True Detective Recap: Sad and Lonely People

True Detective
Episode Title
Black Maps and Motel Rooms
Editor’s Rating

Beyond his intuitive sense of what’s just and right, Frank’s always had a sense of irony. He should appreciate, then, that he’s putting his entire future in the hands of Israeli pawnbrokers in order to take down the Russian-Israeli gangsters who’ve done him wrong. He seems to value the nuance while glancing over at his jeweler’s security detail, there to help ensure he forks over 40 percent of the going rate for high-end diamonds. (And were those blue diamonds, per chance?)

Frank’s got a renewed sense of urgency to blow his enemies straight to hell and head for higher water after finding out the true depths of Blake and Osip’s betrayal. And don’t even get him started about the allegation that Stan was 86’d for trying to blackmail Blake, sensing his days making bank as a Semyon man were over. No matter, cause Blake’s dead now, along with one of Osip’s stooges, the casino and nightclub Osip stole out from under Frank, and possibly Osip himself. Realistically, Frank’s odds of making it out of the country feel more unfriendly than those at the craps tables he oversaw, especially once he utters this ultimate prophecy of mortality to Jordan: “I’ll meet ya tomorrow.”

Sadly, there will absolutely be no more tomorrows for Paul Woodrugh, a character who felt sad and lonely even within the True Detective realm, but still deserved a more noble death. Not that there was any doubt as to what would happen the moment he busted out of those tunnels and took his eye off the ball to call Ray for backup. Only the triggerman wasn’t a revived Chief Holloway, who Paul had pistol-whipped unconscious after Holloway tried shaking him down for incriminating docs connecting him to the 1992 diamond heist and double murder. Nor was it Miguel or any of the other special-ops vets doing double-duty as Catalyst security and helping Holloway keep tabs on Paul, Ani, and Ray. Paul put them down for good, his final act before none other than prime suspect (to a viewer at least) and Vinci's Lieutenant Burris blasted two shells through his back and left him lying on the concrete with no more dignity than Blake’s seized-up corpse on Frank’s carpet.

There wasn’t much Ray and Ani could have done by then. You could question why neither scratched the itch of whether they should track Woodrugh’s whereabouts and be there in case shit goes sideways, just like Ray and Paul had Ani covered at the Kali Club. But with Paul always being so cryptic about his personal business and Katherine Davis from the attorney general’s office turning up rigor mortis (that’s nearly ten visible casualties this week, if we’re counting), not to mention their status as high-level fugitives (that irony again), there was nothing left to do but screw as the world burned down around them (and, in Frank’s case, quite literally). Silly as the line seemed when spoken, maybe Vera was on to something when she sniped at Ani that “everything’s fucking.”

Ani couldn’t have been more broken by her conversation with Vera, who didn’t want to be saved or rescued or be symbolic of anything. It was a bit like the results of Ani’s intervention with Athena in episode one, but an even bigger letdown after doing what she’d been “waiting my whole life for,” i.e., punishing the punishers and releasing herself (and another innocent) from victimhood. But not unlike Ani, Vera is both foolhardy and headstrong, and refuses to offer gratitude or any consolation that her risk was worth the cost. Nor will she testify against Tony Chessani, Osip, Geldof, Holloway, or any other creeps. Ani’s just lucky she’s willing to offer information on the mysterious Miss Tasha, who it turns out snapped those hazy pics from inside Orgy HQ and, consequently, got slain in that cabin up north by Tony and his crew. More crucially, she IDs the woman sidling up to a sleazy state senator in another photo as Laura, although Ray and Ani soon recognize her as Caspere’s former assistant, Erica Johnson. It doesn’t take much longer to connect the dots that “Erica” could easily be the same Laura who was left orphaned with her brother Leonard when Holloway, Burris, Caspere, and Dixon set about robbing their parents’ store and ended up killing them in cold blood.

Not everyone’s on the same page with all this just yet. Frank’s pretty much dead-set that Osip and Tony did the deed to Caspere to screw them both over and be untouchable land barons up and down the coast. He got a lot of that intel from Ray, who sees clear motive in their moves and has yet to stumble on the Erica/Laura epiphany. Paul’s the one who really knows what’s up with Burris and Holloway, but the former’s seen to it that all his sleuthing might have been more moot than Ani’s foray into the hell of deepest fears at Kali Club. It’s heartbreaking when Emily watches Splendor in the Grass, which calls on William Wordsworth’s assurance that “we will grieve not/ Rather find strength in what remains behind.” Because despite Paul, Ani, Ray, and even Frank’s best intentions to wipe away their errors and leave a trace of something decent, there are unquenchable forces conspiring to ensure nothing remains but the rot and decay of their poorest choices and how they’ve ruined others’ lives. They’re the latest in a long line of scapegoats who’ve been systematically scouted for their weakness, exploited while useful, and then thrown under the bus as another distraction while they have their way with the world. Hopefully Ray and Ani will be vindicated, even if it’s reading from behind bars about how Laura and Leonard burned Burris and Holloway’s eyes out. Unfortunately, Paul will be remembered the way sad and lonely people are, still holding on to his secrets. And Frank may still have more he’s not letting on about. At least we’ll all know soon enough what everyone on this hotly debated True Detective season takes with them and leaves behind, now that only one chapter remains.

Apart from all that:

  • Just making this a matter of record that I’ve been wondering for weeks if this season won’t be revealed as a movie within a TV show.
  • From the “Thanks for Confirming” department: Amarillo and his gang were — no surprise — in cahoots with the cops, and the firefight was a setup.
  • Ray and Ani putting the two pics of Laura side by side was definitely their “green-eared-spaghetti-man” revelatory moment of this season.
  • I still say the mayor’s daughter, Betty, will have some hand in how this all goes down. Maybe she even abetted Leonard and Laura?
  • Oh, Paul.
  • Those fires Frank set in Vinci sure did (and no doubt intentionally) evoke the ’92 riots. Everything splits in two again.
  • This season’s a pretty interesting companion piece to Rampart, ironically starring Woody Harrelson.
  • I’ve come to really appreciate how each episode has its own style and emphasis, be that directly related to different directors or no.
  • Fun fact: Director Daniel Attias helmed 20 episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210.
  • So, is Jordan pregnant? Or was Frank just making cruel reference to her having failing ovaries?
  • I must meet this Abner Erman.
  • Also, these are written in a slightly stream-of-consciousness way, with as much attention to detail as possible. But I’m happy to, and probably can capably, answer any sincere questions folks might have about details of the case, episode, characters, etc., at this point as we head to the finale. Thanks, guys!