Spoiler alert for “True Detective” Season 2, Episode 3, “Maybe Tomorrow.”
Well, looky there: last week’s “True Detective” cliffhanger turned into a lot of sound and fury, as anyone could have predicted. Ray is still very much alive and swimming around in the Caspere investigation, despite his best efforts otherwise. He and Ani pursue leads on the case, while Paul’s sexual repression comes to light after reuniting with a close military buddy and hitting the streets to find Caspere’s affiliates. Paul pounds back doubles to blind himself from the nightlife scene he would rather avoid, where he also bumps into Frank, who has just threatened his former business partners out of ostensible paranoia. And we end with a electrifying chase scene that cements the third episode of “True Detective” Season 2, which zeroed in on each character’s progress (or lack thereof) in the hunt for Caspere’s killer. Are we any closer to the “True Detective” we’ve been longing for? Let’s discuss.
Erin: Here we are in week three of “True Detective” and my cons list is still overwhelming my pros. Yet I keep watching because each episode is getting a little bit better than the last and planting a few more seeds of intrigue. Similar to what we discussed in Episode 2, this week’s best scene was all about Paul and what’s really behind his angry highway cruises and Viagra usage. Beyond that, I had some issues with how Ani was being utilized. What was your impression, Matt?
Matt: From the blue mystique of the opening spotlight cast down on an Elvis impersonator singing “Mama Liked the Roses” and Ray’s Lynchian dream sequence, it’s clear we are inching toward the “True Detective” that we expect. “Maybe Tomorrow” exchanges director Justin Lin, who helmed the first two episodes, for Janus Metz Pedersen, and that trade led to a much more captivating hour of television tonight. I agree it’s still Paul who’s holding this show together — watching him grapple with his veiled homosexuality will keep this season alive, especially as it intersects with the mystery of Caspere’s death. Of course Ray isn’t dead after last week’s cliffhanger, but at least Frank’s dirty business ties overlapping with Ray’s investigation opens doors on a more intriguing cross-section of storylines. But I think the most telling moment this week came when Ray spouted off some vacant faux-philosophy about not being Colombo and Mayor Chessani hollered in response, “What the f–k does that mean? Is this your best, man?” Suddenly it turns out the show’s dialogue is speaking for the viewing audience, though it seems like a message better suited for Frank, who continues to utter turgid things like “prefiguring Caspere, in a casual sense.”
Erin: I’m glad you pointed out the director change, Matt. There is definitely an improvement in a more cohesive tone from start to finish this episode as compared to the last two. I do still get the sense though that both Lin and Pedersen are actively striving to capture and imitate the “True Detective” essence left over from Season 1 instead of imparting their own unique vision. The close-up shot of a glass of whiskey on the bar table, the POV shot of Ray looking down at his cut-up knuckles, and, again, more freeway overhead shots to establish distance traveled — all trying to insert the audience into the character’s world, but too forcefully and obviously for my taste.
My major complaint about tonight was the conversation between Ani and the state attorney Katherine Davis (Michael Hyatt). So far, it felt like Pizzolatto had responded to last year’s cries of criticism against his depiction of women. Ani, a strong-willed, tough female character, adds color to a fictional world ripe with machismo. But then when Davis not only suggested, but strongly encouraged Ani to use her sexuality to get close to Ray — “I’m not saying f–k hime, but maybe let him think you might f–k him,” she says — all of that progress came crashing down. To reduce a female character, and one who is seemingly a more than capable detective already, to employ her sexuality to do her job and to gain a promotion is more cliché and pathetic than I thought Pizzolatto would stoop. It seems like he’s avoiding the criticism by having a woman, and a woman of color at that, make the suggestion to Ani instead of a white male, but that makes little difference. I think McAdams will challenge this diminution of her character throughout the rest of the season, though. Ani seems too stubborn to even follow the orders of a fellow female colleague, let alone hand over control of her body to a man.
Matt: That’s an unsettling, and unnecessary, moment, but you could see the distaste register on Ani’s face. I did worry momentarily when she and Ray ended up alone at the end of the episode, but I don’t think Ani will stoop to such a low. It feels like she still hasn’t had her moment as a character, and I suspect when she does in one of the next couple of episodes, it will be stamped with the anti-misogyny we want from her. In the meantime, you’re right that we should be rolling our eyes at any character suggesting she pull a sexual coup — and it doesn’t help that the other women in the episode were found on their knees (Jordan Semyon) or in subservient, booze-soaked disarray (Chessani’s wife).
The episode thrived when it felt most like an old-fashioned manhunt: Paul slinking through the seedy nightclub in search of Caspere’s ties to sex workers, the cops’ probing visit to the local movie set and the closing chase outside of Ray’s home did more to move the plot forward and hook me in that anything concerning Frank’s mob ring, even during his violent confrontation with a batch of pimps whose women may have serviced Caspere. That arc — and his inert relationship with his wife — feels like a dead-end device to accentuate Frank’s need for power when all I want is more of the investigation’s tangled web of suspects. Ray and Ani darting after the same hooded figure who shot Ray last week finally draws together the disparate ties that have left me griping over how dehumanized the season feels.
Erin: That’s what I want more of: a good ol’ detective chase and an intricate web of suspects. I loved Ray and Ani’s chase scene and I also enjoyed Frank finally letting his villainous side seep out through his cracks. We finally got our first brutal torture scene, on par with typical HBO violence standards, and I’m perfectly fine with that. If we’re dealing with the underbelly of California’s criminal world, I’d expect to see some nasty acts like tonight’s tooth-pulling. I much prefer ruthless Frank to sob-story Frank from last week, as well.
I also really loved the moment between Paul and his war friend. We’ve already seen hints of his latent sexuality, but I thought the reveal between the two of them at the racetrack was well-done, especially in such a masculine location. It was just enough to disturb Paul’s carefully, yet painfully crafted facade. I hope to see more moments that recall Paul’s past, or at least more encounters with gay men or the local prostitutes that clearly put him in a questioning position. But again, as we’ve both said, Ani and Ray’s characters still have a lot to catch up to in regards to how much we’ve learned about Paul already. I hope we get a further look at Ani’s father and the workings behind his church. Which reminds me — whatever happened to the missing girl that supposedly led Ani and her original partner back to her father’s New Age church in the first place? I can hardly remember if that’s even a relevant plotline anymore that’s been addressed since.
Matt: Right, the show tinkered around with Ani’s family and then buried their plotline like Caspere’s acid-drenched corpse. I remember assuming during the beginning of the first episode that the missing girl would become the central mystery. But I think this episode has finally lured me in with Ray and Ani’s dynamic, despite the lapses in the latter’s characterization. Both of their bosses wanting them to betray the other seems to imply Ray and Ani will do the opposite. I feel similarly about Ray as you do about Frank — Colin Farrell’s performance is peeling back layers that elevate the character past sob-story stature. How heartbreaking was it to hear him say that he used to build model airplanes with his son but now does it alone?
Now, on to the obvious next question at this point: Who killed Caspere? Here, again, is where I find “True Detective” rather inert this year, because the suspect list is short and dull. It feels like the world of Vinci is expanding and yet the murder clues aren’t building to anything gripping. I guess my money is on Caspere’s cartoonish shrink, he of the orange skin and ominous sunglasses. But who knows? And do we have enough sinister clues to care? Maybe tomorrow. I sense increasingly better things next week.
Erin: I can easily put my money on Caspere’s shrink, but he also seems like the perfect red herring. Tony Chessani, the mayor’s son, also seems like a possible suspect, along with the mayor’s wife. But knowing Pizzolatto, and how interconnected the police and criminal worlds are, I doubt we’ve even met the real culprit yet. Here’s to five more weeks of clue-digging.
“True Detective” airs on Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET on HBO.
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