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True Detective: Black Maps and Motel Rooms

“Well, it doesn’t make sense.”

...in which all is explained, some people have sex, and some other people drive to Eugene, while Josie is snarkier than she ought to be.

Our plucky band of detectives has solved the mystery of Caspere’s death: he was killed, likely by Burris (James Frain), as a consequence of his involvement in a conspiracy that dates back to a jewelry store heist during the 1992 LA riots. Caspere, Burris, Holloway, Dixon and Chessani are a cabal of scheming movers and shakers who clawed their way up from the LAPD (and City of LA) bureaucracy to found a corruption paradise in Vinci. They came, they saw, they vinci-ed. And in Caspere’s case, they hired the surviving children of that jewelry store heist to work as their assistants.

Their real crimes are dumping toxic waste in a bunch of land to drive down prices, then buying up that land to capitalize on the rail deal. (That’s where Frank comes in.) True Detective acknowledges that those shady real estate deals are basically the most boring crimes in the world, so the Cabal of Evil Developers also have lots of sex parties.

They also bought all of Frank’s cronies, except for Nails. (They probably didn’t take him too seriously.) Did they buy his wife? I don’t know. It would be an interesting twist, and one the show might be foreshadowing by having her enter the room right after Blake said that they bought everybody.

Velcoro’s link to all of this is his prior job, working for the City of Vinci. But he’s also tied to the Cabal of Evil Developers (CED hereafter) because he, instigated by Frank instigated by Blake, killed a guy who didn’t rape his wife. (Blake also killed Stan. So that mystery was solved, too.)

Ani’s link to all of this is through her family: her father as acquainted with the Cabal and her sister had done her time at the sex parties.

Paul’s link to all of this is the most bizarre. His former mercenary organization now has an exclusive deal to run security for Catalyst group, which is what the CED calls itself when it’s feeling fancy. Paul has been hooking up with a security minion who works for the very people he’s investigating! It would be ironic if it weren’t so hackneyed.

Because hackneyed is what it is. This is some bizarre mystery plotting, as it seems to imply that there are only about 20 people involved in this whole mess of nonsense that dates back to the days of Hammer pants and Ross Perot, and spans a swath of land from LA to—as of this episode—Eugene, Oregon. That’s 23 years and 900 miles.

(This week’s geographical quibble: Ani asks Elvis to follow her sister and dad to Eugene. Ventura County is 857 miles from Eugene. [I really doubt Ani meant the tiny unincorporated town in central northern CA.] I know that number because I googled it, and I knew to google it because I have made that drive and it takes hours and hours and hours. Pizzolatto really needs to buy a map.)

That’s what’s bothering me about this season of True Detective. No, not the squishy geography. But the lack of solid mystery plotting. It’s too clockwork, too perfect. And the poor plotting makes it difficult for me to care about the character moments, which have some merit. For instance:

• Ani and Emily talking about the sex parties: Emily vocalized some of the quibbles I had with last week’s episode—not all prostitutes are being victimized. She knew what she was doing, and she wants to keep doing it.

• Ani’s moment with her dad. She doesn’t hate him, and he was obviously concerned about her. That was sweet.

• Velcoro and Ani bonding in the motel room. I have mixed feelings about the sex, but whatever. At least they both have friends.

• The OMG moment when Velcoro realized the state’s investigator was dead in her car.

• Paul being all badass in the tunnels under LA. About that…

Paul is dead. That was a shock, mostly because it was staged beautifully as an example of Paul’s weakness: he knew the military guys, he knew how to beat them, and he was doing a great job of being all black-ops sneaky. Then, out of nowhere, Burris in a suit shooting him from behind. It’s always the quiet be-suited ones that you have to watch out for. And it’s precisely the guys like Burris that Paul has been revolted by; I imagine that his desire to be “back on the bike” is a hatred of ladder-climbing brass like Burris.

Velcoro and Ani are unprotected. Ani is wanted for murder. Nobody besides Davis knew they were working a top-secret state investigation, so they have no bureaucratic cover. With Paul dead, their best physical defender is out of the game (although we know Ani can hold her own). I cannot imagine a way for this story to end happily for them.

Unless they decide to team up with Frank for an all-out smackdown kill-a-thon. That seems to be where Frank is headed: one last job before he and the wife sneak off to Venezuela (and its lovely no-extradition beaches).

That’s probably not how this show will end. I suspect Ani will live to fight another day, for the excellent reason that Pizzolatto doesn’t want to be accused of sexism again. She will reunite with her dad and her sister. Frank will die. Velcoro might live, but only because he’s so miserable living that it’s practically a death for him. And some members of the CED might die, but others will keep being corrupt developers and hardcore gangsters like Osip, because that’s how California works. It’s Chinatown.

All the way up to Eugene.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. while Josie is snarkier than she ought to be. No, I think you were just snarky enough. Sometimes a show starts asking for snark. I'm not watching, but I've definitely gotten the impression that this season of True Detective is outright asking for snark.

  2. I don't think all the mysteries are solved as obviously as was shown in this episode. Kwin and I liked last weeks episode better. At least our heroes were out there making a difference...or feeling like it. This episode we are back to fulity and despair. But, except for my inability to know who all these characters are ( worse than GoT) and the stilted dialogue, I am still enjoying the season now. We are going on a cruise next week. We won't see the last episode till we return. Kwin said " how are we going to wait a week without seeing the finale". I can't imagine him saying that several weeks ago. It is still not season one, but it will do.

  3. I just recommend reading this: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/08/03/true_detective_season_two_a_guide_to_the_plot_of_this_confusing_season.html

  4. Josie, I like your snark. Please don't change. Thank you for another great review. I agree with many of your thoughts, especially how cloyingly tidy this story has become.

    A few thoughts:

    *I liked Vince Vaughn for the first time all season! (cue confetti)
    *I did however find that scene between Blake and Frank almost too excruciating to watch. Though I suspect that was the point.
    *I wish we had seen the underground version of Paul at least 25 more times in eps 1-6. He will be missed.
    *The Ani/Day sex scene worked for me because why not at this point. Plus Colin Farrell (and his sad puppy dog eyes). I'm a sucker for fugitive motel sex.

  5. If the tunnels run under the whole city, how come Burris was exactly at the exit Paul took? Or why mention it in the first play? :/


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