True Detective 2.07: “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”

Our lone cop still employed. / Photo: Lacey Terrell, HBO

“I’ve been waiting for that all my life.”

Too many hotel rooms, not enough maps. The story comes together like an L.A. cloverleaf interchanged designed by M.C. Escher in this penultimate episode.  Ray (Colin Farrell), Ani (Rachel McAdams), and Paul (Taylor Kitsch) are holed up in a motel with Vera (Miranda Rae Mayo), the escort whose sister said she went missing after joining the Panticapaeum institute, who they rescued from McCandless’s sex mansion.

Paul goes through the papers he stole from the mansion, and he and Ray put together enough of the Catalyst scam to get an idea of what’s going on, and Ray takes it to Frank (Vince Vaughn). But not before Ani, coming down off the molly, hits on Ray and tries to “f- the pain away,” like that other famous Ani sings. “This won’t help you,” he says. “It usually does,” is her reply. She wonders if they can trace the knifed bodyguard to her, and says, “I’ve been waiting for that all my life.”

Meanwhile, Paul receives blackmail photos of him with his friend from his Black Mountain days, and Emily (Adria Arjona) has been tipped off too. He tells her he was doing it while undercover and she buys it, and it’s technically true. Just not undercover on the job. He is concerned that Emily and his mother may be targeted, so he sets them up in another motel room together, where they bond over old movies. “I’m just trying to be a good man,” Paul says. But we don’t know what his definition of man is.

We find Frank dealing cards to himself as the ever-faithful Jordan (Kelly Reilly) tells him to cut his losses and just walk away. Ray comes to break him the bad news, that Osip (Timothy V. Murphy) and co. are behind the Catalyst scam. When Ray asks for the name of Frank’s informant, who fingered the wrong man as the rapist of Ray’s wife, he tells him he’ll have it for him by the end of the day.

Frank has found an exit strategy. / Photo: Lacey Terrell

But that’s not gonna happen. Frank calls Blake the pimp to his office and unleashes the mighty Fists of Exposition, which Ray had previously used on Rick Springfield; a few smacks here and there, and Blake (Christopher James Baker) tells him all about Osip’s plan to buy the casino and the club, and how he’s going to deliver $12 million in cash to McCandless of Catalyst at this location and time, and by the way, he’s also the guy who fingered the wrong rapist for Ray to kill. Economy of character, one might say. And because Blake’s no longer necessary, he kills him. Calling Ray and letting him do it, that would waste precious moments. Ray’s too busy sitting in the motel drinking with Ani and mumbling to complete his character arc.

Back at motel room #1, Ani questions Vera, who explains how Caspere’s favorite escort Tasha had photos of the orgy parties and tried to blackmail Caspere, so she was taken to a cabin up north by Tony Chessani (Ritchie Coster), the one we saw splattered with blood. Instead of being terrified, Vera is angry that Ani messed up her lucrative long term career as a drugged sex object, because she had a nice apartment. The acting in this scene bordered on parody, matched only by Paul and his mom’s tortured scene that was straight out of Wild at Heart. “Maybe you were put on earth for more than f-ing,” Ani says. And Vera counters with my favorite line of the episode:

“Everything is f-ing.”

Imagine her singing it like “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie, and it will make up for having to sit through that scene.

Vera goes home with her sister and is no longer our problem, but she should be worried, because the bad guys are closing in. When Ray goes to bring the evidence to Katharine Davis (Michael Hyatt), he finds her dead in her car. He wastes not a second in getting the hell out of there, and that was some good writing. Ray knows he’s been set up, he doesn’t take a pulse, he doesn’t pull his gun and look for shooters, he gets in his Charger and gets the hell out of Dodge.

Then we need to tie up Ani’s loose ends; she sends her father (David Morse) and Athena (Levin Rambin) “up north” with her old partner to protect them, after confronting her Dad with photos of the Bearded Man with the Van. “Everyone was pilgrim,” he says. “We were the shadow of our best intentions. I regret so much of that time.” Yeah, not as much as your kids.

He leaves her with, “You’re the most innocent person I’ve ever known.” Which not only makes no sense, I’m not even sure what it means, other than he doesn’t know his daughter. We also learn that there’s an APB on her. She must’ve left prints on that cheese knife.

And just so there are no family members left to die or become hostages, Frank sends Jordan and Nails away. Then he goes to the Hasidic diamond merchants to prepare to clean his stolen money, then buys tickets to Venezuela. And new passports. And an arsenal for his inevitable battle with Osip and McCandless for the $12 million. Once Osip shows up to take over the casino, he decides to leave Frank in charge, because he “knows how to manage clubs” and because, reasons. That way, Frank can tell the dumb thug watching him that there’s a gas leak, and they need to evacuate everyone, so Frank can empty the safe, shoot the one remaining guard in the head, and then torch the place (seriously). He then does the same at the Lux club, echoing the end to Michael Mann’s Thief, except Frank doesn’t own these things anymore, so it doesn’t symbolize throwing everything away to be free. Or symbolize anything, really, except if Frank can’t have it, no one can. But it’s fun, and one of the better filmed parts of the episode, which at this point felt like a series of strung-together 7-second Vine videos of mini-plots failing to make a coherent whole.

So, back to Paul and exposition train. A bunch of the Vinci PD all worked at the same precinct in Los Angeles during the riots and they stole the blue diamonds from the jewelry store and executed the owners, orphaning two kids who disappeared into the foster care system. Dixon, Burris, Holloway and Caspere were all involved, and through some incredulous links between overheard names and 23-year-old photos, Ray and Ani figure out that Caspere’s secretary was one of the kids orphaned during the robbery. All from the motel room, of course. But they can’t tell anyone, because Paul’s not there, and he’s the only one of them still employed as a police officer in any capacity.

It’s all starting to come together. / Photo: Lacey Terrell, HBO

So Ray and Ani drink booze and mumble at each other and eventually drunk-dance and get smoochy while Paul is off walking into an obvious ambush, going to see who’s extorting him by sending photos of him with men to his fiancée. His old war buddy is in on it, and Black Mountain now purely works as security for… Catalyst! But they’re not very good at it, because they get Paul down in the L.A. tunnels and tell him they want the documents he stole, but he tricks them by saying he has no cell signal and steals a gun and shoots his way out of there. You’d think elite mercs would learn not to wave flashlights around and give away their position… but it’s fun, anyway, if all for naught.

With all the info dump in this episode, I’m not sure what next week’s 90 minutes will be about. If it’s a big shootout over the money, I’m eager to see it. The ambush at Caspere’s crib was one of the most memorable episodes. I’m sad to see Papa Bezzerides go, without much consequence. Much like Rick Springfield’s Dr. Pitlor, he was fun to watch. Seeing Jordan leave is disappointing as well. Even if all she did was stand by her man, she was a strong presence. Will the raven be unmasked?  Will Ani and Ray join Frank’s crack commando team to split the $12 million, and vamoose to Venezuela?

Thomas Pluck is the author of the World War II  action thriller Blade of Dishonor, Steel Heart: 10 Tales of Crime and Suspense, and Hot Rod Heart: A Noir Novelette. He is also the editor of the anthology Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT and hosts Noir at the Bar in Manhattan. His work has appeared in The Utne Reader, PANK Magazine, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Hardboiled, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Crimespree, and numerous anthologies, including Dark City Lights, edited by Lawrence Block. You can find him online and on Twitter as @thomaspluck.

Read all of Thomas Pluck's articles for Criminal Element.

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