True Detective Season 2 Episode 7 Review: Vinci Confidential
Last week’s orgy espionage finale laid the foundations for high tension and shocking twists to be produced in the remaining episodes. And luckily True Detective is doing just that as episode 7 Black Maps and Motel Rooms delivered some of the season’s most memorable moments: it was akin to a James Ellroy novel, despite the odd hiccup with pacing.
Many of the problems I had with this season were almost straightened out this week. For most of the season, Frank Semyon seemed like your typical wanting-to-go-straight gangster. With his relentless talks with Jordan Semyon about having a child, and his sentimental monologues about damp ceilings, there wasn’t much reason to care about a passive heavy handed character like this. It made it hard to see where his plot was going, or if it was even necessary for him to have a plot. However, this week turned Semyon into a sympathetic yet strong character. The revelations of Blake being the one who gave Semyon the name of Velcoro’s wife’s rapist and that Caspere being ready to turn on Semyon regardless if he died or not, revealed two things: Semyon did have good intentions towards Velcoro, and he is a good man, albeit one in extraordinary circumstances. Those revelations put Semyon, as a character, into perspective now; he’s a common man being pulled back by his past and reputation. But having sympathy for Semyon can only go so far, he needs to actually take action to fix this to be commendable and memorable, but finally, through weeks of him standing around not taking action, he did it!
Burning down the casino and braving up to Osip Agranov are strong evidence Semyon is at his best when his back is to the wall, and the same goes for Vince Vaughn’s performance. Taking action now means his character is delivering on the potential his character originally had.
Even Paul Woodrugh filled the potential he had as both a tragic war ‘hero’ and his importance to the plot this week. I’ve been worried for a few episodes now that Woodrugh was becoming a third wheel, but considering now we know police chief Holloway and Woodrugh’s old Black Mountain crew are working for the guys at the parties, his sexuality finally related to the investigation, but in the most tragic way possible. It left a grim look into the future of his fiancée and his child, something that Pizzolatto uses a lot in his work: a grim outlook, but it was mighty effective here, leaving me feeling empty. If only Woodrugh had remembered to check his corners!
It may have been a surprise Woodrugh died, but across town there weren’t any surprises. Ray Velcoro and Ani Bezzerides getting intimate has been coming since Velcoro saved her from an oncoming truck in episode three. And in a way it’s quite important for their growth on the audience that they did get together finally. We both see them as tough but lonely figures, good people who just need a sense of trust to realize their worth in the world. So now Velcoro and Bezzerides are together, possibly seeing them happier allows the audience to see another side to them, a side the audience might want to keep alive. It means the finale has added stakes as now both need to survive for each other to be happy. And I’m glad Pizzolatto decided to do that, both are the heart and soul of this season so it’s vital to have their lives feel important going into a nail biting finale (which is going to be ninety minutes long!)
Despite their relationship heading to new turf, I do feel it could have been handled a little, well, quicker. Let’s face it, we knew them getting together was coming at any point. It resulted in the long scene in the motel – which had them staring endlessly at each other with the occasional horrible dialogue like “You’re not a bad man,” “Yes… I am,” – feeling overlong and not complementing the fast paced action/suspense of Woodrugh’s situation.
The pace also faltered in the scene with Bezzerides and her Dad, Eliot. The scene slipped back into the heavy handed storytelling which has plagued this season with Eliot droning on about how he should have brought her up better; that she is the most innocent person he knows. We can all see that, we don’t need it to be said out loud. This kind of writing always comes off as underwritten and uninspiring, which results in their relationship feeling like that too. Thankfully that was the only moment of heavy handedness all episode, so it is improving at least.
Onto Velcoro – he didn’t have as much screen time as everyone else this episode, but it doesn’t mean his scenes were any less important. The scene with him and Semyon, for once, didn’t veer into stories of the past and how messed up everything is, it was short and to the point with both actors excellently portraying the stakes at play.
Another memorable scene – perhaps the most shocking bar Woodrugh’s – was when Velcoro went to meet Katherine Davis. I never expected her to be bumped off considering her police rank; nevertheless, it punctuated how the walls are closing in on our characters perfectly. Velcoro’s scenes rocketed along to the vital piece of missing jigsaw found at the end.
After weeks of speculation that either Irving Pitlor, Tony Chessani, Armadillo, Osip Agranov were the ones who killed Caspere, it turns out it was just an ill-timed murder which was possibly committed by Caspere’s secretary called Erica/Laura from that Hollywood film set scene in episode 3 with the help from her brother, the set photographer, as they are the two kids who were orphaned by the L.A riots diamond robbery that Caspere was involved in. It’s a curve ball for sure, but maybe a little less interesting and even jarring as one of this season’s problems has been the swarm of unremarkable side characters that we have to remember the names of. Nonetheless, it sets up an intriguing collision of forces for next week’s finale.
Special mention must also go to composer, T-Bone Burnett, who did a fantastic job with the electronic pulses which punctuated the neo-noir vibe of this episode.
On one final note: I must admit Nic Pizzolatto has proved once again he can deliver originality out of a very familiar genre. And it’s just in time because for the past couple of episodes I’ve been wondering if there was anything left in the tank for this season to surprise us, and there still might be more.
- Woodrugh became important to the story
- Semyon jolted into action
- Electric score
- Occasional overwritten scene