‘True Detective’ Season 2 Episode 7 Recap: “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”

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“Black Maps and Motel Rooms” picks up after the end of last week’s disastrous orgy where a druggy Ani found her missing woman and sped away with Ray and Paul.

Ani is dealing with some PTSD this episode, stemming from both the man who abused her as a child and the man she stabbed to death earlier that night in order to save herself. It was self-defense but Ani also believes “I think that I went looking for it.” Though “Black Maps” did attempt to clear up some of the season’s overall mystery involving Ben Caspere’s murder and those oft-mentioned blue diamonds, the developments regarding Ani were by far the best part.

In fact, most of “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” was pretty good, a solid example of the True Detective that I’ve been wanting from the beginning. Sure, the dialogue is still occasionally terrible and unintentionally hilarious but for the most part, it was an interesting and engaging hour of a crime thriller. There was genuine tension and claustrophobia for our main characters and, shockingly, things actually happened.

After killing the security guard, Ani has to send her sister and father away to a safer, unknown location and Paul has to also protect his mother and fiancee. And Paul has something else to contend with: someone is blackmailing him about his sexuality. Ani and Ray finally sleep together, and Frank literally burns down his empire. At the same time the detectives are getting closer to solving a mystery, everything is also getting closer to falling apart.

The body count is increasing — State Attorney Davis, Frank’s men, and then Paul. Yep, while hunting down his blackmailer and discovering a whole mini conspiracy and crooked cop, Paul is shot dead in an alley. It’s a shocking death if only because it’s surprising. What it actually means, and the ripples it will have on the final episode are still very unclear. The problem is that Paul was never a well-developed character (although Taylor Kitsch certainly did his best) and his only real characteristics were a) he’s gay and b) he doesn’t want to be gay. We never got deeper into his head so his death doesn’t mean much to the viewer. It was surprising, and sad, but not much else.

But as far as penultimate episodes go, this was certainly a good one and an easy way to get me back on board and eager for the season finale. I don’t really know if they can stick the landing again — especially considering how rocky this entire season was — but it does seem like it’s heading in the right direction.