HBO’s True Detective
Season 1, Episode 6: “Haunted Houses”
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Secret Fate of All Life” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “After You’ve Gone” – click here
In 2002, Dt. Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) deals with the two older guys his sixteen-year-old daughter Audrey (Erin Moriarty). And not in the legal way. He visits them in their holding cell, prompting them into a little one-way ass kicking from ole Marty. He doesn’t like their “patronising” tone, as they don’t understand with whom they’re dealing. Not just an angry father. An angry father with a chip on his shoulder for men too much like himself. Having a daughter and being a man like Marty, it ain’t so easy. He sees these boys treating women – his daughter specifically – the way he treats women, and he can’t manage to admit to himself he’s doing that. Thus, he takes that guilt and frustration out on these young dudes. Although he vomits later confirming he has a slight bit of soul left.
2012: Dts. Gilbough and Papania (Michael Potts/Terry Kittles) are still digging in trying to figure out more about Cohle back in ’95. They also start sniffing around Marty’s ex, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan). They want to know what broke the two detectives apart, what she might know about Cohle from 2002.
During 2002, Marty reconnected with the prostitute he once met up at the bunny ranch in ’95, Beth (Lili Simmons). Dissatisfied with family life, the normal sway of things, the married man falls into another clandestine affair. Even worse is the fact that back in ’95 Cohle asked if Marty had been making a “down payment” on Beth, as he slipped her some money and told her to do something else; a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Meanwhile, Cohle started tracking down more cases that link back to the Light of the Way, Queen of Angels, Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders). He finds a load of broken people in the wake of this school. Perhaps things weren’t so religious as they seemed on the outside. Later, he comes across the former preacher Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham) whose experience with the Tuttle-funded schools didn’t exactly end wonderfully. He came into knowledge of some shady, pederast activity – “accusations of children being interfered with” – that landed him out of a job, out on his ass, drinking instead of preaching.
The last case Marty and Rust worked was a woman nicknamed the “Marshland Medea” who killed her own children. In 2002, Marty reveals he believes part of Rust breaking, walking off the job was due to this woman, the intensity and darkness of the case. Finally made him snap. Well, that and other things. But certainly it could not have helped. Either way, we see Cohle – a man who unwillingly lost a child – dealing, almost gently (until the end of their interrogation) with a woman who willingly killed her own, and more than one. The big break is actually between Cohle and Hart. They further divide, as Rust finds himself getting sick of how people around those parts seem to “eat [their] fuckin‘ young” and not care about it. Cohle is stuck on believing the Dora Lange killer is at large while Marty’s happy to live life, cheat on his wife, neglect his family, and pretend like he’s a saint.
At some point in 2002 Cohle winds up at a psychiatric facility where one of Ledoux’s victims, still living, is in a kind of catatonic state; one that he and Marty saved from that backwoods compound. Though she’s lucid enough to talk with him a bit. She mentions another “giant” man “with the scars” being “the worst” of all. However, after this she freaks out sending Cohle away, and likely getting him in trouble with his superiors already pissed with him digging into the past. Major Leroy Salter (Paul Ben-Victor) isn’t too chuffed. Whereas Cohle believes there’s still a serial killer loose, no one else sees the forest for the trees.
In 2012, Dts. Gilbough and Papania are stuck on Rust being the one that broke into Tuttle’s place, and possibly who did him in. They’re unable to figure out anything else. They see Cohle as the one responsible for all of it. Marty has enough and walks out on them.
But back to 2002 first, before we see any more. When Maggie finds clothes in the wash, just Marty’s, and sees he’s in the shower, she looks at his phone. What does she find? Torrid text messages and pictures from Beth. For the time being, Maggie says nothing. This woman has taken some shit and swallowed it with a smile.
While Marty’s family falls apart, Rust kept on looking throughout 2002. He talked to Billy Lee Tuttle himself. Trying to track down old records, personnel, anything he can. Because of the various schools shutting down things got plenty scattered. Convenient. Plus, the private institutions all keep things nice and locked tight.
After Major Salter discovers Cohle is still out pushing the old Lange case, talking with Tuttle, this does not turn out well for the staunch detective. He’s put out with a suspension. Not good. This only keeps him stuck at home trying to figure the whole thing out himself. Doesn’t help that Maggie shows up. She decides the best way of getting back at her husband is to do the one unforgivable thing: fuck his partner. She and Cohle have sex. Then he starts to piece together she’s only doing it to pierce her husband’s heart. Rightfully so, but that’s using him as a means to an end, rather than an end in and of himself. She didn’t want to use a stranger. She did it all to get the maximum reaction out of Marty. And that kills Cohle, who already feels guilty for being with her. Now, it’s a whole other thing. The trail of broken hearts and broken lives piles up along the way.
And then Marty finds out. This is the big event which finally tears the two detectives apart, forever tarnishing their relationship.
On suspension Cohle goes in to collect some papers. He and Marty meet, violently, in the parking lot outside. They finally have their fist fight that’s been brewing so long. Afterwards, Rust quits and walks out: “Fuck this and fuck this world. Nice hook, Marty.”
In 2012, nobody admits to Dts. Gilbough and Papania why the two detectives split.
What’s more interesting is that on his way home, Marty gets pulled over by Rust. They haven’t seen each other in a long, long time. When they go to catch up over a beer, Marty makes sure he’s got his gun handy. Who knows where this is about to go.
The thing I dig about this ending is that we see a great shot of Rust’s truck, the taillight still busted from his fight a decade ago with Marty. He hasn’t fixed it. Just another symbol of Rust’s inability to move past those events, his partnership with Marty and their not finished duty of finding Dora’s killer. A great little touch to top off an already solid chapter.
A great episode, as is the usual. More solid writing, character development. The next episode, leaning into the last couple of the season, is titled “After You’ve Gone” and it brings us closer to a resolution, or at least an ending. Whatever that may be.