Season Two, Episode Three — “Maybe Tomorrow”
By Jarrod Jones. Surprise! Ray ain’t dead. And not only is he not dead, he’s totally fine. Aside from an aching sternum and a few cracked ribs Ray Velcoro has survived his deadly dance with our feathered phantom killer. Rubber buckshot. Was this a mistake on the killer’s part? Or a gracious warning? Either way, Ray’s a lucky guy.
But luck in Ray’s world is a relative thing. “Do you want to live?” a doctor later asks the surly Detective (wait, let’s clear that up: the mustached Detective), and, of course, he doesn’t have an answer. In fact, Velcoro doesn’t say anything at all; his eyes glaze over for about ten seconds as he considers the question before realizing that he has a pretty bitchin’ B13 Bomber set just waiting to get glued together at home. (In case you were wondering, the answer is no.)
So the one interesting thing that happened last week gets broomed in startlingly quick fashion, leaving behind only fuel for poor, depleted Ray as he soldiers on in his doomed campaign to best serve his superiors (which, you’ll recall, is to not solve the show’s marquee murder case). So Ray is even more pissed than usual. But then again, so is everybody else. (Oh, this show.) Frank takes control of his destiny. Paul creeps even further into the closet. Ani puffs some more on those damned e-cigs. Visit scenic California.
WHAT WORKED: True Detective was never really about “the case”, and its second season is a perfect indicator of that. It’s vastly more intriguing to dig into the lives of these broken people to see how they choose to manipulate each other, and this week we received a (maddeningly brief) glimpse of this. If it’s a secret that Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) is severely repressing his homosexuality, nobody told the audience, and if any of his fellow True Detectives gave it any thought, it likely wouldn’t bother them at all. But that’s not going to stop scruffy scumbag Det. Teague Dixon (Deadwood‘s W. Earl Brown) from spying in on Paul for whatever reason. All it took was a shutter click, and all of a sudden Dixon matters in True Detective. (How does one get a job being a background slob on a hit TV show?)
It almost goes without saying that Dixon’s dig into the secret life of Paul will remain fascinating only as long as his nefarious intentions remain in the background. Because wherever this plotline is going, it’s likely to get very ugly before the end. But will it get insulting? Well…
WHAT DIDN’T: … True Detective is way ahead of you. “I don’t talk about the desert,” Paul says to his comely girlfriend (Adria Arjona) about his time as a soldier years ago, and it’s probably not just because of the violence that comes with it: Paul’s fumbling attempts to dodge sexual encounters with a woman who cares about him is enough to make you go hmm, but it’s Paul’s time with former brother-in-arms Miguel (Gabriel Luna) that makes it abundantly clear that Woodrugh is a self-loather. But it wouldn’t be an HBO show if it stopped there.
As a narrative device, self-denial is something that gets used time and again to strong effect, but the implications Nic Pizzolatto’s unspooling thread leaves behind are pretty damned hateful, not to mention laughably out of date. Did Paul Woodrugh step out of a temporal vortex to visit 2015? Because his flirtations with a fiery and violently swift suicide due to his repressed sexuality seem needlessly over-dramatic, even for a bloated cop drama. (Watch Paul go out of his way to make sure that his eyes never once meet the swinging ass of Mayor Chessani’s bride, and you’ll see a man making his job way too difficult.) Paul’s arc is to finally embrace his identity, of that there is no doubt, but I’m dreading the awfulness this show is going to put him through in order to get there.
“Rrraaah, I pissed myself.” – Ray.
“I’m commanding officer of this detail. You call me when you got somethin’.” – Ani. “I got shot. So that’s somethin’.” – Ray.
“Can I ask you something, Mr. Velcoro? Do you want to live?” – Doc.
BEST MOMENT: Frank asserts control. So Frank is catching shit from Mayor Souse (Ritchie Coster), one of his right-hand guys just got himself kilt, and to make matters worse, he can’t get his cock hard. So what’s a middle-aged has-been gangster to do? Take control. Watching Frank put up his dukes against the portly Danny Santos (Pedro Miguel Arce) got my face to do something it couldn’t do for the rest of the hour: smile. “Always hated these things. What kinda way is that to greet the world?” a red-faced Semyon posits as he rips the F-U-C-K-Y-O-U right out of Santos’ face. (Right after literally kicking him in the ass.) Don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy it too.
EPISODE’S MVP: Yeah, again. Frank Semyon. Sorry, dudes, Vince Vaughn is the only flash of energy in this entire goddamned show. Even when Nic Pizzolatto’s dialogue undoes every shred of hard work Vaughn puts into the show, Vaughn’s charisma holds on tight. Far as I’m concerned, the show’s top four characters are thusly named: Mope A, Mope B, Frank Semyon, Mope C.
– More people harshing on Ani’s e-cigs this week. All about it.
– “No country for white men, boy.” Maybe that weed is meant for Fred Ward’s cataracts. Helps him read that McCarthy better.
– I don’t know if Pizzolatto was dared to squeeze in Conway Twitty’s lusty rendition of “The Rose” into the second season of True Detective or not, but the swathes of blue and the disorienting karaoke performance that came with it was a wee bit too Lynchian for this show. That kind of weird is decidedly outside of this show’s jurisdiction.