Easily the weakest True Detective 2 episode of the opening three, 'Maybe Tomorrow' was low on dramatic moments or plot twists and high on shuffling the various strands of the story along a step or two.
We're no closer to knowing exactly what was going on with Caspere, Frank's business deal looks in no better shape than it started and Antigone is still putting the pieces together. But hey – at least we saw Ray have a glass of water, which made a change.
Five talking points from 'Maybe Tomorrow', then.
1 | Velcoro isn't dead
Anyone else feeling a little stupid? Or perhaps that should be 'cheated'. After Velcoro was pumped through the stomach with a shotgun by a masked assailant at the end of episode 2, we allowed ourselves to get excited about True Detective 2: here was a show, we told anyone who would listen, prepared to keep us on our toes by killing off one of its leading men barely two hours in. This is going to be one unpredictable ride.
Instead, they were merely using the oldest episode cliff hanger trick in the book and Velcoro wasn't dead or even hurt at all (aside from a few broken ribs and a malfunctioning bladder) – the shooter had only used non-lethal buckshots. A cheap shot all round, then.
That said, Velcoro's opening dream sequence, in which he sat across a table from his father in that same mysterious bar he drinks with Frank in (we think), worked rather well. At first I thought it was a Tony Soprano-style dying vision, which would have been cool, but instead he was just dreaming in the normal sense of the word – the song playing on the radio manifesting itself as a crooning Elvis-alike. Like Frank's opening monologue last episode, it showed TD can still do the vivid noir thing brilliantly when it slows down a little.
2 | Break up scene #1
Frank, stood sniffing with his back to Osip, who finally makes it clear he is pulling out of the deal. "F***ing Commie Jew f**k!" he spits once he leaves. Go on, let it all out mate.
3 | Paul Woodrugh's 'trauma' finally revealed
One prediction we did get right last week – not that the clues have been particularly subtle – is that highway cop Paul Woodrugh is struggling with his homosexuality.
There have been suggestions that he is suffering from PTSD after serving in the war – a point underlined by a shot of him underneath a glaring billboard for American Sniper – but an encounter with an old army buddy suggests that rather than (or perhaps as well as) the violence of combat, it was a Brokeback Mountain-style fumble in the hills that is most haunting him. When his buddy tries to bring up their few days together, Woodrugh throws him to the floor and marches off in disgust.
The only comparable storyline we can think of in TV drama is that of Julien Lowe in The Shield, who never came to terms with his sexuality because of his Christian faith. Woodrugh's problem seems to be more of the traditional 'people will think I'm not a real man' hang up, or else something deeper linked with whatever happened to him before the war (those scars still haven't been accounted for). Somehow, like Julien, it doesn't feel like a happy ending is on the cards.
4 | Break up scene #2
A bit of snooping around a movie set, a few more pensive draws on an e-cig and a chase scene where she was narrowly pulled back from an oncoming truck – there really wasn't much for Rachel McAdams' Detective Bezzerides to do this episode.
Probably her biggest moment came when she unceremoniously dumped a poor fellow officer she had been seeing, prompting him to accuse her of being the 'suck 'em and leave 'em type', which wasn't very nice. More from her next week though, we hope.
5 | Frank is getting less convincing, not more
Finally, it was the scene that was supposed to finally convince us that Frank Semyon – or more to the point, Vince Vaughn – really is a dangerous gangster. Semyon, incensed by yet more attacks on his crew, rounds up the dodgy characters on his payroll and starts ordering them to find out what is going on. Santos, the fat, lisping pimp we met last week, defied him in front of everyone.
It's a standard tough guy drama moment when Semyon has no choice but to assert his authority. But bizarrely, just as you're bracing yourself for a swift, brutal act of retribution – a pistol whipping or a savage beating – the two men take off their jackets and engage in a round of fisticuffs. Frank wins, of course, then follows it up by pulling Santos' gold teeth out one by one with a pair of pliers.
The scene failed badly. Not to be bloodthirsty about it, but where has the genuinely shocking sense of violence from season one gone? Think of the shows True Detective is supposed to be measured against – Gus Fring brutally slashing his underling's throat to scare Walt and Jesse in Breaking Bad, or a recovering Tony Soprano knocking a young wiseguy around the Bing to reassert his strength in front of the crew… compared to either moment, this felt like a school yard dust up – I half expected someone to get put in a headlock while everyone chants 'fight! Fight! Fight!' – and the tooth thing was just ridiculous. We wanted to believe in you Vince, we really did. But at the moment we're not sure either the actor or the script are firing on enough cylinders to make this storyline work.