Photo: Lacey Terrell, HBO, and Sky Atlantic

True Detective Season 2: Maybe Tomorrow

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]inally, True Detective is getting its shit together. Not that it’s been bad up to now, it’s just that we’ve had little reason to really get invested in the mystery – I know I shouldn’t bring up Season 1 at this point, but we could really hook on to the mystery behind a guy called “The Yellow King”.

With ‘Maybe Tomorrow’, we’re still a way off being that engaged, but a guy in a crow’s mask shooting Collin Farrell with some rubber bullets is something, at least.

Yes, rubber bullets. I said Ray wouldn’t be killed off yet and I was right which, while still a bit of a cop-out (heh), is a relief.

His brink-of-breakdown alcoholic is the closest the series has to a beating heart

We open with a dream sequence that gives off some serious Sopranos vibes, as a guy dressed up as Conway Twitty croons ‘The Rose’ in an empty, blue-tinged bar.

There’s even a guy who looks a bit like David Lynch sitting opposite Ray. He turns out to be his father, a man who is clearly responsible for passing on the chromosomes for “violent” and “cop”, and who Ray visits later in the episode out of… what, guilt? Fatherly guidance? Not likely.

He spouts off some familiar stuff about “the badge” not meaning what it used to be, and despairs at a new generation of cops.

But it’s not just clichéd garbage – the series seems to have its characters mired in cliché itself, aware of its toxic proliferation into their environment, and the ways the characters both live up to and muddy the stereotypes they embody is one of series’ greatest strengths

"Consider Frank in this episode". Photo: Lacey Terrell, HBO, and Sky Atlantic

“Consider Frank in this episode”. Photo: Lacey Terrell, HBO, and Sky Atlantic

Consider Frank in this episode. His staging of a violent encounter in order to assert his dominance could have come straight out of Goodfellas – he even pulls out a guy’s teeth. But earlier on he has an argument with his wife, who blames his “limp dick” for their marital problems. Out of the two scenarios, it’s clearly the latter that affects him most, and feeds into the cool anger he exhibits while trying to climb out from under a pile of mounting pressure.

Frank also does a much better job at trying to find Caspar’s killer than two entire police departments, who clearly have their interests invested more heavily in politics.

Ani may not be the 'truest' detective, but she certainly has that hard-boiled glare down. Photo: Lacey Terrell, HBO, and Sky Atlantic

Ani may not be the ‘truest’ detective, but she certainly has that hard-boiled glare down. Photo: Lacey Terrell, HBO, and Sky Atlantic

I don’t know who the “truest” detective in this series is, but Frank may well be true-er than both Ray and Ani this week, who are urged to undermine each other in return for a promotion. Again, they find themselves reluctant to do so – both of them suspect something is afoot, which isn’t exactly helped by the rubber bullets being the same ones riot police use, or Lieutenant Burris of the Vinci PD showing up at a crime scene a bit too early.

Chasing the mask-wearing vigilantes leads them to investigate the ties between Caspar and a post-apocalyptic movie production (so hot right now), where we discover some stuff about a company called Catalyst.

We also discover that Casper was in deep with Mayor Chessani, whose coke-smeared party mansion gets checked out by Ani and Paul, and seems to be inhabited by a more broadly comedic version of the cast from Eastern Promises.

Finally, they start to trawl through the city’s prostitution circles, where we really start to get the idea that Caspar had enough enemies to shake a stick at.

Paul and his army buddy. Photo: Lacey Terrell, HBO, and Sky Atlantic

Paul and his army buddy. Photo: Lacey Terrell, HBO, and Sky Atlantic

That one’s helmed by Paul, who has some interesting developments this week – after an encounter with an old army buddy, his rumoured sexuality is all but confirmed. Despite his general reluctance to admit anything, he’s able to check out Caspar’s club, Lux Infinitum, through some remarkably helpful gay prostitutes. As Ani says, it probably helps that he’s pretty.

The characters all move in interesting directions, but there needs to be a stronger sense of unity or interplay between the key players. (Have Ray and Paul even said hello to each other?)

Maybe Pizzolatto is still more of a novelist, in that he wants to develop the broader narrative strokes instead of easing audiences in with more self-contained episodic development

Although, having said that, when we finally break into action by the episode’s end it’s thrilling – Ray and Ani’s chase of a masked suspect through a homeless park is brought to life by its production values, the sense of a hellish underbelly sporadically underscored by sudden bursts of flames.

Some of the writing is still a little goofy – one figure is described as “half anaconda, half great white” (what does that even mean?) – but at least we’re going somewhere.


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