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True Detective Recap Season 2, Episode 3, "Maybe Tomorrow"

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True Detective Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “Maybe Tomorrow”

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Despite its poor rendition at the hands of a cheap Elvis impersonator, “The Rose” is the perfect song for Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell) to hear as he dreamily drifts between life and death at the start of “Maybe Tomorrow.” It’s a song that hints at the ability of love to be both beautiful and violent, and which speaks directly to the episode’s insistence on looking toward the future. Ray awakens in a puddle of his own urine, his shirt a mess of buckshot, but he’s alive: “And the soul afraid of dyin’/That never learns to live.”

Alive, and angry—or as he puts it to Frank (Vince Vaughn) in a scene that highlights True Detective’s least convincing dialogue, “apoplectic” and “strident.” There will be no more drinking for Ray, and while he tells Frank it’s only temporary, as he doesn’t want the booze to take the edge off, a later visit with his doctor suggests that while he still may not be able to answer a question as simple as “Do you want to live?,” he’s at least thinking about it. Later, feeling guilty over the appearance of his father in his limbo-like dream, he visits his old man, a real old-school cop (and a bit of a racist). There’s a moment of clarity for him there, looking at his father’s discarded badge (what should be a proud trophy for his years of service), that life is only as rich as you make it, and that the wrong decisions may someday strand him in front of a television, pining for better days.

There’s already a little too much of that in Ray’s life, perhaps. When Ani (Rachel McAdams) visits his apartment, the models that are hung around the living room look much like the sorry photographs and memorabilia that his father keeps up, and when she asks him about them, he admits, “I started building them with my kid. Then I started doing them without him.” Ray’s unable to let go of his lack of a connection with his son, simulating real conversations with one-way digital recorders and pursuing once-shared hobbies on his own, and this fixation may be the danger that his father tried to warn him of in his dream. In any case, as his ex-wife (Abigail Spencer) points out, state investigators have already started to show up at her doorstep, looking to get evidence of Ray’s corruption, and she can only do her best to convince Ray (she offers him $10,000) to walk away from their custody battle before things get ugly and confusing for their son.

Meanwhile, Paul (Taylor Kitsch) is marching in the opposite direction. He hooks up with a former Black Mountain war buddy, who asks if he’s still going to meetings, and Paul tells him point blank: “If you want to get over something, maybe sitting around remembering it in every detail ain’t the right way.” The key difference, however, is that whereas Ray clings to his past because it represents a better time for him, Paul flees it because he’s embarrassed by it: The war was bad enough, but he can’t live with memories of the Brokeback Mountain¬-like dalliance he had there. He’s torn between two lives: he’s easily able to question a male hooker (Alex Rich) about Caspere, but at the same time, he’s cautioned that his angst won’t get him into the club where the murdered man was last seen. Small wonder, then, that Paul longs for his bike: Go fast enough, and you can outrun any questions about your character and where exactly you fit in. (Also of note: Ray’s colleague, played by W. Earl Brown, catches Paul’s altercation with his lovelorn war buddy on camera.)

As for Ani: she’s refusing to budge at all, so much so that she’s almost run over by a truck at the end of the episode, standing in the middle of the highway to take a shot at their suspect, this time clad in a spiritual white Japanese mask. Her stubbornness becomes clearer with each episode, though, especially after her superior, Katherine Davis (Michael Hyatt), suggests she use her womanly wiles to get Ray to confess to his corruption: “I’m not saying fuck him, but maybe let him think you might fuck him.” She encounters the same bullshit when interrogating the mayor’s wiseass would-be gangster son, Tony Chessani (Vinicius Machado), who admits to being turned on by Ani’s ball-busting behavior, and again when ending things with her happy-go-lucky fling, Steve (Riley Smith), a fellow sheriff. She doesn’t want to be defined or limited by her sex (“like a cheerleader on an oil rig”), which is why she so ruthlessly whittles problems (i.e. distractions) out of her life and tenses up to see Ray’s boss, Lt. Kevin Burris (James Frain), taking temporary jurisdiction of her crime scene. She’s not wrong to be wary either; the mayor (Richie Coster) repeatedly and violently refers to her as a cunt, infuriated that his various transactions have gotten him tangled up in the investigation.

Finally, there’s Frank, who’s still in what he referred to as a “papier-mâché” state of being—neither coming nor going. For the first time in his life, he can’t get hard, even with his wife sucking him off, and he tells her that it’s not just the setting—a fertility clinic—that’s throwing him so much as it is the pressure. “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.’” It’s not just the clinic that’s unnatural to him (though look at those vintage Hustler issues); it’s the symbolic way in which Caspere was murdered and then posed, with his eyes burned out and his manhood blasted off. It’s increasingly clear, after Frank’s assistant, Stan, is found dead in similar circumstances, that these are deliberate attacks against Frank. Could it be Osip (Timothy V. Murphy), Frank’s boss, finding an aggressive-passive way of shutting down the mob’s involvement in the land deal? Or might it be one of the many former business associates that Frank has shook down over the years?

Ray longs for happier times with his son, Paul speeds away from a happiness that betrayed his own hetero-self-definition, and Ani is determined to prove the value of her independence, but they always seem to put off the necessarily self-improvement for another day. Not so with Frank—at least, not now that he’s run out of options. He winds up at the fertility clinic, seeking in vitro, because they’ve not otherwise been able to conceive, and he winds up back at the sex club he used to run because he can’t conceive that there might be some other connection to Caspere that he’s missing. For him, violence is the solution to the impotence he’s facing on twin fronts, and when Danny Santos (Pedro Miguel Arce) tries to usurp his authority (“You ain’t that thing no more, what you used to was. Yeah, you tall, but you really little. And you old.”), Frank shows he’s still more than capable of getting his hands dirty, pulling the man’s gold-plated “Fuck You” teeth out of his mouth with a pair of pliers. But in the end, this offers only a temporary moment of catharsis: When he returns to his mansion, his wife asking if he wants to talk, he can’t even look at her. “Maybe tomorrow,” he says, closing the episode with an echo of its title. When everything is shit in the present, the best we can do, perhaps, is to wait it out and hope for the best.

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