I’ve been in something of a denial over the first two episodes of True Detective, silently hoping that nothing is quite what it seems and that Nic Pizzolatto would pull something out of the wreckage of inexplicable lines, overwrought dialogue and obvious plot points. Last night, without the crutch of Justin Lin, the thin facade that gave some of us hope that True Detective could repeat the success of last season completely fell apart. We have never missed last season’s director, Cary Fukunaga, more.
I will say one thing in the show’s favor: Frank Semyon’s storyline, while obvious, at least allowed Vince Vaughn to further come out of his shell. Blistering, fast-talking Vince Vaughn throwing punches and pulling out teeth? That’s good stuff.
Every thing else in the episode, “Maybe Tomorrow,” was a train wreck. Let’s break down the 20 most annoying moments from the episode.
1. The opening David-Lynchian dream sequence from director Janus Metz Pedersen (who is best known for directing documentaries) briefly led us to believe that Season 2 was taking a weird-ass detour into the afterlife, a terrifying place that included Ray Velcoro’s abusive father and a Conway Twitty impressionist. CONWAY TWITTY? That was clearly a flashback to Pizzolatto’s Southern upbringing.
2. Alas, it was all a fake-out, and a weak one at that, as Ray was awoken by the arrival of Warren Zevon on the clock radio, and it was revealed that the Bird-Man killer had shot him in the chest with buckshot used “by cops” in riots. CHEAP PLOY, PIZZOLATTO! The only joy we got from that was the fact that Ray pissed himself.
3. We did learn, however, that a Web camera was stolen from the scene, and we were left with the impression there might be some incriminating information on it, because Pizzolatto repeated that fact OVER AND OVER because apparently, Pizzolatto has also lost trust in his audience to figure things out on their own. We do not need it crammed down our throats, Piz. You do not need to figuratively draw us a flashing arrow to the evidence. That stolen Web cam may also include evidence implicating the mayor, which we know because of the NOT SO SUBTLE shots of the mayor fidgeting whenever Ray mentioned the video camera.
4. Frank Semyon, like Paul Woodrugh, can’t get it up because this is apparently not just a story of hard men with dangerous pasts, it’s also about emasculating them with impotence. Let me just say, Piz, that it’s possible to hammer that theme without recycling the erectile-dysfunction motif. It wasn’t really all that necessary to add the Hustler magazine into the scene where his wife is trying to blow him, either. We get it. He can’t get it up. But sure, why not, let’s add potential infertility into the mix, as well.
5. Which was the most inexplicable line of the night?
A: “There’s not a part of my life that’s not overwrought with liver-dying importance!”
B: “They treating you alright?”
“Like a cheerleader on an oil rig.”
The answer is A, because it was not only inexplicable, but also ironically “overwrought.”
6. “Is that a f*cking e-cigarette?” In case you couldn’t detect it underneath all the bleak, convoluted plot-lines, Piz is actually trying to inject some humor into the season by calling back to Ani’s e-cigarette. This is what passes for jokes on Season 2 of True Detective.
7. “Frankly, I’m apoplectic.”
“I’m feeling a little apoplectic myself.”
Great! Now everyone is apoplectic, which is definitely a word you often hear cops and gangsters exchange with each other.