray $10,000 to not contest custody of their son after state cops ask her about Ray’s dark past. He’s also dealing with his dad throwing away his old badge and dissing the profession Ray’s clearly modeled as the only purpose to his life.

Meanwhile, Paul goes to visit an old army buddy at a motocross rally. However, when his buddy starts reminiscing about a time when the two were stranded in an Iraqi village and possibly got intimate, Paul shoves him to the ground and storms off. To take his mind off it, he uses his smoldering looks to go around asking sultry street walkers (male and female) if they’ve ever serviced Caspere. That leads Paul to a nightclub where two male party boys tell them about a frequent girl of Caspere’s that’s conveniently gone missing as of late. Speaking of info on Caspere, Frank starts getting more of his old scum of the earth back together hoping to get more information. When one of them questions if Frank’s got any balls, Frank throws up fisticuffs and beats him down, eventually using pliers to pull out his gold dentures. Ray and Ani find out that the car that had Caspere’s body in it belonged to a Hollywood director who’d partied with Caspere. Ray and Ani try to talk to an old driver of the car, but a masked assailant lights the car on fire and escapes the clutches of the detectives.

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This is certainly the strangest episode of the season so far, clearly trying to match the bayou witchcraft of season one. The opening dream sequence, complete with random guy singing and nonspecific ethereal dialogue, is so David Lynch that one would wait for the dancing little person from Twin Peaks to moonwalk into the scene. The whole visit to mayor Chessani’s manor seems very out of place, along with the visit to the Hollywood director’s movie set, if only to highlight the twisted life in the Hollywood hills.

Those things aside, True Detective is both doing what it wants to do (build the characters) and what it needs to do (build the story) simultaneously…and by jove, it’s starting to work. Colin Farrell keeps getting to paint the tragic background of Ray Velcoro, and he does great work of digging Ray further into the black hole he’s in. His scene at the doctor’s office and talking to his father are very insightful, making him the most watchable character on the show so far. That’s not taking anything away from Rachel McAdams, who still gets to show off her girl-balls when dealing with the stoic Paul Woodrugh or a clingy former flame. Taylor Kitsch is given a little more backstory, with the gay flame explaining his problem with intimacy, but they still keep his character is the shadows. What’s funny is that Ani specifically points out how Woodrugh’s good looks will make him the most suitable to talk to the prostitutes on the street, seemingly mocking Kitsch for his lack of usefulness to the plot. No one knows what to do with him except have loose girls give him the sexy side-eye. Fortunately, Vince Vaughn FINALLY seems to be coming full circle with his character, as he mixes his Swingers-wit with a bit of anger. It’s not fully-formed, but it’s something.

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My reaction to this episode is in the title: maybe. “Maybe Tomorrow” is True Detective saying “maybe” to the audience. “Maybe” the story of the show can drive characters to be compelling. “Maybe” the characters can still surprise with who they really are. “Maybe” there can be some visible stakes for everyone involved in this show because of the plot and not their own demons. True Detective should not be a cheap “woe is them” slideshow of bad people, but something that shows what darkness and desperation can do to the ones trying the hardest to stay in the light…maybe.

6.5/10

Jon Winkler is a 22-year-old movie/music nerd in Southampton, NY by way of Merrimack, NH. He loves watching, listening to, dissecting, mocking and talking about movies, television, music, video games and comics. He enjoys a good cheeseburger, believes CDs and vinyl are superior, likes to make people smile if they're having a rough day, and is rumored to be Batman (unconfirmed).
  • David

    “True Detective should not be a cheap “woe is them” slideshow of
    bad people, but something that shows what darkness and desperation can
    do to the ones trying the hardest to stay in the light…maybe.”

    No maybe about it. Definitely. Otherwise, why should we care?

    And a very cogent summary and critique of the show. Nicely done.

  • David Ferrari

    …Or maybe, True Detective should show that there really isn’t any polar dark and light but a lot of different shades of grey. But then, through this canvas of grey, pure blackness creeps through. And how do we deal with it?