True Detective S02E07 Recap: 'Black Maps and Motel Rooms'

At this point, the whodunnit aspect of True Detective's second season doesn't even really matter. There are people who love that kind of stuff, and there's certainly enough of a case there to keep those people interested, but even in its first season, this has always been a show that's more about the characters, the mood, the ambiance than it ever was about the plot. While the first season tricked us into believing there was a compelling, almost supernatural mystery to be solved, season two has neglected a lot of that, presented the facts and the crimes in as straightforward way as possible, and focused in on the characters with a microscope, dissecting four shitty, vile humans living in a even shittier world.

Continuing its trend of following similar episodic beats to the first season, season two's penultimate episode, "Black Maps And Motel Rooms", doubled down on the above strategy by blowing its plot wide open, revealing the answer to just about every big question we had.

For starters, Frank finds out what his employee's been up to, who killed Stan, and who's been waging this secret war against him. His suspicions of girl running and someone coming after him are true, as he confronts his employee and not only confirms that he's been running girls and that he killed beloved Stan, but that he knows about dealings and machinations going on behind his back. The Russians are buying out his club and casino out from under him, so he kills the guy and decides he's going to make one last stand before running away, burning both of his establishments to the ground. As he watches them burn, his next step is taking out the guy, Osip, and stealing millions of dollars from him that rightfully belong to Frank from the Caspere deal.

Meanwhile, following the outrageous events at the orgy, our three detectives examine their findings and all the paperwork they stole, but they still can't figure out who killed Caspere since it only made everything they were doing public. Killing Caspere, the accountant for the Vinci fifedom, set all of this off. In fact, even Frank can't get that information. It's Paul who walks into a trap after he's texted threatening messages about pictures of him having gay sex getting leaked to his family. The people who lure him out want what he stole from the party, but he dispatches them. Before he can call Ani and Ray, however, he's gunned down by Detective Kevin Burris, who many have suspected was the killer all along.

And this time I'm pretty sure Paul is actually dead. The director made sure to show us the exit wound and the pool of blood around him. Besides, if they did a death fakeout twice in one season, I doubt the show would be able to recover.

Either way, that clears the tables for next week's finale, paints a target on the back of Burris as the guy Ani and Ray will have to go after, and gives him proper motivation for everything he's done, dating back to the 1992 riots, stolen diamonds, and how Dixon and Caspere had been hiding them for all these years. Burris' motivations seem to be mostly greed, he just happened to blow the lid on a lot of other stuff in the process.

I like where all of this wound up, but it has to be said that the plot to this season has been extra confusing. Season one was known for its dense plot too, but even know it's hard to really piece everything together and figure out who did what and why. Then again, like I said, it's unclear if any of that really even matters, since the show proclaimed early on it was more about the characters and what the work does to them than the work itself. Nic Pizzolatto has spent the last seven episodes getting under the covers with our four main characters, and while not everything he's thrown against the wall has stuck, I can't deny that I am invested in these characters.

That makes Paul's death meaningful. It makes Frank's actions, going on a tear of murder and arson for revenge and a payoff something worth rooting for. And while I'm sure a lot of people groaned at Ani and Ray hooking up at the end of the episode, it checks out too, since they're arguably the two weakest (in terms of their personalities) characters, giving in to their urges at a time where they needed comforting and frankly had nothing else to do but wait for Paul to show up. Paul dies like a hero, albeit a naive one who thought he could get out of an obvious trap, leaving these two scumbags to clean up the mess and close the case.

The episode did a lot of good putting the characters' backs up against the wall and ensuring there were consequences to their actions. I've given the show a lot of flak this season, and quite frankly, this episode had its fair share of ridiculous scenes and lines as well, but it bounced back fairly well from last week. It was tense, it had payoff, and it was a good primer to next week's finale. That being said, the finale still has a lot to do in order to rebuild confidence that was lost over the first six episodes. But "Black Maps and Motel Rooms" stands fairly well on its own, so it gets 9 Hasidic Jewelers out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • I've been kind of just letting the mystery play out and not speculating too much in these reviews, since it doesn't really matter, like I said. It's been all about the characters and how they deal with it. But you have to wonder what the endgame is, and I suspect the focus on the characters might play into that somehow. This episode was all about how they stand alone, no support, no one talking about plot points behind their back. They might get their vengeance and closure in the finale, but it might be at the cost of their reputations, painted as bad guys and unable to blow the lid on what's happening. Wouldn't that be an interesting change from season 1, which ended really optimistically?
  • You have to admit, it's hard not to root for Frank going full badass this episode. The scene where he breaks the glass on that guy's face was really well shot.
  • Same for Paul. While Taylor Kitsch isn't the best actor, they did well with him most of the time with his war vet persona, and it led to a great couple of scenes as he took out those security guys before getting sneaked up on.
  • Truest Detective Power Rankings:

    4. Ray Velcoro (no change): So everyone is taking care of their families, ensuring their safe, and there's only one mention about Ray's kid, and that's what he might think of him after all of this is done. Great work.

    3. Ani Bezzeridis (-1): Ani questions the girl she saved and can't convince her to testify or even admit that what was happening at those parties was wrong. And she ends the episoe sleeping with Ray out of weakness as her partner dies. Great work.

    2. Frank Semyon (-1): Once again, Frank gets shit done.He finds out everything about the people going after him and sets up to take their money and take them down, he finds out who killed precious, magnificent Stan, and to cap things off, he burns his businesses out of spite and shoots a Russian in the face.

    1. Paul Woudrugh (+2): Died with valor, trying to stop pics of himself having gay sex leak out to his pregnant girlfriend, accidentally uncovering the mystery of the case in the process. Goodnight sweet prince.

    Line-O-Rama:

    • "You want me to roll a joint?"
    • "In the midst of being gangbanged by forces unseen, I figure I'd drill a new orifice, go on and fuck myself for a change."
    • "You see me managing an Appleby's?"
    • HBO in a nutshell: "Maybe you were put on earth for more than fucking." "Everything is fucking."
    • Frank's exhausting phrasing of the week: "Please articulate the percentage you would require in order to transact with me."
    • "Guy's been around less the last three months than my wife's period."