After a captivating premiere, episode two simmers its mystery without losing steam.
This recap of True Detective Season 3, Episode 2, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
In a rare showcase of generosity, HBO bestowed two episodes of True Detective back to back. True Detective Season 3, Episode 2, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”, picks up in the aftermath of discovering Will’s body, spending the bulk of the episode in the 1980 timeline. The boy’s neck was broken prior to moving him into the cave. Meanwhile, the search for Julie continued, including dredging the river for her body. Trying to find the second child, the one we know is alive ten years later, dominates most of the episode. The Trashman is questioned again. A fellow Vietnam vet, his interaction with Hays speaks to the nature of recovering from trauma. What do you do to get through the day, especially when you’ve seen the horrors humans render upon each other? It’s a subtle point, but one that speaks to the bigger themes meandering through these early episodes.
Outside the interrogation room, the police department appeals to the community, a showcase of how small towns breed suspicion, with accusations flying at the usual “not one of us” suspects (“those queers,” “that man who goes through our trash”). At Will’s funeral, Hays and West question Dan (Michael Graziadei), the sketchy relative alluded to in episode one. He has little information, though Tom’s parents have plenty of gossip to spread about the children’s mother, Lucy. Perhaps if they spent less time trashing their daughter-in-law and more time worried about their son, Tom wouldn’t have lost his cool at work and quit his job.
Elsewhere, at the bequest of Hays, Amelia is asking around about the straw dolls found at the crime scene. It just so happens that Julie got a doll exactly like that the previous week on Halloween. Further examination has the girl talking to two adults in sheets that same night. The classmate who shares this information also provides a trail for that night, giving the detectives at least a starting place to surveil. A wise idea, but problematic when you are essentially placing 114 houses under watch, something that could upset the neighborhood and make anything they find inadmissible in court. As we saw in the community meeting, they want the perpetrator to be an outsider; how dare anyone suggest it is one of their own.
Instead, the district attorney holds a press conference, only serving to terrify the community as parents keep their children home from school. West and Hays receive one lead, but it is less than solid, and their beating of the suspect seems more connected to their general disdain for pedophiles than any legitimate advancement on the case. The seemingly only real break, aside from the doll, is a note sent to the Purcells in magazine clippings: “Do not worry Julie is in a good place and safe the children sud laugh do not look let go”.
“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” is not all investigation. We see the burgeoning romance between Amelia and Hays, who both swear they have no desire to get married even as they reveal their most intimate quirks and fears. Later, we get to see them briefly in the 1990 timeline at home with their beaming children, Amelia’s book already in galleys.
“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” is also punctuated with scenes featuring 2015 Hays, apparently trying to claw back at his memory. He admits to his son Henry (Ray Fisher) at one point that he can’t remember parts of his life with Amelia (we also learn that he has an estranged daughter, Rebecca). Filmmaker Elisa (Sarah Gadon) shares that the straw dolls may have been a sign that the events were connected to a pedophile ring. She also posits that Hays may have been undermined in his investigation because of his race. This concept is not exactly inconceivable–we see flares of this in the 1980s timelines, such as the argument between West and Hays. Unfortunately, the scenes with Elisa are possibly the weakest in the episode due to the heavy-handed dialogue. It is probably intentional, but it also trips up the fluidity of “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”, even though Ali is possibly at his best in the 2015 timeline.
The final moments bring Hays in his bathrobe to to an intersection of dilapidated streets, terrified and confused. It is in these moments that Ali holds the power of this season solely in his performance. However the mystery unfurls, his presence makes it worthwhile.
You can check out our thoughts on the next episode by clicking these words.
Amber is a doctoral candidate in Language, Diversity, and Literacy at Texas Tech. She holds an MA in Literature and History and a BFA in Theatre. A Texas-based mother of two, she is an Associate Professor of English and History at Howard College.