From Television Shows

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

HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 3: “Maybe Tomorrow”
Directed by Janus Metz Pedersen (Armadillo)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto

* For a review of the next episode, “Down Will Come” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Night Finds You” – click here
Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 2.13.38 PMAs many of us predicted, this week found Detective Ray Velcoro [resilient Irish bastard Colin Farrell] alive and well after seemingly meeting the heavy end of two shotgun blasts – one at midrange, the other close range in the gut and chest. I thought he was wearing a vest, but to my surprise he was not; the rounds were riot shells, the non-lethal sort police use. Velcoro smiles slightly out of the side of his face as he relates that last part to his new partner Detective Ani Bezzerides [Rachel McAdams].
The opening of the episode was perfect. A lot of people are saying today that it was campy. Yeah, right. It’s a dreamy sequence, which happens between the time Ray is shot in the last episode and when he wakes up in this one. This scene shows how Twin Peaks is absolutely a running influence on both Nic Pizzolatto since the first season and the directors of the show in this new season.
Things are slowly heating up for Ray. He meets with Frank Semyon [Vince Vaughn] to discuss the recent events. Ray drinks a glass of water instead of the usual booze and cocaine cocktail. When Frank asks about the water, Ray replies: “Booze tends to take the edge off, I wanna stay angry.” There’s a shift happening in Ray Velcoro, as if he is now truly realizing the forces with which he is dealing, even after all the terrible things I’m sure he has seen, and done. The change is evident as Frank gets ready to head out and the bartender asks what happened to Ray. “Somebody murdered him,” Frank tells her as he pays up and leaves.
Velcoro is experiencing further aggravation in his family life, as his ex-wife offers him money to essentially walk away and not contest the custody of their boy. This, of course, as we’ve already seen is certainly not an option Ray even cares to think about.
I’m really interested in Ray generally, especially when it comes to his whole personal situation, because it’s absolutely wild, and it is such a tough situation all over that I can’t imagine where things will lead by the end of the season.
Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 2.15.56 PMMeanwhile, poor Frank is having troubles with his wife Jordan [Kelly Reilly]. She tries her best to help him get a bit of semen into a plastic cup, but ole Frank just can’t get the job done. The tension of Frank’s business life is clearly working its way into him, every way possible. Later in the episode, one of Frank’s cronies is found dead, his eyes wrecked like the dead catalyst of the season Ben Caspere. This seems to really set Frank off. One thing is for sure – he is getting deeper and deeper into the criminal mud than ever, no telling whether he’ll sink or crawl out on top. I just see the fire simmering low under the surface of Frank and his poised exterior, like he is trying hard to wear a certain mask even if it doesn’t fit quite right.
Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 2.16.15 PM I’m not sure if there’s anything really interesting going on with Vaughn’s character, though, I am still interested. Mainly it’s the way Vaught plays Frank Semyon with a quiet sort of demeanour that intrigues me, and I’m anticipating down the road we’ll end up seeing some intense moments that will pay off; I see something explosive in Frank, waiting, brewing to a head. Or who knows – maybe Semyon will be disappointing in the end as a character, someone cliched and stereotypical of the businessman-turned-gangster we’ve seen so many times around before.
We do get a glimpse into Frank’s physical aggression, as he faces off fist-to-fist with Danny Santos, a gold toothed gangster associate. Frank not only beats the hell out of Danny, and fairly quick, he then proceeds to pull out the gold fronts in Danny’s mouth. Vicious. Yet I feel there is only more to come on that front.
Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 2.17.04 PM“Maybe Tomorrow” brought a new bit of mix with the characters, as Detective Ani Bezzerides and Officer Paul Woodrugh [Taylor Kitsch] went out on the job together, questioning people in connection to their case, which in turn really gets under the Mayor of Vinci’s skin. I liked their exchanges, especially in the car early on. Ani starts to ask Paul about the case which took him off the bike – the young lady and her ‘offer’ from the First Episode – which sets Paul off a little. She goes on to assure him it was only brought up because Ani wondered if it would affect him doing street reconnaissance. I liked this moment particularly because it paints Ani again in a light that doesn’t always go for female characters; from the beginning, she is a take charge woman but does not suffer from being portrayed as uptight or hung up in any way. Whereas other shows might have Ani chastise Paul or make a snide comment now that they are saddled up together, Nic Pizzolatto opts to have her either be slightly understanding or not really caring at all and only worried about the job in front of her. I don’t think Pizzolatto is pushing towards having McAdams play a female character such as Bezzerides simply to pander to those who say there were no good, strong female characters/roles in the first season – I think he is genuinely writing a solid character. Ani could’ve worked as a male character, easily, however, it adds a better dimension having her as a female police detective here. I think it really flows well with the other personalities of the characters involved in the investigation.
Also, I think the small portions of the relationship between Ani and Steve is good stuff. She is a tough woman, not without flaws, and putting Steve in the position of being the inferior is interesting. The first season we got enough of the women flinging themselves after the men, desperately looking for love; this time around Pizzolatto opts to show the other side of the coin where the men get their feelings hurt and they lash out. And that’s part of why I’m enjoying the second season – it has those existential elements, slightly less than in the first, but it stands on its own, and offers a different perspective than we got in the first. I didn’t want a repeat, I wanted something different, and Pizzolatto has enacted enough change so far that I’m pleased. Ani is one of the best parts of those changes, I think adding a female detective, or any female lead character such as her, is really a benefit to the whole season.
75There’s a great scene with Officer Woodrugh and a soldier friend of from their “time in the desert”. It offered enough insight into Paul as a character to confirm everything that has been setup in the first two episodes. Clearly we already knew Woodrugh was wrestling with his sexuality at some point, and still is, and this became even more clear with the scene involving his friend – a friend who is more than that, someone who still thinks about “those three days”. They have a small altercation and Paul leaves.
What piqued my interest even more was the end of the scene where Detective Teague Dixon [W. Earl Brown] – the other cop on the case who already seemed to catch a vibe off Woodrugh in the Second Episode – can be seen watching Woodrugh walk away from the confrontation with his friend. I’m waiting to see where this development goes. Either Dixon might be interested in Paul, long shot, or he may be interested in the blackmail opportunities that could arise should he discover anything concrete about his fellow lawman. We shall see.
Plus, a great little bump in a club between Frank Semyon and Officer Woodrugh, who is there trying to collect information, which doesn’t really foreshadow anything, I just like that the cops and the criminals are sort of navigating a world where they literally bump shoulders. You can never really tell where the edges of the law begin, where they end, like a big cesspool where everything touches and everybody wades in up to their waists. Very cool moment.
true-detective-2-03-paul-bumps-into-frankBasically, for those who have been complaining the second season is slow, that it doesn’t really have much story, “Maybe Tomorrow” truly delivers. We get some more secrets, little chunks of backstory and character/plot development falling out here and there. It was really a piñata-like episode, packing a good punch for the naysayers. Sure, I’ve no doubt they are still out there and will continue to be. I just think season two is giving the goods. It is a different beast than the first. We really seeing the beasts inside everyone, not only the criminals, but all the people in the city of Vinci from the cops to the criminals, the men, the women, and it’s like humanity spilling its guts. The first season of True Detective was all about the dirty side of humanity, however, the main characters of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart were good guys ultimately, even with all the skeletons in their personal closets; they were on the right side of the law, even when they were on the wrong side of it trying to find justice near the end of the season. This new season is all about what happens when the detectives on the case aren’t exactly good, honourable people, or at least it’s about the bad, sometimes terrible, choices good people make when the chips are down.
Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 2.13.11 PMThere are no bells and whistles on this season, so far, like there were in the first. I think that helps. Rust Cohle was awesome – so damn cool – but we have great characters developing here, especially in the three lead cops Bezzerrides, Woodrugh, and Velcoro. The end of this episode was not near as crazy as “Night Finds You“, but the whole thing was stellar, and I’m looking forward to more progression in the next, along with plenty other secrets and who knows what else. I feel certain things were settled in this episode – Frank and his need to release some form of aggression whether through fists or sex – and some things have only started – the budding situation between Paul and Teague – and the titular line of the episode near the end when Frank says, “Maybe tomorrow”, to his wife only hints at something big for the next one titled “Down Will Come”.
See you next Sunday!

True Detective – Season 2, Episode 1: The Western Book of the Dead

HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 1:
“The Western Book of the Dead”
Directed by Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto

* For a review of the next episode, “Night Finds You” – click here
Picture 2To start, this is NOT a repeat of True Detective True Detective Season 1 – the show is trying to do a new story, new characters, the whole shebang. Of course the whole thing is still very existential, regardless if Rust Cohle is not spouting out Nietzsche rehashes and what not [which I loved but come on – they weren’t anything groundbreakingly new outside of philosophical circles]. I mean, Colin Farrell’s low-down-and-dirty Ray Velcoro already gave the beauty line “We get the world we deserve” in the second episode of this season, so there is definitely still an existential element kicking around inside of Nic Pizzolatto’s second season. However, this time around there’s much of a demon-within type of vibe going. Whereas the police detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart were truly trying to serve justice for the sake of the victims, all those poor young girls taken and killed by vicious, hateful men, the second season of True Detective seems to be focusing on how some of those same police get lost along the way, how they bend the law to work for them, and even though they’re ultimately trying to do good, they end up doing a lot of bad along the way.
Picture 1Starting off, we get to see Ray Velcoro [Farrell]. His tale is a rough one – his wife was raped, they never found the attacker, and neither she nor her now ex-husband Ray know if their boy is his or not. Certainly Ray does the true blood thing to do: he raises the kid as his own. He doesn’t want to know anything about DNA, he just wants his son to be his son. Problem is ole Ray has vices – the drink and the drugs – and his temper is fierce. Like anyone, Ray wanted revenge for what happened to his wife, and as an officer of the law, he naturally felt stuck when even the law let him down. In comes Frank Semyon [Vaughn] who facilitates the revenge Velcoro needs by tracking down the man responsible, which coincides with Ray’s wife and her statement. This puts Ray deep in with Semyon, who uses him as a man on the inside, and as Ray climbs the ranks to detective, of course Frank reaps the benefits.
I think Ray is going to be one of the most interesting of the bunch in this season. There’s a scene involving Ray and a kid who bullies his son at school, plus the boy’s father, which really takes you from “Okay, Ray is a normal guy in a bad situation” to “Wow, Ray is a bad dude”. Even while you side with him, he takes things much too far. Not hard to see the booze and the cocaine, and the more booze, doesn’t help his natural temperament. At the end of the tunnel, for Ray I see a bit of redemption. Now, whether or not Ray will have to die for this, it is way too soon to tell [even in light of Episode Two’s events]. We will see.
Picture 3Next is Rachel McAdams as Detective Ani [Antigone] Bezzerides who has more than her fair share of issues, as well. First, her estranged father Eliot [David Morse] is a New Age guru-type who runs a sort of 1960s style institute or commune, and clearly is a narcissist. Then her sister, Athena, is a webcam girl doing porn who is off her medication and living free. Not to mention the fact their father named both her and her sister Antigone and Athena. So, Ani drinks, gambles, and raids houses to find out where her sister is when she feels like it. Also, her boyfriend is not exactly the sexually adventurous type when Ani clearly surprises him with something in the bedroom he couldn’t handle straight away. She is a dominant woman; she carries knives all over her, making clear in the next episode this is because she has no illusions about certain female-male situations where she will be physically smaller than a larger man in which the knives will come more than in handy. There is no doubt the years living in the cult with daddy brought on issues, most likely from some kind of abuse, but we can never be sure. Perhaps she’s just a smart, cautious woman who has seen too much. Either way, I’m excited this season has a lead female character and one who is also in the police. Offers a great new perspective for the show.
Picture 9Officer Paul Woodrugh [Taylor Kitsch] is another interesting character. Clearly Paul is a troubled man. He worked for Black Mountain Security in Iraq, obviously mimicking a similarly named military contractor, and has issues from what he calls “the desert”. It isn’t hard to see Woodrugh has issues with his sexuality; he sneaks a blue pill while claiming to be showering and taking far longer than necessary before trying to have sex with his girlfriend, then when she is going down on him Paul looks off into space as if troubled, maybe trying to concentrate so that he’s able to get an erection. This becomes even more clear in the second episode with a comment he makes to another detective. Furthermore, Paul obviously has deeper issues – he speeds out on the highway on his motorcycle, flicking off the headlight and rushing through the darkness, almost daring death to come and get him. I can’t wait to see more of him. Kitsch is a talent, and I don’t care what anyone says. Given the right material with this character I can see Kitsch doing excellent work this season.
Picture 4Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon spit out the worst line by far of the entire show since the first series began, along the lines of “don’t do anything out of hunger – not even eating”. Now I’ll give it to you – some of Rust Cohle’s lines, which personally I loved, were equally batty, but Matthew McConaughey was able to let them roll off his tongue and out of his mouth like they were natural to that character. Vaughn is good, I dig him, even as Semyon. I just didn’t dig that line. I can buy Vaughn as that character, totally, because he isn’t an outright psychotic gangster type like something out of Goodfellas with Henry Hill’s outbursts or the violence of Joe Pesci – I buy Vaughn as a collected, calm business sort of crook, and sure, he’s a big guy, I bet he can lay hands. Mainly, I think his attitude suits the part. However, that line in his mouth sounded like garbage. Moving past that point, Vaughn was great, and he does the dark/brooding thing well. Given more time the character of Frank will grow on people, I believe.
Picture 5Mainly people need to lay off this season, and forget about the first, in the sense that this is an anthologized show. There is no continuity other than it involves police work; that’s it. Once again, there are existential themes at play here, heavily. We just need to keep in mind – existential doesn’t mean that people have to constantly spout philosophical musings. That was a character Pizzolatto used, and it worked. This season is different. Existentialism has to do with human beings, the experience of existence and reality, and the touch of humans on existence. So we’re going to see how human beings deal with their terrible inner demons, and this season we’re going to see more about the abuse of power from the perspective of those abusing it mainly instead of solely from the perspective of those outside and looking in. The police here are good police, but they toe a dangerous lines, more so than anything Rust Cohle did in Season One. I can’t wait for the next episode.