In many ways, last week's episode was the climax of the season, with our main three detectives infiltrating one of the mythical hooker parties visited by men of great power, wealth and influence. “Black Maps and Motel Rooms” dealt with the ramifications of their discoveries and started to put some of the pieces of the fragmented conspiracy surrounding the season together. Although there are many questions left to be answered, the plot does seem to be much clearer.
Much of this episode was spent preparing for the giant conflict that will likely take place in the finale. Semyon makes preparations for his wife to flee the country with him, while Bezzerides sends her family into hiding. Velcoro and Bezzerides are also forced to go into hiding, framed by powerful men within the power structures of California for crimes that they did not commit. This conspiracy finally has a more personal significance to them, since their very freedom depends on catching the men responsible for the growing web of corruption chocking Vinci.
Although most of the episode was spent in quiet contemplation and plotting, there was a surprise at the end with the death of Officer Paul Woodrugh. At face value, his death makes sense: Woodrugh was always the third wheel in the investigation. Bezzerides and Velcoro are really the main partnership and have excellent chemistry. Killing Paul eliminates a rather ineffectual character, and clears the deck for the finale, allowing the show to focus more on Bezzerides and Velcoro.
However, Woodrugh’s death rather disappointed me. Multiple episodes focused on his struggles with his war trauma and his sexuality so I expected that there would be some kind of cathartic ending or resolution in the finale. Instead, Woodrugh is killed in the penultimate episode, without a resolution and without accomplishing much. I feel like his entire character arc was rather a waste of time and the series would have been better and more compact without him.
All in all, this episode accomplished its main job: setting up for the finale. I enjoyed the fact that the conspiracy is finally clearing up, but this episode itself was not especially bad or especially good. I await the finale eagerly.
Click here to read Neel Shah's review of season one of True Detective.