True Detective S02 E07: Black Maps and Motel Rooms


Oh, hi there, True Detective!  How nice of you to finally show up, 7/8ths of a season later.  Oh, I know you’ve given some hints that you were around, like in episode three and four, when you blew everyone away;  but then you’d turn around and get lazy on me, spend an episode where your characters wander in circles for an hour, or one where you add a bunch of new plot lines that appear to have nothing to do with anything.

So really, TD, do you think you can just walk in here in seven hours late, with your taut storytelling, your character reveals, and your plot lines all nicely tied together and I’ll just forgive you?  Well do you?  Do you!!!!? Find out after the break.

Of course I forgive you.  Really,  there’s nothing to forgive.  Now I see you were playing for the long con.  This has all just been a big misunderstanding, completely my fault… had I just been a little more patient I would have seen where you were going. Okay, maybe not, but I think I see it now and all I can do is give a big Keanu ‘Whoa!”

..I guess I do say, 'whoa" a lot...
I guess I do say, ‘whoa” a lot…


I like this Frank.  Brutal, smart, and driven, this is they guy we’ve been waiting for all season.  It seems the act of betrayal, finding how deep things went and how alone he really is, have inspired our intellectual gangster.  The writers seem to finally figured out in this episode that Vince Vaughn is best when he is moving, and as he does: bloodily dealing with Blake, setting his plan in motion, scamming Osip into believing the unbelievable, Vaughn is simply mesmerizing.

This is my mesmerizing face…

And right along with him is the lovely Jordan, who has truly become his partner.  Kelly Reilly isn’t in this series more than enough, and her Jordan is tough and sexy, whether she is trying to convince Frank to give it all up by joking about the free shift meal at Applebee’s, or when she responds to discovering Blake’s bloodied body with a firm “what can I do.”  I half expected Frank to hand her an M16 from his list of hardware he requested from the bakers.


If the episode had a weak point, it might be Ani.  Not because of anything Rachel McAdams did, she continues to play the fierce and flawed Ani Bezzirides to perfection.  I simply can’t understand how someone as capable as she didn’t figure out her sister would be in danger until after the shit hit the proverbial fan.  It’s a small complaint, though, one that could easily be explained by Ani’s eagerness to close the case.  And while I’m still not happy about the reveal of her childhood molestation  last week, it does go a long way towards character motivation (“I’ve waited my whole life to do that,” she says about stabbing the bodyguard). Her discussion about the incident with Daddy Bezzirides also helps us understand what drove the wedge between them so long ago.

...well that and the patchouli...
…well, that and the patchouli stink…

David Morse was, as always, excellent in his limited role, and may have given us the theme for the entire season when he talks about his group being “a shadow of our best intentions.”  That’s really describes most of our crew: Paul wants to be a good man; Ray, a good father, Frank a straight business man – but they all fail, they are all just shadows of what they want to be.  Except for Ani, the strongest and “most innocent” among them (again her father’s words) …what does Ani want?


Apparently, right now it’s Ray, and their scenes together this week were electric.  Early in the episode, under the influence of Molly and guilt, Ani tries to use sex as an escape from the horror, something we realize now she has done in the past.  And Ray deflects her.  He is a good man, despite his denials, despite the things he’s done, Ray recognizes the wrongness of Ani’s desires at that time, and he moves away from them.

...I'm just your basic hard-drinking, dope-sniffing, murderous perfect gentlemen...
I’m just your basic hard-drinking, dope-sniffing, revenge-murdering perfect gentlemen…

Later though, when both are in (relative) control of their facilities, they revisit this attraction, and this scene, as they sit in the motel room searching for answers, may be the best of the series.  The tension, as these two flawed people are drawn ever closer by their need for connection, was palpable (perhaps heightened by my conviction that someone was going to blow Ray’s brains out through the window he insisted on sitting in front of.)  Intercutting their scene with Frank’s revenge and Paul’s badassery helped as well, and I’m not sure I breathed during the final fifteen minutes of the episode, convinced someone was going to take a bullet or three.


Alas, I was right, but it wasn’t our crooked cop, garrulous gangster, or stabby sheriff who took the bullet.  This was Paul’s finest episode, and Taylor Kitsch, who had so little to work with all season, really pulled off his desperation, his need to do the right thing even though he sensed he was doomed.  I spent most of this season complaining that Paul’s key plot elements:  His closeted homosexuality and whatever happened in Afghanistan, while great pieces of character arc, had nothing to do with the story.  Boy was I wrong.

...yeah, don't you feel stupid now, recap boy...
…yeah, don’t you feel stupid now, recap boy…

Because, as his former partner and sometimes lover points out, if he had just been straight with everyone, they wouldn’t have anything on him to exploit.  If he wasn’t trying to be a shadow of himself, he wouldn’t be in danger.  I will admit that the involvement of Catalyst with whatever happened in Afghanistan did cause a little bit of eye-rolling, mostly just from the sheer coincidence that the cop who found Caspere’s body and set this whole thing in motion, just happened to already be linked to Catalyst.  At this point, though, I’m willing to believe it’s all a conspiracy, and Woodrugh only found the body because Catalyst arranged for him to find the body.

paul maybe e06
..not to mention the torture shed, the Hollywood actress, and impregnating Emily….

Catalyst apparently didn’t realize what a badass soldier Paul was, as he nearly took out the entire crew.  It’s telling that Taylor Kitsch’s best work on the series involves two action sequences (this and the Vinci shootout).  Simply put, it’s what he does best; and his final moments, as he crawls gut shot towards his gun, before being finished off by the bad lieutenant was grueling.  Fine job by both Kitsch and the writers who gave you that glimmer of hope before pulling the rug out.  Paul Woodrugh, you’ll be missed.


Okay, who the hell was that guy?  The one Paul ‘was looking for’ at Catalyst.  I’m not sure if I missed it all season, or if it’s just one of those weird “True Detective” moments, but I really have no clue.  Can someone tell me?

...the  name's Holloway, Police Chief Holloway...
…the name’s Police Chief Holloway, pay attention, dope…

How great was the look on Mayor McSlimey’s face when Frank sent him home with news about his equally slimy son?  Hard to believe I really thought Chessani had any power in this town. Still make me wonder why passive Frank took so much flack from  him earlier in the season.

Am I the only one who cursed aloud the moment before Ray slipped into Davis’ car and realized she was dead?  I don’t want to say this season has been formulaic, but I’ve done a much better job at guessing plot points this year.  That one, however, threw me completely. Kudos to the writers for keeping me on my toes.

Well, just one episode left, this one asuper-sized 90 minutes.  We’ve got a lot tied up, the only question is exactly what’s going to happen with the surviving crew.  Will Frank complete his revenge plan and start afresh with Jordan in Venezuela?  Will Ani and Ray become the next Vinci power couple? Will the survivors meet up with Rust Cohle at Daddy Bezzirides hippie camp and live happily after ever?  Find out next week when “True Detective” pulls into “Omega Station.”

3 Replies to “True Detective S02 E07: Black Maps and Motel Rooms”

  1. Jim: Your recap and review of True Detective is so well done and spot on. I am watching the series this season. I can’t wait until Monday morning to read your article. It has been great following along with your insight. Looking forward to this Sunday’s conclusion and your final words.

    1. Thanks Vince! I think the final episode is pretty much going to be Frank’s revenge with an assist from Ani and Ray. Not sure if anyone survives, but it will be fun watching.

  2. But at least everybody’s plot strands are starting to cohere into something like a whole, from Frank’s crumbling crime network to Ray’s misdirected revenge killing to Paul’s Black Mountain backstory.

Leave a Reply