True Detective — Maybe Tomorrow
“I’m feeling a little apoplectic myself.”
I had to watch this episode twice again to make better sense of it. I think it’s because on the surface it’s kind of a bland procedural. The cops are going around tracking down leads and doing a pretty good job of it, while their superiors ride them for political reasons. No one but the cops working on the case want it solved — the higher-ups want the case closed, sure, but they’re really interested in keeping skeletons locked in closets and subverting each other. State wants dirt on Ray, Vinci wants everything kept quiet. You have to watch closely to see all the turmoil and dread bubbling under that surface.
The intro, with a lounge singer doing Conway Twitty’s version of “The Rose” during Ray’s near-death dream sequence, seemed kind of David Lynchesque, but I don’t want to read too much into it. There were a bunch of small clues about this show taking jabs at itself for being so self-serious this week (“This angsty cop drama you’re rolling…”), and this was the biggest one. It was just Ray’s mind interpreting the song that happened to be playing near him in a weird way. Oh, and I’m pretty sure all the ecig stuff is just Pizzolatto straight up trolling people who use those things.
The conversation with his dad, now that’s a whole other thing. We get the impression Ray’s dad was probably abusive, or at best emotionally distant and hard on his son. This might all work as some kind of “Ray meeting his dad in the afterlife” thing, except we learn later his dad isn’t dead (he is, however, a racist who admires the cops who went on to become the Vinci PD, corrupt to its core). And his dad seems to foretell Ray’s death, shot to death running out of a forest on huge trees.
It seems weird that Ray wasn’t just unconscious, he was not breathing at all until the moment he woke up. And it was daylight, so it must have been a fairly long time. Also kind of funny how Frank answered when the waitress asked about Ray being hurt: “Somebody murdered him.” It feels like a stretch to say maybe Ray really died and everything that happens to him is some kind of end-of-life dream or the hell he ends up banished too, but Frank established last week (with his paper mache metaphor and fear that he died when he was six) that this is genuinely a thing this season, a theme and idea we might be exploring.
Ray points out he was shot by rubber riot pellets, “Like cops use.” So the crow-faced killer could be a cop or someone with access to cop gear. That’s worth keeping in mind, in the long run. Other clues this week mostly reinforced what we know — it all involves land deals, Vinci is insanely corrupt, the mayor living in a freaking Bel Air mansion, titles to shell companies, and so on. There was one big clue, though. I’ll get to that in a minute.
We had some character development. My theory about Paul being gay is obviously right on (and it wasn’t exactly difficult to piece together). It’s kind of a cliched story, but it’s pretty heartbreaking watching him struggle to deny himself, knocking back booze in the nightclub because he’s surrounded by cute gay men, and rejecting his Army buddy, whom he apparently had an amorous weekend with while they were in-country. On the other hand, Paul’s entire character is “tortured macho closeted gay cop who loves motorcycles.” There’s a great conflict there, but nothing else. I wonder who that photographer is working for. The actress, I presume (word on the street is this is Ray’s Vinci partner — I didn’t pick up on that).
Although it’s more than we have for Ani, who seems to be developing a closeness with Ray. I liken their relationship to two soldiers who find themselves fighting together — their commanding officers are idiots, and all they end up caring about is protecting each other doing their jobs. Ray was really different this week. There was no anger, even when he said he was angry. There was a really weird moment when the doctor asked him, “Do you want to live?” and Ray looked directly at the camera for a long moment. He was ostensibly looking at his x-ray (ex-Ray?), which the camera cut to, but that look right out at the audience was no accident. Screwing up sight lines and looking at the camera is a big deal in film and TV. There was some intent there. I’m not sure what it was, yet.
I’m kind of ignoring Frank’s infertile angry mobster story for now. He wants to leave a legacy behind, that’s what he’s been working for, but apparently it’s not working. It kind of bugged me the way the fight scene was set up as White Guy Frank triumphing over the scummy ethnic gangsters and their scummy cultural ideas (gold teeth, etc.). But maybe that makes sense — race is an unspoken theme here. A lot of the main players left Los Angeles to make their money in Vinci, and it’s easy to see that there could be some underlying racist systems at play. Does it mean anything that the only cop we’ve seen wearing a uniform is black? Maybe, maybe not. But if this is a story about Los Angeles, it can’t not be about race and racism, on some level.
Hey, what was with that loud gust of wind that blew open the door in the mayor’s mansion? And Casper’s secretary showing up, acting all timid again — there’s something weird there.
Another aside, the movie Ray’s dad was watching was, I believe, Out of the Past, a film noir classic. You don’t need me to explain how the title relates to things. Spoiler: pretty much everyone in that movie is dead by the end. Correction: An io9 reader pointed out it’s actually Detective Story, which is funny haha, but also it’s about a cop who works on a case and accidentally uncovers a secret he’d rather stayed hidden.
Now, the big clue. Ray and Ani are tracking leads, trying to find the car that dropped off Casper’s corpse. They’re interviewing some kid who quit his job driving for the film company that was using the car when there’s an explosion — someone torched the car. Here’s the clue — that kid had nothing to do with this, I feel like that’s pretty obvious. So why was the car there? Why was it torched at the exact moment the detectives were there? Not a wild coincidence. Someone was trailing them and lit the car specifically so they’d find it. And the guy who did it? Watch the scene again — he stands there by that fence waiting for them, and makes sure they see him before he flees (also, maybe it’s Buckethead?).
There’s another player in the game, and for some reason they’re leading the investigators in a certain direction. Ani almost dies on a highway on-ramp, and we might have seen a few lingering shots of those so far this season. Interesting.
Oh hey, there’s another murder with the eyes burned out. One of Frank’s henchmen, this time. The cops don’t know about this one.