(Written for Filmoria)

As we reach the penultimate episode of True Detective, the series finally shows us what it was capable of all along. With only one week left, everything takes a step up with ‘Black Maps and Motel Rooms’, from the writing to the performances, to a killing-off that will leave you feeling more engaged with the series than you have felt in all of the other episodes combined.

After last week’s haunting climax, we were left with the feeling that it wasn’t going to get any easy for the detectives, as things have been going downhill for them more and more after each episode. But as they keeping risking their lives and fall deeper into the dark mystery, the cast performances and shows writing noticeably improve with every turn.

Black Maps and Motel Rooms’ takes the time to tie up many of the loose ends that we have been left with, as it puts its focus on exploring the information discovered in last week’s episode and preparing us for the finale next week.

It’s a very plot-heavy episode, and the dialogue is quite horribly mumbled at times, so there’s a lot of information to take in and conversations that need to be deciphered, but the episode makes one last, big attempt at luring its audience back in after a very hit-and-miss series, ensuring that we want to return to see next week’s final episode, rather than feeling only obliged to.

Alongside last week’s episode, it seems that the series has finally figured out what it’s all about. The first couple of episodes of True Detective Season 2 focused on smoky bars with dreary singers and suited characters who use mobster lingo, which did well to set up the bleak atmosphere and convince us that the series had promise, whilst much of the plot and character development fell flat in the background. Now, the series has dropped all distractions and puts its efforts into the writing, solving the intense puzzle, stripping its characters bare, and getting the audience excited once again.

The characters are put in their proper place this week, too, as Ray, Ani and Paul take precautions to keep themselves and their families safe, whilst Frank deals with the fallout of his betrayal. We finally see the power of the villains who are really pulling the strings in Vinci, as the characters who once led the series with great authority now sit back in fear, with their fates no longer in their own hands.

As the mystery of Caspere’s death finally starts to unravel, the power of those behind the murder begin to take centre stage. The detectives may finally be getting answers, but will they have time to share their information, or will the villains of Vinci take over for good?

For Frank (Vince Vaughn), it’s time to get out, and he’s been given no other option but to give up everything he has been working for. But not before leaving his mark on the city. As he sits playing a game of poker by himself, in the role of the dealer and the rest of the players, we know that it’s time for him to take things into his own hands. There’s a great few scenes of Frank’s own revenge, and as he leaves his business in flames, we’re finally convinced that he was trying to leave his gangster past behind him, and that he was a character that we could trust.

But whilst it’s too late to be convinced about Frank’s character, it’s certainly the right time to be applauding Vaughn’s remarkable performances. We all had our doubts at the beginning, but he’s put in a huge effort to change our minds.

The camera work is impressive, too, with a single slow motion scene of Frank smashing a glass around somebody’s face which really leaves a mark.

With bodies piling up throughout the episode, there was still a learing feeling that something ever more drastic was coming, and as the image of one of the leading characters’ lifeless body closing the episode, there’s no doubt we’ll all be returning next week.

Much of the case may have been solved in this week’s episodes, or at least the bases have been laid and many of the questions that have been piling up have been answered, but the big reveal of who, what, and why is still to come, and we’re yet to see the fate of those who remain alive.

True Detective airs Mondays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic HD.

(Images courtesy of HBO)

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