Our second season of “True Detective” may have finally found its stride as we discover Ray Velcoro’s fate, get some more character backstory, and say a tearful goodbye to Stan in an exquisitely tense and weird episode three. Find out more after the break.
Okay, first question. Who the hell is Stan? Seriously, I looked up actor Ronnie Gene Blevins on the IMDb and confirmed he was in episodes one and two, but I can’t figure out where. I guess I’ll have to go back and watch again. Having your second victim of the acid-loving mystery killer be a guy you don’t remember is a pretty big misstep, but I’m glad to say not one that killed the episode.
Beyond that, “Maybe Tomorrow” gave us a lot to like, starting with the David Lynch-ian opening scene, with Jake LaBotz’ insane re-creation of Conway Twitty’s rendition of “The Rose.” There was so much good to this scene, from the creepy potential foreshadowing “running through the trees like giants… I saw them kill you” to the poignant reflection that Ray has his father’s bloodied hands (especially effective when later when you discover dad is a disgraced, racist ex-LAPD). I really thought Velcoro was dead at that point, held up in some half-way house in the afterlife waiting for final judgment, but I confess I sighed with relief when he woke up sore, but very much alive. This scene, the tension and weirdness, set the tone for the entire episode.
As did Frank’s simmering anger, and Vince Vaughn was electric as the former gangster has been drawn inexorably back into his former life. I’m finding Frank’s character interesting, simply because his role changes so much depending on whom he’s dealing with. Frank seems almost passive with folks like Osip or Mayor Chessani, checking his rage, playing the hand he’s dealt. With those he considers beneath him, like Ray, he’s all menace. It’s nice seeing Vaughn slip behind these boundaries, especially now that, as he grows more desperate, those boundaries are beginning to fray.
That said, I’m not sure if the confrontation with Santos was an especially effective scene. While it was nice to see Frank open some whoop-ass, and obviously the character needed to show he still held power, I’m just not buying it would be through a scene from Fight Club. I guess I’m spoiled by decades of mobsters who wield power often without lifting a finger, whether they are physically stronger or not. In the end, pulling Santos’ teeth may have been that display, but I don’t know. Just didn’t buy it.
Same for the conception storyline. It’s a distraction from the plot and frankly I feel like it’s only included to give the criminally underused Kelly Reilly something to do.
Ani, however, has plenty to do; and Rachel McAdams again is fierce as the most competent character working this case. A pretty good chemistry is developing between her and two co-stars, and she’s really becoming both a lynchpin as well as a leader. Her willingness not to back down from the crime scene at Caspere’s Love Shack, her ability to recognize Woodrugh’s strengths and let him question Veronica Chessani while she explored Mayor McSlime’s mansion, even something as simple as thanking Ray for saving her from becoming roadkill (when so many writers would have her berating him for ruining the shot), all point to a very complex, well-rounded, and believable character. As good as Colin Farrell’s broken down Ray has been, Rachel McAdams is really owning this part, and I think we’re going to see it going to great places.
Unfortunately, I’m not getting the same vibe from Paul. I don’t think it’ s Taylor Kitsch’s fault, but again the angsty former soldier with a dark past just seems too rote, and in this plot almost forced. I don’t know if it really has anything to do with the story, but I’m almost dreading finding out it’s actually integral to the plot.
I’m also not sure where his sexuality comes in, and I feel this episode may have dropped some hints that Paul is gay and struggling with this. His discomfort around the male prostitutes, the way he kept looking away like he was afraid to make eye-contact, the reference from the one about how he can have sex with a woman with “the right medication” (referring back to Paul’s use of enhancements in episode one) all seem heavy-handed, and frankly unnecessary. It’s a shame, really, because he does have the potential to be a great character, and would be nice if he represented the moral compass of the group, a mirror image of the corrupted Ray. I guess we’ll see.
Just some miscellaneous stuff:
OK, a mayor of a small, industrial town lives in a gigantic mansion in Bel Air. And he’s just getting investigated now? Seriously, Mayor McSlime must have the best lawyers on the planet.
I hate to add my voice to the fray (and continue a theme from last year), but are there no good women in creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto’s world? Seriously, Ani is great. But Jordyn is a simpering wash-rag, Mama Woodrugh a hot mess, and Veronica Chessani a hotter (and messier) mess. Katherine is so manipulative and tied to getting Velcoro, she suggests Ani prostitute herself and offers a promotion as incentive. Gena Velcoro is somewhat balanced as worried mom and ex-wife, and Abigail Spencer does a great job not letting her devolve into harridan territory, but she gets about two lines an episode. C’mon Nic!
So have we established that Caspere’s (and now Stan’s) murder is directly related to someone coming after Frank? Or is that a red herring? And are the killers the same people who shot Ray (and if so, why didn’t they kill him) or are they cops (as he hinted at) who just don’t want the investigation to go too far. And what was the point of setting fire to the car when Ray and Ani weren’t in it? Was there important stuff in there or do they powers that be think it will scare them off? So many mysteries… I guess we’ll find out starting next week, when “Down Will Come” hits the airwaves.