HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 7: “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”
Directed by Daniel Attias (Ray Donovan, Bloodline, Masters of Sex, Homeland, The Killing)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the next episode, “Omega Station” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Church in Ruins” – click here
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS SPOILER FILLED! BIG TIME! HUGE EVENTS GET SPOILED AT THE END SO IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS DON’T READ IT ALL OR ELSE YOU’LL BE RUINED!
In the penultimate episode True Detective‘s polarizing second season, Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) is coming down off the Molly she was given at the weird sex party last episode. She’s in a motel room with Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), as Detective Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) is in another with the missing girl they retrieved from the fucked up white rich guy orgy.
Ray: “Want me to roll a joint?”
Ani says she might have even went looking for it – killing that man with her knife – that she’d been waiting her whole life for something like that.
While trying to shake the buzz off, Ani relapses back to the trauma when she was young. She mentions that ‘they’ found her as she came out of the woods. Ray is confused. Then Ani gets in his lap and starts kissing him, rubbing him up, but Ray tries to be a big man.
Ray: “You’re too far out of my league anyway”
I love it because even in the most serious of moments, Ray tries to tone things down with humour. Juxtaposed with the scenes between him and Ani later, this is Ray making a good decision not to pursue things any further; not only is it a bad idea, to make matters worse Ani is still under the influence of the drugs.
Things get going pretty damn quick. No letting up from the last episode and its tense action sequence at the end.
Now Woodrugh is receiving texts with pictures of him and his old army buddy, the one he’s sort of sweet on but won’t admit. He’s clearly shaken out of the blue, Ray knows there’s something not quite right. I’ve been waiting for pictures of Paul’s extracurricular denial to start coming out – ever since Detective Teague Dixon (W. Earl Brown) was snapping with his camera when the whole subplot with Paul/his friend began.
Paul’s pregnant, soon-to-be wife Emily (Adria Arjona) received a call saying “Ask Paul about the pictures“.
Emily: “Why did you get with me? Why did you ask me out?”
All Paul can muster up to say is: “I was just tryin’ to be a good man”
Emily: “Well you don’t try right”
He’s got his mother and his pregnant fiancee in a motel room, pretending that it’s all got to do with beef over an undercover job he’d been working. There is a scary feeling to all of this with Paul. He is frenzied, cracking up like the masks he keeps putting on, so many of them, are all getting bound up, twisted, and ready to fall to pieces.
All the while, Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) is playing cards with himself. Of course he’s the dealer, all the invisible people being dealt hands are just being controlled by him. It’s a perfect metaphor for how Frank’s life is, or at least how he would like it to be/seem. His wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly) makes an obvious poker assertion that pertains to their life: “We could just walk away from the table“. The two of them are still rocky, but she is always there for him; loyal as ever, though, every bit stern.
Then Ray shows up: “I, uh… had a bit of a strange night.”
Of course, Ani used her sister Athena’s (Leven Rambin) name at the party, so the people there might possibly come for her. I knew this would happen as soon as Ani gave the name Athena before she got on the bus last episode.
Ani: “Maybe – and this is just a thought – maybe you were put on this Earth for more than fucking”
Vera: “Everything is fucking”
Though Ani wants to help her, the previously missing girl that she found at the party Vera (Miranda Rae Mayo) seems to not want any help at all. She says she has a good life, and doesn’t need anybody talking to her condescending-like, acting as if she needs to be saved. Ani struggles against it, but yet there seems to be a glimmer in her eyes, or a dulling more like it, that believes what Vera says.
Frank and his once main man Blake Churchman (Christopher James Baker) – the one Ray followed to find he was helping Dr. Pitlor (Rick Springfield) pimp girls out over to Osip Agronov (Timothy V. Murphy) – have a real rough confrontation. It’s clear, though, that Frank is a much tougher piece of work than meek little Blake. A bit of blood and skin later, Frank has a few answers. Only a few, though. Frank needs, wants, answers about Caspere, but nobody seems to know who did him. Outside of that, Frank discovers that people are trying to take everything away from him essentially. He’s just about been a lone wolf the whole time, outside of a couple helping hands; those are few and far between.
At first, Blake is allowed to live for the time being at the mention of money. That doesn’t last long: Frank gives Blake the ole Reservoir Dogs gutshot and lets him bleed out on the carpet. Pretty vicious on his part, but as he said he wanted to watch Blake’s lights go out.
Modern medicine man, or 1960s Encino Man, Eliot Bezzerides (David Morse) shows up again.
He and Ani have a serious chat about who took her away – Eliot says he wandered the forest four days after what happened to her. We get some tiny bits of background about Eliot, little pieces. Nice to fill in at least small cracks here. We don’t need a huge amount of exposition. I think Nic Pizzolatto really does well with these sorts of things; wet the beak, don’t give us too much but enough we can chew on.
Eliot: “God damn everything”
Ani: “That’s what I say”
Because of the last episode and the events at the party – as well as Ray finding the contact for their little off the books investigation District Attorney Katherine Davis (Michael Hyatt) murdered in her car – Ani and the rest are going into protective mode. Everyone in Ani’s family is going into hiding. There’s an epic sense to things, as if the air is electric, and the tension has really started to mount. I predict the last episode will be highly explosive and thoroughly satisfying. That’s just me, who knows.
She, Ray, and Paul close in more on the diamonds in the pictures they found, from the pawn shop, the ones tied with Dixon somehow. They start to sew up some things involving Ben Caspere and Mayor Chessani, the whole lot.
Paul meets his friend from the army Miguel (Gabriel Luna), the one from those torrid night(s) together, and it turns out things with Black Mountain, or a bigger group, are the reason they’ve run into one another again and gotten back in touch. He leads Woodrugh to a stairwell, down into the darkness, then they’re gone for the moment. The tension gets thick.
Once Paul is brought downstairs, out comes Police Chief Holloway (Afemo Omilami) who explains they found pictures in Dixon’s apartment after he died, and they know Paul has documents they need. Incredibly sinister moment, I found. Perfectly executed. I didn’t see this scene coming, though, loved every last second.
Paul begins to try and get himself out, giving up Ani and Ray saying he couldn’t give a shit about them. That’s disappointing to say the least. Only he grabs Holloway, wrestles away his gun and puts it to the man’s head. Woodrugh manages to get away through the underground tunnels, darkness covering all in sight. The military men that were with Holloway and Miguel follow him, trying to make sure he does not escape.
Frank: “Here we are – under the bright lights”
There’s no doubt, after this scene between Frank and Jordan as she witnesses the dead body of Blake on the floor in her husband’s office, that the two of them are as close as they can possibly get. She affirms “I love you” and asks what she can do. Frank, like Ani, is sending those he loves into hiding.
He is preparing himself – for fight, or flight?
Frank – apparently – is setting fire to the casino. Because why not? he’s got some ideas about what to do now that he knows everyone is out to get him. He looks calm, collected as he walks away from the smoking building. Slick, badass stuff from Frank.
Turns out, he’s setting fire to it all. Everything. As far as Frank is concerned, his whole life is going up in smoke anyways. Might as well set fire to the lot of it.
My favourite scene of this episode is just about at ten minutes left, when Ray and Ani are talking with one another at the motel. They’re both trying to talk anyways, but not every little thing comes out. Though, Ray does acknowledge he knows that something happened to Ani, somewhere along the line, whatever it was – she replies that she doesn’t like to talk about it. He tells her it’s what he admires most about her. There’s just such an incredible exchange between two gifted actors. So much ability going on that it blows my mind. Such subtly passionate, quiet moments without any real physical contact outside of the touch of their hands; I was just WOW’d by the scene. Powerful stuff, in my opinion. Both Farrell and McAdams have been doing spot-on jobs this season with their characters. I hope, regardless of how others feel about the story/plot, people recognize how great the acting has been all around.
These are two broken souls trying to find someone as broken as themselves to whom they can reach out.
Ray: “Do you miss it?”
SPOILER ALERT! HERE THERE BY SPOILERS!
Paul ends up blasting his way out of the tunnels, his friend and gay lover Miguel is shot in the process. This was an awesome action scene, with a lot of suspense. Finally, we get to see Woodrugh climb up out of the tunnel and away from the gunfire, back to some semblance of safety. For awhile there I honestly did not see him coming out of that sticky situation. He has some true guts. I was sure, even when I first saw Miguel waiting for him, there was about to be something nasty happen to Detective Woodrugh. Glad that I was wrong on that part.
A great piece of music from the score in Season One comes back here, as we see brief images of Ray and Ani together (nothing gratuitous – tasteful stuff I must say), Paul running away from the scene behind him.
Then the kicker….
MORE SPOILERS! HUGE HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD!
Heroic Paul Woodrugh is gunned down, from behind no less, then shot dead by Lieutenant Kevin Burris (James Frain) who runs off into a car, speeding away.
Unlike Ray Velcoro’s apparent death at the end of “Night Finds You”, this one is not like that at all. Paul is completely finished. Done for. Goodbye, Woodrugh. Even though he was so knotted up as a person, I cannot say I wanted to see him go. Especially not like that. It’s so sad that he was on the phone with Ray before Miguel brought him down to that basement. Right on the cusp of telling Velcoro everything, maybe to get some help with it all. True tragedy.
Not only that, we glimpse how deep the law enforcement rabbit hole truly goes with the murder of Paul Woodrugh.
What a hard hitting episode. Solid writing, lots of tragedy, heart, and just tons of movement in the plot. Dig it – hard.
Next week, we’re going to see “Omega Station”, and this will truly be the beginning of the end.
I can’t wait to see what will happen after the fallout from Detective Woodrugh’s death, where Ani and Ray will go as professionals after their night together plus how they’ll punish themselves no doubt for not being there for Paul, and how Frank is going to react/what he’ll do to those who have been taking his lifeblood away from him.
Stay tuned and we’ll see how everything goes down in the finale of True Detective Season 2!
2 thoughts on “True Detective – Season 2, Episode 7: “Black Maps and Motel Rooms””
Paul does understand how digital photography works, right? No negatives to give him, no prints to destroy.
Bright boy, that one. But Miguel was completely right: if Paul had been open about the gay thing, nobody would have been able to leverage it against him.
Also, the impression I got was that Paul didn’t shoot Miguel, but used Miguel as a shield. Same net effect, I know.