This True Detective review contains spoilers.
True Detective: Season 3 Episode 2
True Detective season 3, episode 2, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” opens in the murky waters and wooded areas that surround West Finger, Arkansas. Detective Hays (Mahershala Ali) scans the scene both tactically and mournfully from a bridge overlooking the most possible areas the two missing children may tell their story. The detective looks through the dredging and digging to the expanse of the endeavor. Ali’s eyes see an entire canvass of possibilities but tell us the final portrait will be a sad one. Even his lungs grieve through his breathing.
As the meticulous examination of all the clues the cops have found so far get catalogued and boxed, the bike is dusted for prints, the detectives fill in the cause of death section of the dead boy’s file: blunt force trauma and cervical fracture. Somebody broke the kid’s neck and brought him to the cave. Hays has that part committed to memory but it still hits him like something he repressed that still surprises him. Again, we see how this has haunted the detective, both as it was happening and whenever he remembers it. It’s a wound, always fresh.
But wounds leave blood and Hays is a tracker. Ali’s also got a great delivery and does a mean light saber. There is a scene when he’s giving his deposition in the 90s period, early in the episode, where Detective Hays is desperate for more information on the girl’s prints in the store. He doesn’t know whether the young abductee grew up to be a customer or a criminal in that store and he’s hungry for answers. The officious suit at the desk tells him it’s not their job to give him information and Hays, while palming the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse post credits, says “I’m pretty easy going man but go away already.” I know he was supposed to be funny, but after the grim details of everything that came before and his absolutely naked need for any tidbit of anything at all related to the case, it is hysterical. It is pure comic genius because of its timing and yet, it completely rounds out the Hays character.
This little funny aside encapsulates his control and humanizes his rage. And you have to laugh because, really, his delivery even throws in a veiled threat. The scrap collector gets in the second best live delivery of the evening. While questioning Brett Woodard (Michael Greyeyes), it comes out that he was a vet whose had a hard time unplugging from the war, just like Purple Hays. Woodard lost his wife and kids to separation but keeps things together even though, in his head, he’s an a “place you can’t leave and can’t stay at the same time.” He and the cops, both vets who served rough tours, bond and empathize with each other. None of them are living what you’d call a full life. But when West asks Woodard, in the middle of an investigation into a dead ad missing child, if he like children, the suspect responds “what is the right answer to that?” It is pure animal survival instinct. He adds “I have children” as if it might explain things better, but to a non-parent like the two cops who are interrogating Woodard, it excuses nothing.
And nothing gets past the two detectives at the town meeting where the future state attorney is fielding questions about the neighborhood watch. The cops convene afterward to discuss some of the more baffling aspects of the investigation, like the damned dolls and why the dead boy’s arms were folded into prayer hands. Hays admits he saw some shifty eyes in the community center. He doesn’t want to miss true guilt when he got his redneck radar going. But he also goes out for a little different recon.
Amelia (Carmen Ejogo), the teacher at the grammar school the two missing children attended, catches the detective’s ever watchful eye. Yes, she is an obvious choice to get nearer the mindset of the children in the area and those around them. But coming right after the scene with the ex-vet who lost his wife and kids while he was away at war, we catch a glimpse of the tracker. Hays isn’t exactly on the hunt, but he’s caught her scent.
The episode introduces the FBI agents who will be joining the Arkansas State Police on the task force. In the previous episode, the detectives had noticed a peephole cut in the wall in a closet between where the uncle was staying and his niece Julie’s room. The detectives take time during the dead boy Will’s funeral to get a bead on the brother of the dead boy’s mother.
Occult and conspiracy watchers will get a thrill just a little past the twenty minute mark. The present day documentary maker brings the detectives to a web site that details the Purcel case and points out there was a child pornography ring in the area. The straw dolls might even be a sigil for pedophile groups. She also mentions something called the Franklin scandal which apparently ensnared VIPs from President Reagan and Bush administrations. It’s only a mention, and may be a tease, but it amps up the anticipation for a return to True Detective Season 1’s mystically macabre undertone.
The father, Tom (Scoot McNairy), becomes a kind of walking wounded during the episode. Blocked from going to work because he’s a distraction to the machine workers and with nowhere to hide at home, he implodes silently. Less silent is the implosion of Ted LaGrange (Shawn-Caulin Young), which comes after a series of kidney punches meted out in an abandoned structure in the woods. LaGrange is a convicted child molester who works with kids in the community. He doesn’t keep that job very long after the cops sniff him out. He doesn’t keep much. Hays leaves the suspect with visions of rape scenarios that will haunt even his partner West for years.
The episode ends with the bookends of Amelia’s novelization of the case and a note left with the parents from their abductor. True Detective continues to bring the most suspenseful parts of the three timelines with pincers pulling the edges together with a rough but steady precision. The second entry, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” is still underplaying the tension. They let off a little steam here and there, like the budding romance in Hays’ life and the beatings of certain suspects. But the suspense is still boiling up. This is a great follow-up to the opening, the audience is fully committed to this crime.
True Detective season 3 premiered on HBO on January 13, 2019.
Keep up with everything you need to know about True Detective season 3 right here.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.