HBO’s True Detective
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Locked Room”
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the previous episode, “Seeing Things” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Who Goes There” – click here
With new leads in 1995, Detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) have gotten themselves to a travelling preacher named Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham). The church they tracked down at the end of last episode had the mysterious antlered woman painted inside on one of its walls. More than we’ve seen already Cohle lets us into his anti-religious worldview. Not that he’s wrong, but part of what Cohle represents is the complete parallel of the people who are on their high horse of religion; same condescending way he stands above the religious, judging everyone who worships. Part of him is incredibly right, he just dives too deep into his own head sometimes. But indeed, his lament for the “fairy tales” of the supposed greater good is one many of us harbour in ourselves. I do.
Cohle and Hart talk with Theriot, whose fan club includes a man named Burt (Douglas M. Griffin) that seems a bit suspicious to some. At least until they figure out, all but surely, they’re looking in the wrong direction; he can’t even come close to another person without defecating all over himself, plus he had his balls cut off in prison. This only leads them further down the rabbit hole. In 2012, Cohle ominously confirms: “Nothing is ever over.”
One interesting bit from ’95 – Dora Lange was seen with a “tall man” who had a “strange face… shiny around his jaw” sort of like someone who survived a fire.
The further divide between Rust and Marty opens with every episode. What’s interesting is the exemplification of the series’ title, True Detective: despite any and all of their faults as men, Rust and Marty are incredible detectives. Although the serial killer they chased in ’95 eluded them, even up to the point where Dts. Gilbough and Papania (Michael Potts/Tory Kittles) interviewed them in 2012, they are true detectives. Our first inkling of what truly tore these guys apart down the line starts in ’95, as Marty comes home to his wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) chatting with ole Rust. Turns out the trusty partner came over to mow his buddy’s lawn. And Marty does not like that, nor does he appreciate any of the effort. It’s ironic because there’s nothing to suggest Cohle is trying to do anything untoward here. Yet the way his partner acts might have put that whole situation on an entirely different trajectory; check back on that once you’ve seen the whole first season, as it’s intriguing to watch these episodes over with the knowledge of what happens later.
At the Hart house Papa Marty has to talk with his girls about something difficult. Young Audrey’s been drawing things – sexual things – that got her in trouble. Where did she learn that? Perhaps it’s harmless. This is just one of the red herrings we find amongst the first season. The dolls, the drawings – little pieces of character which come in later episodes, set in 2012 – these lead many to believe there’s something else going on other than the crimes. Like Marty should be paying more attention to what’s going on within his own family. You might start wondering if there’s a culture of abuse happening in their city.
Maggie: “Girls always know before boys”
Marty: “Why is that?”
Maggie: “Because they have to”
I dig the title of this episode, “The Locked Room”, as it takes on a few meanings. For one, you’ve got the idea of a locked-room mystery, a sub-genre of detective fiction. Then we’ve also got the idea of the detectives themselves, in that they spend much of their time in locked rooms interrogating suspects. In particular, Cohle is a great “box man” who knows all about the locked room – another usage being the mind, itself a room locked away from everyone else except the person with the key.
Searching out more about the scars and the tall man, Cohle and Hart find a lot of dead ends. Mostly, they get deeper and deeper into the case. For Marty, it’s easy to shake off, though he uses it as an excuse to cheat on his wife, to skip out on his family when he wants. For Rust, it weighs on him. He finds it hard to live life, unlike his partner. He can’t be normal like everyone else, it actually affects him. Because ultimately he feels too much. He knows the pain of being human – the existential one – better than most. While Maggie tries setting Cohle up with a woman, Marty’s busy still flirting around Lisa Tragnetti (Alexandra Daddario). Marty is jealous; out with his wife, Cohle and his blind date, he sees Lisa with another man and that violently enrages him. Oh, the hypocrisy. It’s deafening. We also discover more of Maggie and Cohle talking, subtly, innocently leading either towards more trouble or towards a resolution for the Hart family troubles. You’ll have to let that play out and see.
Also something worth noticing is that in 2012, while talking away endlessly to the detectives, Cohle starts carving up his Lone Star beer cans into men. In the following episodes you’ll notice it’s very similar to the circle of men surrounding a young Dora in the picture at Mrs. Kelly’s place in “Seeing Things” where they’re on horseback, sporting odd costumes. Keep that in mind, these five men. It’s a reoccurring symbol.
Marty: “You ever wonder if you’re a bad man?”
Rust: “No, I don‘t wonder. The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.”
In ’95, Cohle eventually stumbles across another possible victim of their serial killer – Rianne Olivier. She was found washed up onshore by a river, deemed accidental death. Except she has a spiral tattoo, same as Dora. The connections slowly fall into place, but there’s still so much ground to cover, both figuratively and literally. When Rust and Marty start figuring out more about this latest victim, they find out she was with a man named Reggie Ledoux (Charles Halford), a real piece of work, a bad seed. They also make the connection of Rianne going to Light of the Way; another way to piece this all together, as it links into the Tuttle family.
At the Light of the Way school, a gardener cuts the lawn. Cohle asks him a few questions, seeing as how he covers a few of the properties belonging to the church. He doesn’t have much to say to Rust, other than the basics. Marty gets a call about Ledoux; his cellmate in jail as of late is Charlie Lange (Brad Carter). More of a bridge to all the other avenues in play. Well, there’s more to it than that. Out in the fields somewhere, cooking meth, Ledoux wanders with a gas mask on, machete in hand, and in 2012 Marty mentions a “gunfight” to the eager detectives interviewing him. Lots of things to come. Lots of dangerous, interesting, terrifying things: “Like a lot of dreams there‘s a monster at the end of it.”
Another solid episode. The final shot is one of intense magnitude. I remember when it first aired I was dying to see the next chapter, so perfect to end on.
The whole season is spectacular. Next up is “Who Goes There” – one of the best episodes of all containing the single greatest tracking shot in television history. Thank you, HBO! And thank you Fukunaga/Pizzolatto; a fantastic collaboration.