The third episode of HBO’s True Detective, “Maybe Tomorrow,” opens with an overstated dream sequence meant to further diminish its sad sack protagonist, Det. Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell).When we last left him, he was on the brink of losing shared custody of his adopted/bullied ginger son—who was most likely the byproduct of his wife being raped after he’d failed to get her pregnant—and had absorbed two shotgun blasts to his chest courtesy of an assassin who likes to wear bird disguises. Now he’s stuck in that same depressing bar that he and Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) always make eyes at—only this time he’s haunted by the presence of his father, a grizzled ex-cop played by Fred Ward (because of course), and a shitty Conway Twitty impersonator thoroughly eviscerating Bette Midler’s “The Rose” onstage.
“Maybe you’re already nervous,” his father tells him. “Maybe you lacked grit. I see you, running through the trees. You’re small. The trees are like…giants. Men are chasing you…You step out the trees. You ain’t that fast. Aw, son. They kill you. The shoot ya to pieces.”Where is this? asks a perplexed Velcoro.
'Twas all a dream, I guess, because moments later Velcoro pops awake in Ben Casper’s creepy, soundproof F-pad and sees that a bird head is missing from his wall of animal heads. Yes, creator Nic Pizzolatto didn’t pull a Game of Thrones and off his main character early on—although anyone who’d so much as seen the first promo trailer to True Detective’s second season would know that. So it was all a cheap ruse in the service of an oh, wow cliffhanger that wasn’t.
While getting grilled by Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) for going rogue and canvassing the murder scene solo, Velcoro says he was popped with “riot shells—you know, like, uh, cops…use,” pointing to an even grander conspiracy than has already been established. If you’re not confused by all the shadiness going on in Vinci, California, you can now add even more dirty cops to a murdered Casper, a masked assassin, prostitutes, pimps, a corrupt (overacting) mayor, a bizarre psychiatric facility, Bezzerides’s cult leader father, a missing woman, the $68 billion California Central Rail Corridor deal, foreclosed properties, the list goes on.
Oh, and The Catalyst Group, the shady investment firm tied to Semyon’s $68B megadeal that ripped him off to the tune of $5 million, was the one that leased both Casper’s car and his F-pad. The masked assassin’s Caddy, meanwhile, is tied to a film production company whose tax incentives were arranged by Casper in exchange for a co-producer credit and back-end dough.
The film, described as “two tons of shit” by its on-set photographer, is being directed by a dickish, tyrannical filmmaker who attended sex parties with Casper. Tall, ethnically ambiguous, and wearing his hair in a dark ponytail, he vaguely resembles Cary Fukunaga, who directed all eight episodes of True Detective’s first season—winning an Emmy for his efforts. So this could be Pizzolatto’s way of throwing serious shade at Fukunaga, since the two were allegedly at odds during filming.
“Rumors of a power struggle between Pizzolatto and Fukunaga—who directed all eight episodes of the first season and is responsible for the show’s rich cinematic look—have circulated since production got underway in early 2013,” reported The Hollywood Reporter. “And they grew more intense when word got around that Fukunaga would not be back for season two. The director, who declined comment for this article, will remain attached as an executive producer.”
Meanwhile, Semyon becomes the second character on the show to deliver “tortured blowjob face” when his smoking hot wife (Kelly Reilly) can’t get him off to score some sperm for IVF treatments. It turns out that, unlike Velcoro, Semyon has “phenomenal motility” and it’s his long-suffering wife who’s having trouble bearing children. Velcoro is skeptical of Semyon for walking him into that trap. It’s a clumsily written scene, with lines like, “There’s a certain stridency at work here…” “I’m apoplectic…” “I’m feeling a little apoplectic myself…” A now-sober Velcoro threatens to end their “arrangement,” but Semyon is still holding the past over his head (fingering Velcoro’s wife’s rapist, whom he then murdered) and convinces the dirty cop to gather any information he can about Casper’s land dealings.
There are lots more overhead shots of highways and tight close-ups of characters giving their best “pained expression” face. Either this show is made by highway fetishists, or all those twisting roads are meant to symbolize both this series’ labyrinthine plot and its ties to transportation (see: California Central Rail Corridor deal). Whatever the case, it’s grown very tiresome.
The overacting mayor, it turns out, lives in a ridiculously opulent mansion complete with tacky gold accents, a mail order bride wife who parties and hits the Volcano like a boss, and a total shithead of a son who’s inherited his father’s penchant for overacting, hosts “specialty events” (orgies?) and barks orders like, “Take a Xanax and chill yo ass.” Overacting mayor is corrupt, get it?!
Bezzerides and Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) poke around in Casper’s safety deposit box and find diamonds and some LLCs he established. Casper “seems deep with Catalyst”—a private company that “owns a lot of land.” Meanwhile, the DA not only suggests that Velcoro may have faked the hit on him but also hints that Bezzerides should try to seduce him in order to expose his backdoor dealings and score herself a bonus. Overacting mayor wants Bezzerides’s badge for interrupting his wife’s hangover.
By the way, in case you didn’t already know, Bezzerides has the biggest cojones on this show. When her cop boytoy whines about how she blew him off after he couldn’t handle her bedroom BDSM action, she snaps, “You talk to me like that again, you’re gonna need a little baggie to carry your teeth home.”
Impotency is the least of Semyon’s problems. The Russians are backing out of the Corridor deal, his associates are dropping dead, and his broke double-mortgaged ass has been forced to shake down construction companies for cash. He takes out his sexual and financial frustrations on pimp Danny Santos, raining left hooks down on him (in what has to be one of the most improbable and unrealistic fight sequences you'll see on television this year) before ripping out his gold “Fuck You” grill with a set of pliers. He may not be able to get it up, but Semyon is now on the warpath.
Speaking of dudes with sexual hang-ups, Woodrugh meets up with an estranged ex-military pal. First, the two overcompensate by chugging beers and calling each other “bro” while taking in a motorcycle race. Afterward they reminisce about their combat days, and then his pal starts getting real. “Would you ever go back to it?” he says, before putting his head on Woodrugh’s chest. “You know what I’m talking about…I think about you, man…What if I don’t want to forget, huh?” The damaged Woodrugh replies, “Dude, chill,” and attempts to walk away, and when his ex-lover grabs him and says, “Don’t pretend!” Woodrugh throws him to the ground in a fit of rage, screaming, “Fuck you, asshole!” All of this is caught on camera by that random pudgy fourth cop on the Casper team.
So it appears all the signs—the Viagra-popping to sex his girlfriend, the “tortured blowjob face,” the eyeing of gay hustlers from his balcony—have led to the revelation that Woodrugh is deep, deep in the closet. This is further evidenced by his comfort chatting with a gay hustler, who serves as Woodrugh’s gateway to the hooker underworld. Sexually repressed doesn’t even begin to describe this guy.
One of these prostitutes claims he used to pop Viagra and have sex with women in front of the voyeuristic Casper—mirroring Woodrugh’s activity with his own girlfriend. A prostitute named Tasha who participated in “private parties” may hold the key to unlocking the truth behind Casper’s murder.
By episode’s end, that notorious Casper-carrying Caddy has been set on fire by another (the same?) masked assassin. She and Velcoro give chase, but the fella is still gimpy from his injury and slows down the pursuit—yet manages to save the intrepid Antigone from a truck mowing her down. Velcoro all but comes clean to Bezzerides by saying, “You want to thank me? Tell me what State has on me.”
Let’s hope this leads to more scenes together between McAdams and Farrell, who have exhibited signs of macho chemistry. And there needs to be, because aside from its million-plus plotlines and love of highways, Season 2 of True Detective is sorely lacking in the thing that made its first go-around so damn riveting: bromance.