‘True Detective’ season 2, episode 7 review: A death, a fire, and Ani and Ray take center stage

HBO logoIt has been pretty clear for a while that “True Detective” has put its characters this season on the edge of a cliff, with it feeling like one wrong step could send them tumbling off the side.

Somehow, things became even more intense tonight on “Black Maps and Hotel Rooms” the moment that we saw Frank unleashing his violent side again, and also the moment we saw a dead body in a car tied very closely to the Caspere investigation. Then, we came to the realization of just how careful Paul, Ani, and Ray had to be in order to keep themselves safe in the wake of the undercover mission. As a result of all they went through, Ani even sent her own family away to Oregon, anywhere that could be considered some sort of safe haven.

Unfortunately for Paul, he really should have been the one escaping himself. His death leaves a glaring hole given what he was up to, and the fact that now Ani and Ray are going to have to pick up the pace even quicker to determine what is really going on here. They have put together many pieces, including tying more people from Caspere’s office to the ring. The one thing that we do have to say in praise of Paul’s death is that at least it was definitive. There’s no ambiguity here like there was with that Ray scene earlier this season. We just wish it was a little more unpredictable, since the moment that shootout happened at night the ending felt obvious. It was made all the more tragic when you remember what Paul is leaving behind.

Did we see the Ray / Ani hookup coming? Not exactly, but it makes some sense. These two are very broken people who are looking for something, and their struggles provide that mutual bond that allowed what happened to well … happen. We didn’t think that we would like it, but it turned out to work out pretty well. As long as Nic Pizzolatto doesn’t turn the finale into “The Bachelor,” we’re good.

Pushing into the finale, we still have many questions. What really happened to Caspere? Can Ray and Ani get justice for Paul? Also, what in the world is happening with Frank at the moment? Him lighting up the kitchen was effective imagery (plus he wants to keep all of his assets from being taken away from him), but he has been far too isolated from the group.

Usually, we advocate for a show having fewer episodes to keep there from being too much filler. However, in this case it feels pretty clear that “True Detective” is really biting off far more at the moment than they can chew in eight episodes. We do enjoy seeing some pieces come together, but the biggest flaw of the hour is that it tried to tell too much story in too little time.

Here’s the question you should ask yourself going into the finale: Does the intensity and the suspense of the past episode or two help to make up for the first half of the season? It’s redeeming the season slowly, but we’re not ready to proclaim it great yet. Grade: B.

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