“Black Maps and Motel Rooms” is the most riveting hour of the season so far, one that snaps into focus exactly why we were taken through certain stories over the past six episodes. It doesn’t quite forgive all of the pacing problems of the season, but it certainly ramps things up all on its own, setting up what will hopefully be a fantastic season finale next week. There are still quite a few things to wrap up plot-wise, but at this point in the story, the characters are at their most interesting because they’re at their most desperate, their most cornered. They’re at a fork in the road, and they have to decide whether to “follow the rules” or to attempt to get out. “Don’t fight what you can’t change” and “stick to what you know” might be easy statements to buy into, but maybe they were put onto Earth for something more than that. Maybe, in perhaps the bleakest hour of the season so far, we can also find the most understanding of who these people are, of who they were meant to be.
Frank, for example, has been trying to go “legitimate” throughout the entire season, but this hour brings with it full-on Vince Vaughn Badass Mode. He kills Blake, he gives one of Osip’s men a gas leak in his head, and he torches the club he put his life into. He’s deciding now that he’s going to sail his own ship, and even though he embraces his more criminal side here, he still distances himself from Osip and Chessani and all the rest. He might’ve talked all season about doing his business for his family, but this is him actually severing ties and doing something for himself and his wife.
As for Ray and Ani–the most interesting pairing of season two–we see two broken individuals at the end finding comfort in each other. The former is told that he’s “not a bad man”, a huge moment for him because he’s lived his life assuming the worst of himself. The latter seems to have come to terms with her past and with her deep-seated wariness of men, and she even breaks her own record for most hugs received in a day. The final moment between the two results from desperate circumstances, but it also conveys a deep emotional connection between people who haven’t had many of those. Well played as always, Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams.
Now onto Paul, a character I’ve criticized throughout the season. I’m still of the opinion that four main characters is too many for eight episodes of True Detective, but I do really like the way Pizzolatto and Kitsch close out Paul’s run. Here, he both gets to be a badass and has to face who he really is, and it’s difficult to watch as his past catches up to–and eventually kills–him. In the end, though, the key is that he was “just trying to be a good man”. Even if he didn’t entirely succeed on all fronts, that doesn’t take away anything from what he’s able to accomplish here. Yes, he’s dead, but maybe his influence can live on through the family he helped protect. The past may have beat him down at every turn, but at the end, he at least punches back.
-Paul, room service requires answering the door.
– “I think I might be walking into something.” “Then don’t.” This advice could’ve solved a lot of problems this season.
-Em staring at the television at the end is the most devastating image of the season so far.
-Frank, you and your endless supply of whiskey glasses will get to live on for now.
– “Everything is fucking” is the R-rated version of “Everything is awesome”.
– “He’s just a regular dick.”
Photo credit: HBO, True Detective