True Detective 2×03 ‘Maybe Tomorrow’: Finding acceptance

True Detective 2x03 Cover

Our lives can often feel like we’re in a hole, underground, infinitely surrounded by dirt in all directions.  We can see the sunlight above us, but climbing out of the hole, experiencing its warmth, is just something we don’t know how to do.  We can see it in our mind, but it’s only a vision, some fantasy that we dream of while we waste away.  Because that fantasy is always accompanied by the thoughts of all that drags us lower: our families, our parents, our jobs, the life that we’ve built for ourselves.  Because the more we build a life, the more it cages us.  We spend so much time holding it together that we forget what lies beyond it, what more there is in life for us to see and feel and experience.

True Detective 2x03-1

Source: HBO

If this new season of True Detective is about anything so far, it’s how we end up caged in our lives, chasing some sort of answer, hoping it leads us to salvation.  And when we look at the four main characters on the show, Frank, Ani, Paul, Ray, there’s really only one who sees something even resembling a way out.  But the rest are stuck in a web that just entraps them the deeper they go, the Caspar case becoming darker and darker as the detectives learn more and meet shadier figures.  Even Frank, having to commit violence in order to hold his own, sees everything decaying around him, escalating tensions as others begin to take advantage of him.

Source: HBO

Paul is outed in this episode as gay, and we can see the kind of denial and sadness he feels when confronted with the reality of his feelings.  Chosen as the one to meet with the working girls, he feels immensely awkward around the women and even more so around the men.  In general, sex makes him uneasy, as he hasn’t accepted himself for the identity that he has, and it destroys any intimate relationships he finds himself in.  He’s close to his friend from the army, but when his friend tries to bring up a moment from their deployment when their relationship became romantically intimate, Paul throws him down and storms off, anxious from brushing so close to reality.  Because that’s what he finds so scary.  He saw his life one way, and homosexuality makes it something else entirely, something unknown.  And there’s nothing scarier than the unknown.

True Detective 2x03-2

Source: HBO

Ani’s cage is somewhat different than Paul’s, in that it revolves around her obsession with her police work.  She pushes away relationships, spends all of her time practicing with her knives and chasing down leads.  Just as I emphasized in earlier reviews, this is an attempt to break free from her past but also a reactionary measure that comes from her past.  “Maybe Tomorrow” has Ani in trouble, as her obsession almost gets her run over by a truck, only to be pulled out of the way by Ray at the last second.  At this point, Ani feels like the worst-serviced character, as we don’t know quite enough about her personal struggle for her character’s tension to feel as strong as Ray’s or Paul’s.  However, the groundwork laid so far is still quite strong, and further descent in Caspar’s darkness is going to make her obsession even more extreme.

True Detective 2x03-5

Source: HBO

Frank sees his empire slowly collapsing, as one of his enforcers turns up dead.  Even though we never really get to meet Stan, it’s easy to tell that Frank sees this as a sign that he’s becoming more weak, impotent, unable to hold himself and his wife together.  Some of this is laid out a little too cleanly; when Frank is unable to get an erection for his wife, the theme of impotence feels a little heavy-handed.  However, when Frank goes back to the club and commits to an act of violence, it makes his descent that much more meaningful.  He goes to a place that we haven’t seen him go yet, where he has to go into the darkness in order to hold his empire together.  But it makes sense, as his empire was built on greed and darkness, and the only way to maintain it is to venture off into that darkness as well.  But when we see him at home, quiet and almost mournful, after depositing the club owner’s busted grill into the trash, he isn’t even able to face himself.  His wife asks him whether or not he wants to talk, and he answers with “maybe tomorrow”.  Because to talk is to face reality, and, like Paul, facing reality is facing the fact that his life is built on an identity he’s not comfortable with and probably will be.  It means facing the fact that to be happy is to shed his life entirely.

True Detective 2x03-4

Source: HBO

Ray is still alive after being shot twice, the bullets made of rubber, only incapacitating him long enough for the killer to run away.  It’s kind of a cheap twist, but it ends with Ray wanting to take back his life and make something of it.  Of course, he’s so broken and damaged that to do so is nearly impossible; picking up the pieces means recognizing that some of them are too shattered to pick up.  When his ex-wife visits him and threatens him with sole custody again, it starts to hit Ray that all of the damage he’s caused is slowly coming back on him, that he only has a limited amount of time to take back even a fragment of his life.  So when he pulls Ani out of the way of a truck, he’s making an effort to put some decency into the world.  And at least that is a start to finding out exactly what his life is still worth.

At this point, True Detective hasn’t elevated itself to what we’ve seen in Season 1, even though it has been fairly strong so far.  With the next episode being the fourth, bringing us to the season’s midpoint, the pressure is on to increase the quality to what we’ve seen before.  Season 1 boasted the phenomenal “Who Goes There”, with the last half of that episode literally descending into hell.  Season 2 has had its own descent, even though it’s a slow and steady one, but we’re going to have to descend further before we see the kind of content that really made Season 1 stand out.  And, as we move further into the season, as we see what kind of people Frank, Ani, Paul, and Ray are, I’m confident that it’ll keep getting better.

So what do you think of Season 2 so far?  Was “Maybe Tomorrow” the best episode yet?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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