True Detective S02E03 Recap: 'Maybe Tomorrow'

The thing about True Detective season 1 was not that it was about to have the "holy shit" moments like the tracking shot, but that it was about to use those moments to maintain momentum throughout all of its eight episodes. It may have even tricked people about its overall quality until the very end, leaving us to scrutinize it only after it had wrapped. Unfortunately, it also set the bar extremely high for season 2, putting us in this place where we have to draw comparisons to what the show was before, when it's clearly trying to be something entirely different.

It's with that major caveat that I say that I think True Detective has jumped the shark. Not because it faked out Colin Farrell's character's death at the end of last week's episode, but because I watch it, and can't help but burst out laughing at every single thing that's happening. This show has become a parody of itself in record time. But here's the thing; I'm not even sure if it's a bad thing. It's still immensely entertaining and the closest thing to a water cooler show that we've had in years, but it just seems surreal. Nic Pizzolatto took what we all thought was an amazing show about detectives and the weird shit they go through, and given it a coat of the brightest, loudest paint possible. Objectively, that shouldn't be a good thing, but I'm definitely entertained.

I say this because I wonder if I should be mad about Ray Velcoro surviving last week's attack. We all speculated that he might still be alive, and the explanation makes sense, but then again, we all also noted what a bold, refreshing move it would have been to take your big get for season 2 and kill him off, unceremoniously, after only two episodes, and how it could set an unmatchable precedent for cable drama. That's the True Detective quality bias talking, maybe, but it's true. Putting Colin Farrell in the show's rearview mirror would have been something worth talking about. Instead, "Maybe Tomorrow" wastes no time telling us that he's alive, that he was shot with rubber bullets and that whoever did this to him is only fucking with him.

Again, it all makes sense from the story's perspective. Ray is supposed to be straying the investigation away from the truth, and the weird sex house was probably somewhere in the wrong direction. It all speaks to this web of intercrossed motivations that the show has done a good job of setting up over the course of three episodes. Ani wants to solve the case and get everyone in Vinci on the hook for corruption. Frank wants to solve the case because he wants to know who's trying to come after him and who's fucking his business deals, so not exactly for the same reasons. But Ray's torn between it all, at his core, a good detective who wants to do right by everyone from his son to his badge, yet stuck in the mud that is the county of Vinci's corruption and the debt he owes to Frank. It works, and he's the piece you have to keep around to tie everything together. But man, I can't help but feel a little regret for the show not taking the bolder storytelling route, especially considering how much trickery went into last week's fakeout.

But there's no reason to dwell on it anymore than that. Ray's alive, and the rubber buckshot he took to the gut lets him walk around quite hilariously as if he constantly has to go to the bathroom. It's good acting, but it only adds to this idea that True Detective season 2 is sort of unintentionally hilarious. From Ray walking around like he's clenching his asshole, to Paul walking around like he's confused more about a basic math problem than he is his own sexuality, or the ridiculous dialog and facial expressions that come out of Frank's mouth.

Seriously, not only does he spout a line that's the perfect metaphor for everything about this season (you'll see it below, the one about his overwrought trips to the bathrooms), or trade synonyms for indignant with Ray, but in the last scene of the episode he looks like he's trying to clean spinach out of his teeth with his tongue while trying to decide to how to be passive aggressive to his wife.

It all winds up being amazing in spite of itself. There's no reason that any of this would wind up being good, especially when put up next to the pedestal we place season 1 on, but it just winds up working. I'm fully in for season 2 at this point. Maybe I'm alone.

It's especially welcome because outside of the odd and overly-metaphoric character work, the plot movement in this episode is kind of dull and procedural. There's a lot of canvasing, a lot of interviewing, and while it's nice to see these people actually doing their jobs, it doesn't exactly make for the best television, at least if you strip away everything else about the episode.

Still, "Maybe Tomorrow" works for me, because I don't think my expectations are very high for this show, and that makes it incredibly entertaining. I'm not that invested in the mystery, in who these masked people we're chasing around are, but I'm definitely down for more Ray, more Ani, and more Paul and all their self-important bullshit. And really, isn't that what True Detective has really been all about, since day one?

"Maybe Tomorrow" gets 8 pulled golden teeth out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Like, it's absolutely hilarious that Taylor Kitsch isn't concerned about PTSD or the horrors of coming back from war, but rather that he prefers men to women. The irony is that there's nothing wrong with that and it would instantly clear his name from the actress's accusations. And also that Ani uses him as man candy for female prostitutes, when it's men he needed to be canvasing all along.
  • Speaking of Ani, her only real character stuff this week was dumping her wimpy boyfriend, although I like the progress she's making with Ray and getting to trust him.
  • That opening dream scene with the singer was especially weird and sort of tonally off for this show. Which is fine, since they were trying to sell Ray's vision, but it just felt more like something, say, Fargo would do.
  • This episode had a longer Conway Twitty cutaway than those Family Guy episodes. Let that sink in for a second.
  • "I'm commanding officer, when you see something, you call me." "I got shot, that's something."
  • "There's no part of my life not overwrought with live-or-die importance. I take a shit there's a gun to my head saying, 'make it a good one, don't fuck up!'"
  • "God forgive me for misreading what clues you leave for me in your limp dick."
  • "Is that a fucking e-cigarette?"
  • "Frankly, I'm apoplectic." "I'm feeling a little apoplectic myself."
  • "Booze tends to take the edge off. I want to stay angry."
  • "Is Ray hurt? What happened?" "Somebody murdered him."