Here’s a question: Does the identity of who murdered Caspere even matter anymore in True Detective Season 2? Did it even matter to begin with? Honestly, if next episode ended with Velcoro and Bezzerides uncovering that an Oxford-educated sheepdog was behind the whole plot, my opinion of what has been one of the great disappointments of 2015 in television wouldn’t change. And what went down in “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” only underlines the sluggish, convoluted nature of creator Nic Pizzolatto‘s narrative, which has busied itself with the truly exhausting and deeply uninteresting line of corruption that has led (presumably) to the murder of Caspere and a few dozen others in the span of the last seven episodes. Even in this, the penultimate episode, the sheer amount of blathering that goes on about possible motives and dark indiscretions, and the revelations that were blatantly clear from around the third episode, proved staggering and quickly overwhelmed the few remarkable scenes and sequences of “Black Maps and Motel Rooms.”
More than anything, the latest episode felt like a hurried round of loose-end tying. This was most prominent in the case of Semyon, who responded to the revelation that (gasp!) his number two sold him out and that sleazy Russian gangster, Osip (Timothy V. Murphy) was making sleazy Russian gangster moves behind his back by going on an arson binge. There was also rampant violence, from Semyon’s torture and murder of the aforementioned henchman to Velcoro’s discovery of State Attorney Davis’s (Michael Hyatt) body to the climactic shootout that ended with Woodrugh getting shot, which certainly quickened the pulse but revealed little about the savage and ugly impulses that birthed these acts. All of this just went once again to reiterate Pizzolatto’s calcified, unearned, and stagnant cynical view of a world run by capitalism and industry, a philosophy that the writer-creator has incessantly leaned on in lieu of questioning, challenging, or detailing the roots of such perspectives in any way that Law & Order: SVU hasn’t already exhausted.
If there was a (hugely arguable) exception to this, it would be those final intimate moments between Velcoro and Bezzerides, a sequence which was effective despite being telegraphed from the moment they met. That hand-holding moment definitely felt more compelling than Bezzerides farewell to her family and partner, to say nothing of Woodrugh’s farewell to his mother and the mother of his child, both of which came off as quick and pointless endings for characters that were used primarily as cogs in Pizzolatto’s plot. This goes double for the call-back to the missing person that Bezzerides pulled out of that orgy at the end of the previous episode, who was only included to give Rachel McAdams‘s character a good tip. True Detective Season 2, and “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” specifically, is almost entirely a showcase for Pizzolatto’s writing, with only the performers giving some sense of an unwieldy, emotional inner life raging underneath these characters.
The episode ends with Woodrugh’s presumed murder, after killing off a ring of corrupt police officials, and if this is truly the last we’ve seen of him, it came off as flippant and borderline manipulative, especially by cutting to his fiancee, Emily (Adria Arjona). The shakedown and shootout that preceded Woodrugh’s murder was intercut with the previously mentioned quiet, touching moment between Velcoro and Bezzerides. The juxtaposition doesn’t give any great insight into how these characters are dealing with their biggest secrets – murder, sexual abuse and molestation, and homosexuality – but then, nothing much about Season 2 has been thoughtful in terms of editing and imagery. It’s all just plot, which will all have to be wrapped up by the end of next week’s finale, which does not bode well in terms of any possibility of this season ending with the kind of wondrous yet humble epiphanies of Season 1. But hey, maybe we’ll find out who killed Caspere, right?
★★ Fair — Only for the dedicated