‘True Detective – Black Maps And Motel Rooms’ Recap

True Detective season 2, has officially shed its skin. Gone are the comparisons to the first season, the lamenting of lost potential, the doldrums of boredom. Now, in this penultimate episode, this new amalgamation of True Detective has fully come into its own and become a thrilling endeavor in its own right. “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” is a taut episode from start to finish, with everyone and everything being ironed out; well, ironed out to the best of the ability of Nic Pizzolatto, who’s noir motivations for this season will always leave certain things murky.

One of the most fascinating elements of this seventh episode are the reveals that the three investigators and the plight of Frank Semyon overlap only slightly. As Velcoro, Ani, and Paul stow away in a remote cabin after looting the high-end sex party in last episode, Frank is given enough intel from Ray to go scorched earth on his betrayers. Those betrayers include just about everyone under his employ including, of course, Blake (Christopher James Baker), his slimy girl-running assistant. Once Frank is informed Blake is in with Osip – and a slew of other ancillary plot information that boils down to Frank being screwed out of his casino and nightclub – he decides to wipe the floor with his past and hit the road with Jordan.

True Detective Vince Vaughn

The scene between Frank and Blake is peak Vince Vaughn, at least True Detective Vaughn. It is the one true moment the series when Vaughn’s verbal dexterity feels right, and his imposing frame pays off. Frank kills Blake, puts on a good face when Osip informs him he is no longer the boss (but hey, Osip agrees to put him on the payroll), then proceeds to light up the LA skyline with fire.

Meanwhile, our three gumshoes are having their own problems. Paul is receiving compromising photos of his tryst with his former Black Mountain colleague on his phone, and Ani and Ray are wanted for different reasons. First, Ray and Ani: their romance was inevitable from about the third episode. However, the way Pizzolatto handles this development should be commended. Early in the episode, Ani tries to use her sexuality to deflect Ray’s questions into her past, but he rejects her offer. In the final moments, the two then share a touching and emotionally charged moment of clarity. These are two broken people, perhaps resigned to their own fate, looking for a final human connection. Both Ray and Ani have made amends in their personal lives, and the moment feels right. The way it builds is perfect, an emotionally engaging moment in a season that has been lacking any true, soulful punch.

True Detective Taylor Kitsch

Now for Paul. Once Paul discovers he is being set up with the blackmail photos, he works his way out of a jam only to be murdered by Burris (James Frain), the cop who worked with the Vinci police chief to get Ray on the case and, clearly, set him up in the end. Paul’s death was shocking, but it felt as inevitable as the romance between Ray and Ani. Taylor Kitsch has felt like the outlier this entire season of True Detective, and now perhaps that was the plan all along. Regardless of how loosely drawn Paul’s character may have been, his death was an impactful.

And now we have one ninety-minute season finale next week, as the show has come into its own. After the first three episodes I was wondering how I would make it through eight. Now, after this tightly-wound, completely satisfying penultimate episode, part of me wishes they had chosen to go to ten. While the plot still remains secondary to the characters, at least we have reached some form of clarity as to who did what and why; at least to a point. Leaving confusing threads dangling in the noir winds is par for the course in this type of storytelling, so being confused with the true mechanics of the plot is nothing to worry about. HBO wants a third season of True Detective, and I feel like this second season has finally earned Pizzolatto another go round.

Larry Taylor - Managing Editor
Larry Taylor - Managing Editor
Larry is the managing editor for Monkeys Fighting Robots. The Dalai Lama once told him when he dies he will receive total consciousness. So he's got that going for him... Which is nice.