True Detective Season Two, Episode Three, “Maybe Tomorrow” follows Episode Two’s cliffhanger ending with a purgatorial Lynchian dream sequence reminiscent of Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive (2001). It’s a place we had seen many times before, yet everything was wrong. The building was the same, but what's inside was different.
“Where is this?” Velcoro (Colin Farrell) asks the man sitting across from him in the seat usually reserved for Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughan), instead occupied by Velcoro’s father (Fred Ward). The dark bluesy sound of Lera Lynn is replaced by Vinci’s finest Conway Twitty impersonator, basked in light that renders him half real, half projection, as he belts out a cover of “The Rose." Velcoro’s father not-so-subtly tells him he’s going to die in a gunfight, and Velcoro snaps back to reality, waking up on the floor of Caspere’s odd sex house, alive, surrounded by bits of rubber shotgun shells. Everything is phony in Tinseltown. Even the shotgun shells.
In “Maybe Tomorrow,” it becomes more apparent than ever that everything in this True Detective Season Two (2015) unit isn’t what it seems on the surface. Every element of the episode moving forward - from trivial bits like the Hollywood set the detectives visit, to the phony accents used by the mayor’s son - this is Los Angeles as seen through Nic Pizzolatto’s unique point of view, and there’s no use accepting anything at face value.
“True Detective needs the signifiers of our world, but not the rules. It needs the corruption, the graft, the institutions, the laws, and the crime, but that’s it. Characters on this show don’t talk like us, and they don’t act like us. They are of this world but not in this world. This is “Los Angeles,” not Los Angeles.” - Chris Ryan, Grantland
The episode crept along at a leisurely pace, its central protagonists failing to uncover much in the way of evidence toward the show’s overall crime. But there was necessary character development that centered on the illusory tone established by the opening scene. The veil was finally lifted on Paul Woodrugh’s (Taylor Kitsch) assumed homosexuality, which was danced around in the first two episodes. Paul’s conversations at the motocross track with his war buddy Miguel (Gabriel Luna) outed him, as Miguel reminisced about an Afghan village where the two shared a comforting wartime Brokeback Mountain-esque romance. It’s another layer to Paul, something below the surface. Paul’s conversation with Miguel is an echo of Paul’s character; he's talked himself into remembering war as a period of combat, not love, and his macho occupation and war history have forced him to be outwardly bigoted against his own feelings. He feels unnatural in his preferences, much like Semyon feels unnatural being unable to impregnate his wife, and Velcoro feels unnatural...well, existing.
“For all the illusion and layers, the artifice of the film sets, and the hallucinatory red and blue lights of the nightclub that Paul works, this was an episode largely concerned with what was or wasn’t natural. For Velcoro, the question is whether he feels natural being alive; for Semyon, it’s unnatural to conceive a child through IVF; for Paul, nothing feels right but the bike, but you got the feeling, as the night found him, that he was more and more comfortable in that nightclub, among the hustlers and watchers, than he would like to admit.” - Chris Ryan, Grantland
All of Woodrugh and Bezzerides’ (Rachel McAdams) investigations throughout the episode turn over the covers on places and people who aren’t what they seem.
“The stones they turn provide a fuller look at the world of season two: The wreckage at the mayor’s place makes Caspere’s house look like a nunnery, while the film set suggests deeper depravities and other places where Vinci officials can hide their money. The criminal conspiracy that the city manager was involved in goes all the way to the top, and then winds its way all around and throughout the greater Los Angeles area, squeezing the air out of Frank Semyon’s crew.” - Erik Adams, The AV Club
The fellow who shot Velcoro in the last episode, like the car arsonist in this installment, wore masks. Velcoro lies to his father about his relationship with his son, and about the efficacy of his police work. Woodrugh is masked from everyone. We see just how far all those kickbacks have gone for the small-time mayor of economically-distraught Vinci, who lives in a Bel Air mansion and has a wife nearly as old as his children. As Erik Adams continued, “The detectives are working a case in a town where everything’s a put-on, from the post-apocalyptic ruins on the film set to the mayor’s son’s speech patterns to the overpasses that cover up a maze of pup tents and barrel fires. Like Ray’s barroom sit-down with his old man—or like the shotgun blasts that pulled him into that sit-down—nothing here is what it seems at first glance.”
It's clear that the police are thwarting their own detectives' chances of solving Caspere's murder. One notes the rubber riot shells used to shoot Velcoro are the kind police use - and they obviously didn't want him dead. Every department involved is investigating one another but not communicating anything, and each detective's strings are being pulled by multiple puppeteers. The identity of these puppeteers is likely something we won't see until the end, as they no doubt know something about the murder. We find out all the high-ups went to Vinci to work. There's money to be made there.
This depth is good for a season that started off slow. Though it’s taken three episodes to really find its stride, “Maybe Tomorrow” helped put the season’s narrative in its place, and made some progress peeling back the skin of everything it spent two hours setting up. With the exception of Bezzerides, whose motivations for what she does are still relatively unclear, all the other major players know what drives them. Now it's just a matter of seeing where that goes.