What follows is an examination, recap, and review of the penultimate episode of True Detective Season 2. As such, it contains spoilers for this season as well as the first season of the show. It also contains discussions of sexual violence and abuse, as these subjects play heavily into the story of the show.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine any sort of happy ending to the second season of True Detective. Remember that final scene in the first season when McConaughy and Harrelson were outside the hospital and McConaughy said they were winning in the fight against darkness? Yeah, I wouldn’t count on that this time around. Each episode of this season drags our characters further and further down and doesn’t seem to get them any closer to solving the mystery. “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” left our main characters at the lowest of lows.
After last episode’s daring orgy escape (not too often that you get to write something like that), Ray, Ani, and Paul went into hiding. They quickly discovered that breaking into the sex party of very powerful men put them on a number of crap lists. Working in secret, the moved their families and loved ones into hiding, as well. Things are going to get bad, obviously. It was while hiding out in a cramped hotel room that Ani, Paul, and Ray decided to try and piece their case together. They laid several theories and listed off who they thought was involved (in short, everybody).
It was in this moment that it became clear to me that I have no idea what this case entails anymore. Our heroes–heroes? Maybe that’s a stretch–rattled off names and places and discussed diamonds and none of it made any sense. There are simply too many characters to keep track off, too many threads of story with which we have spent mere moments. Towards the end of the episode, Paul came face to face with several armed men in the tunnels of Los Angeles; one of whom was dressed in black and—upon stepping out of the shadows—said, “I heard you’ve been asking about me?” Has he? I missed that, I guess. Who was that guy? What was he to their case? If it was a reveal of some sort, it was one that went straight over my head.
That said, this season of True Detective is still a hell of a lot of fun to watch. There was some killer dialogue this episode–bleak, sparse stuff in the vein of classic film noir–and we finally, finally got to see Frank make his big move. Vince Vaughn brought some really weight to the character in this episode, and his anger and rage were palpable. He murdered not one, but two dudes this week. He also burned his former empire to the ground–literally set the clubs on fire–and started buying up weapons. What exactly is his final play? Hard to say, but it is clearly going to be bloody and violent.
The ending of “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” had two huge moments. First, Ani and Ray hooked up, which is kinda gross and weird. Yes, they are two severely broken humans with little grasp on emotion and reasoning, but the move was still surprising for Ray, who has spent this who season filled with so much self-loathing; it’s hard to imagine him connecting with another person. In fact, you’d think that Ani saying “You’re not a bad man” would make him shut her out completely. Ray is a bad man, and nobody thinks that more than him. We’ll have to wait and see what sort of repercussions this has.
Second, the final moments of this episode featured Paul taking two bullets in the back. There’s not much hope for a fake-out scenario like we had with Ray earlier in the season, it’s probably safe to say that Paul is dead. In a lot of ways, his death sealed Ani and Ray’s fate, as well. Paul was the last real connection to the official investigation. He was the only one the department still viewed as a “good egg.” His death means that any hope these characters had for returning to their normal lives is gone. Taylor Kitsch did some fantastic work on True Detective, and it’ll be sad to finish out the season without him.