HBO’s True Detective Black Maps and Motel Rooms TV Show Review. True Detective: Season 2, Episode 7: TV Show Review Black Maps and Motel Rooms is the penultimate episode of True Detective’s second season. Back Maps and Motel Rooms does away with many of the elements that have made the show feel like a trudge to get through, while finally piecing together the mysteries that have been plaguing the show’s cops (and crooks) all season long.
So there we have it. It took six episodes before True Detective’s second season found its groove. There have been highs (and many lows) throughout the current season, but at no point during this season has True Detective sustained the thrill and overall intensity of Black Maps and Motel Rooms. Black Maps and Motel Rooms took the precarious house of cards that was the Vinci investigation/real estate grab and had it topple down upon Ani (Rachel McAdams), Frank (Vince Vaughn), Paul (Taylor Kitsch) and Ray (Colin Farrell). The consequences of the four character’s actions came back to bite all of them in the ass and each one ended up isolated from friends and family and backed into a corner as their enemies closed in on them.
True Detective’s second season never had a problem holding the audience’s interest; there have always been enough coked-out Colin Farrell air punching, birdmask wearing cop shooters, and explosive Mexican meth-labs to keep the show’s 12 million viewers tuned in. The issue with this season is that the audience has looked on with an almost clinical detachment from the characters and events on the show — did anyone really care whether or not Paul would find emotional closure in his relationship with his mother? Black Maps and Motel Rooms put each of the main characters in situations where the odds were stacked against them and then forced the audience to watch them struggle to find their way out. Ray was framed for the murder of Davis (Michael Hyatt), Ani was wanted for the killing of the security guard at the orgy and Paul was blackmailed with images of his sexual tryst. This episode threw the three cops into a pot and slowly brought it to a boil, creating a thick stew of camaraderie and companionship that didn’t exist in the previous six episodes. Even though Ani, Paul and Ray previously worked together, they never actually felt like a team until their enemies finally turned their sights upon them.
It has always been clear that Ani and Ray have chemistry with each other. From the moment they were paired up there was a part of both Ani and Ray that was able to look past the other one’s baggage and connect with the nobler aspects of their partner’s personality. Although their chemistry was never sexual, it makes sense that in their dire circumstances they would resort to some good old fashioned bumpin’ & grindin’. After grasping the power and influence of the forces that oppose them, Ani and Ray realized the unlikelihood of making it out of their current circumstances alive. Both characters have unresolved emotional hang-ups and have spent the last few years of their lives keeping people at a safe emotional distance. It is believable that in what may be their last night alive, Ani and Ray would take an honest look at themselves before reaching out to one another and making the most intimate of human connections.
Black Maps and Motel Rooms did a fantastic job of establishing the high stakes that are in play as the season comes to a close. One of the defining characteristics of the crime-noir genre is a dark sense of foreboding and despair. Unlike your typical popcorn flick, the good guys don’t always take down the bad guys — there’s a good chance that the hero may not even make it out alive. As we watch the increasingly desperate circumstances unfold around Frank and the detectives, an emotional heft is added to every threat they encounter because we are aware that they can be introduced to a bullet with their name on it at any moment (and not the crowd control pellets that bird mask guy launched into Ray at the end of episode two). We know that HBO shows kill off main characters with the frequency that Kardashian women go through celebrity boyfriends, and with only two episodes left in this season, there was a strong probability that at least one of the four leads was heading for a dramatic exit from the show.
There was a lot of exposition to get through in this episode, and viewers had to follow along with True Detective’s wiki page in order to make sense of how all the mystery’s disparate elements have finally come together. I found that Frank’s gangster version of Man on Fire was the most enjoyable story-line to follow. His plot chugged forward through the episode with the heft and momentum of a steam engine. Frank’s lieutenants and business partners lied to and betrayed him, leaving him at the center of a shit-storm that he would never be able to navigate his way out of. Instead of working his way back to the top, Frank decided that he needed an exit strategy, and that he was going to leave a trail of destruction in his wake. Watching Frank physically menace Blake (Christopher James Baker) before torching his old businesses had me rooting for the him to make it out alive, catch up with Jordan (Kelly Reilly), and live a normal life — even if it meant managing an Applebee’s.
It’s a shame that True Detective waited until the seventh episode of an eight episode season to deliver such a consistently thrilling hour of television. There is the possibility that episode eight will bookend the story in a way that wraps everything up so nicely that the additional perspective will paint the entire season in a warm golden light. My issue is that for a good portion of this season, following along with the series’ numerous characters and plot threads felt like a chore. True Detective would have to produce the greatest ending in the history of television to counterbalance all the places that this season faltered. Who wants to sip champagne in a hot tub if you have to crawl through five miles of mud and barbed wire to get there? At the very least, Black Maps and Motel Rooms demanded my attention and emotional investment in a manner unlike any other episode this season, which leaves me mildly optimistic for what next week’s episode has in store.
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