07th Jul2015

‘True Detective 2×03: Maybe Tomorrow’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“Pissed myself.”

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True Detective lifted the lid on the mystery of Ray’s maybe death after an entire week of ferocious speculation to reveal Colin Farrell’s suicidally droopy mustache, a sight which avoids occasioning disappointment only in the respect that at least you’re not seeing it in the mirror. It’s not a worse show for having chickened out on pursuing the exciting byroad it might have gone down by killing its top-billed actor two hours into its run, but it is exactly as bad as it’s always been. Even the opening sequence, what amounts to an extended Twin Peaks reference, can’t hide the fact that there’s precious little going on in season 2.

‘Maybe Tomorrow’ is a dull, ungainly hour that blows its best jokes early and does its best to shed season 1′s reputation for dazzling action. Vince Vaughn beating on a chubby guy with gold teeth, Ray and Ani lurching through a child’s idea of Hell in pursuit of a white-masked vehicular arsonist; it’s devoid of tension almost by design. Something might have been made about the arsonist torching a stolen car linked to the Caspere case just seconds before Ani and Ray showed up asking questions(Breaking Bad made a constant case for leveraging time-based tension in storytelling), but instead it all plays out as contrived. Like Santos once Frank is done with him, these scenes are toothless.

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Sex and sexual deviance play a large role in the episode’s events. “Pussy, like wall to wall,” says the set photographer on a muddily post-apocalyptic adventure flick(someone’s idea of clever meta-commentary), conjuring up a singularly unappealing image in response to questions about where he might know Caspere from. When Ray reports that Caspere’s secret sound-proofed house contained “more of the same, just his fetish shit,” I almost screamed at the television. It’s maddening to be left uncertain of whether or not the show knows how boring and trite it’s being right now. Caspere would be intimately at home as villain or victim in an episode of Law & Order: SVU, a shopworn pervert suit draped over a person-shaped hole in the plot.

Paul is too angry for love, though perhaps that’s just because his three-day fling with another government contractor is all snarled up with what sounds like a civilian-killing spree. Actor Taylor Kitsch remains as interesting as a cold log of pepperoni whether he’s grimacing at cliched prostitutes or grimacing at the ridiculous spectacle of the mayor of Vinci’s family. The visions of excess presented in Caspere’s seedy second life, in the mayor’s corruption-decked home with its ridiculous portraits and mail-order wife complete with smeared mascara, are like a randy, anxious freshman lit student’s idea of what goes on in the forbidden mansions of the rich and debauched.

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The dialogue labors along like it’s been running for the entire two weeks since season 2 premiered and now, lungs heaving, it has neared not victory’s finish line but the cold, natural one of death by heart attack. Lines like “Maybe prefiguring Caspere, in a causal sense,” Frank’s and Velcoro’s back-and-forth use of “apoplectic”, and gangster Santos’ “What you used to was” really bring home how hard this season is straining to make Frank into a kind of modern day Al Swearengen as well as just how fruitless that quest is. No one, and certainly not Vaughn, can make lines like these sing.

There are moments. Parts of Velcoro’s dream sequence, like his father’s “You have your father’s hands” and his subsequent look down at his bloody knuckles suggest the cost of the masculinity the show has yet to make a meaningful inquiry into. Frank and his fellow mobsters getting the Tarantino low-shot treatment is nice, if cheap, but it’s not enough, not in an hour where basic logic barely holds together. When Frank dumps a fistful of teeth into the trash in his home, did he just carry them all the way from the club? Maybe they were just spare teeth. Maybe his pockets are full of teeth at all times and he must labor constantly to empty them with discretion.

It was a weak hour.  Harvey Birdman needs to load his shotgun with real bullets at some point if this show is ever going to open fire.

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