The latest edition digs into some unexpected places.
HBO’s True Detective
Season 1, Episode 8: “Form and Void”
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the penultimate episode, “After You’ve Gone” – click here
* For a review of the Season 2 premiere, “The Western Book of the Dead” – click here
The Season 1 finale holds many hideous delights.
Errol Childress (Glenn Fleshler) keeps his father strapped to a bed in a tiny shack, the walls written over with red paint in rambling mad words. The whole place is a horrorshow. It’s an old plantation-style home in the Louisiana bayou, out in some swamp. Inside the house Errol’s madness unfolds. He talks in a British accent now. He and his sister Betty (Ann Dowd) roam the decrepit home and talk in strange terms. She wants to “make flowers” while her brother’s concerned with “leaving [his] mark.” Their relationship is incestuous and deeply disturbing.
Former Detectives Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) have Steve Geraci (Michael Harney) in their clutches. They force him to watch Marie Fontaneau on that tape from 1990. This is where Geraci comes in having come into contact with the reports. Links up to a Sheriff Childress. All those blood ties. To keep Steve from doing anything crazy, Rust has his bar owner buddy Robert Doumain (Johnny McPhail) pop a couple shots into his car from far away. Sniper style. That and some backup. From having the tape planted on him, to other little bits.
But all the while Errol is still out near all kinds of children. He’s a painter, as well as a gardener. So he does lots of jobs, all over the place. Perfect for a serial killer like him. Yet Rust and Marty are biting at the heels of his evil deeds. They’re fleshing out the Childress family tree. And then a moment of genius strikes Marty. He stares at the green ears of the supposed spaghetti man who chased that girl years ago. After a bit of talk he wonders if maybe this guy is a painter. He finds a house that’d recently been painted. Perhaps those green ears on the scarred man meant he painted that same house. They interview an old woman who owned the house. She recalls the man that did the painting had scars on his face. They get deeper into the Childress history to find the father of Errol, William.
What I love about this detail is that this is what can often happen in REAL police work. Little details that go unnoticed could break open the longest of cold cases. So it’s nice that Nic Pizzolatto went for something organic and genuine for the way they come to start following this thread. Good writing. Fun to watch.
Both the former detectives take measures to ensure if anything happens to them, the truth will come out. Either way. Cohle has his sniper buddy with the tape, all that. For his part Hart goes to see Dt. Papania (Tory Kittles) who sort of agrees to help out in the event they need it. Then off the duo go, into the belly of the beast.
Out to the old home of William Childress they head. Rust tastes that old psychosphere rearing its head. Then once they arrive the macabre fun starts. Betty answers the door when they come knocking. But nothing feels right, certainly not to Cohle: “This is the place,” he gravely tells his partner. Marty winds up inside with Betty, as Rust has a brief run-in with Errol. The terror starts. Chasing Errol into the the deeper parts of the big plantation Rust finds himself almost in another world. The filthy house is one thing. The creepy, sprawling grounds of the old slave quarters from the plantation is spooky.
When Marty discovers the withered corpse of William Childress, he rushes off to find his friend going further into the world of Errol, the mad king. There’s an almost never ending number of hallways through the old tunnels. Each littered with symbols made out of wood, hanging objects of some eerie significance. All those markers of Carcosa and the Yellow King.
Through a tunnel of arched trees Rust comes to a skeleton, draped in yellow robes, on a makeshift altar. Then overhead he seems to see a black spiral in the sky, swirling. Out of nowhere Errol attacks him viciously. Rust takes a knife in the gut, tearing him apart. As the serial killer rips Rust’s stomach to shreds he says, creepy as all hell: “Take off your mask.” The two fight in brutal fashion once Cohle manages a few headbutts. Bleeding out, about to be killed, he’s saved by Marty who just about meets a savage death. Right before Rust pops one shot into Errol’s head, blowing his face apart.
Errol: “Come on inside, little priest. To the right, little priest. Take the bride‘s path. This is Carcosa.”
Afterwards, Dts. Gilbough and Papania figure out the Childress family were up to some wild shit. They’re still trying to piece it all together. At least the Dora Lange case is finally solved, though there are plenty of child molesting killers still lurking there in Louisiana, as the Tuttle family escaped without a scratch. For now, Marty sees his family and gets to enjoy at least one happy moment. Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), the girls, it all touches him especially after getting so close to death. Then there’s Rust, whose life has been changed in a drastic fashion. In the darkness of nearing death he spent time with his father, his daughter, all in some other place. He sees that there’s something else about life other than the pessimistic view he’s lived with so long. Now, he embraces the idea he might see his daughter again. “It was like I was a part of everything I ever loved,” Rust tells Marty with tears in his eyes. An amazing scene between two men who’ve been through hell and back together. Even though they stopped their evil and paid their debt, the greater evil still exists. The ending is slightly optimistic, though not entirely. Just in a microcosm. And that’s life.
To me this was the perfect way to end Season 1. A spectacular finale that gives us equal doses of the interesting existential ideas of Cohle and the macabre, creepiness expected out of the serial killer with his Yellow King/Carcosa references (ties into Robert W. Chambers’ book of short stories The King in Yellow). Loved this season. While I’m in the minority, I also loved the second one, too. Those recaps/reviews are available over here.
HBO’s True Detective
Season 1, Episode 7: “After You’ve Gone”
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the previous episode, “Haunted Houses” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Form and Void” – click here
In 2012, Detectives Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) are meeting up at a bar to talk. It’s been ages. Since their falling out over Rust having sex with Maggie (Michelle Monaghan).
Well the relationship is as contentious as ever. Marty is a little fatter than before, but has aged decently. Rust, on the other hand, looks like ten miles of bad dirt road. We do know that Rust’s been working fishing boats, tending bar, getting stoned, drunk. “A man remembers his debts,” Cohle tells Hart. He knows the Dora Lange killer, that Louisiana sprawling serial killer is still out there. Of course Marty’s reluctant to believe in anything Rust says. He buys into some of the stories Dts. Gilbough and Papania (Michael Potts/Tory Kittles) are reeling off. But his old partner, despite any of his craziness – and that’s nothing new – makes a good case. And eventually Marty breaks down.
They go out to Cohle’s storage shed. There’s nothing suggesting he’s a killer out there. Only the obvious artefacts of a man still consumed with a job undone. He is consistently, constantly plagued by the fact he and Marty couldn’t nail the real killer when they found Reggie Ledoux. Now, Marty sees that there’s something to Rust and his talk. It’s funny – up until he sees everything, Marty actually holds his gun and prepares for the worst. Right up to the last second. Inside the words YELLOW KING, SCARS, CARCOSA are spray painted on the wall. Pictures everywhere, sketches and photographs. Police reports, maps. The Tuttle schools marked off on one large map of Louisiana. Rust talks about when Light of the Way opened in ’88, accusations of child molestation. He tracked down a ladyboy named Johnny Joanie a.k.a Toby (Dave Davis) that had been there. He was abused. Johnny tells Rust about “animal faces” and a guy with “bad scars around his mouth” – more of the key words in the lexicon of the investigation. Cohle goes on talking more and more, which only draws Marty into the whole idea.
We begin connecting earlier images in past episodes to the serial killings, some of what Cohle has tracked down. Rust discovered Courir de Mardi Gras, a special type of the celebration involving odd symbolism, masks, et cetera. We’re starting to understand that this killer is steeped in Louisiana history. Whoever it is, he had a “real good time” particularly after Katrina when everything was in disarray.
The pièce de résistance? Rust was the one who broke into Bill Lee Tuttle’s (Jay O. Sanders) place those few years ago. What he found was shocking. First, a load of pictures – a girl blindfolded, antlers on her head. Then, even worse, a videotape. On it recorded is a hideous ritual. Men in masks, a girl with the antlers on her head crying. Then we only see her laid down, legs spread, before Marty’s face is all we see; his reaction speaks louder than anything on that tape ever could. He can’t even watch the rest, though Rust had to simply to see if anybody took of their mask; they didn’t. This one vicious moment is what truly grasps the family man Marty Hart. He’s now willing to fully believe in his former friend and partner.
What I dig most in this episode is seeing how far, or how low, these guys have come. Certainly Marty’s got his business, Hart Investigative Solutions. Although they aren’t exactly booming, as it seems. At home, he sits and eats alone, TV dinners and the like. And Rust, well, he’s mostly the same. Drinking, working in a little bar. Wasting away. In this scene we’re able to see how both of them, in their own ways, have been affected terribly by their inability to find Dora Lange’s killer, not capable of stopping all those killings that are clearly still going on. Even though Rust is the one whose life has been completely devoured, Marty’s not happy either. Just, as usual, incapable of admitting that to himself. What’s apparent is that both these men need to solve that case which evades them all these years. They further discuss what made them walk away from the job. Neither of them fully divulges, for the time being.
So Marty starts helping Cohle. He pretends to be writing a “true crime” book, weaselling a drop of information out of friends in the Police Department. Missing Persons stuff, and other things. Naturally since Katrina things are in a bit of a mess, but it’s all sitting there, waiting to be looked through. They find themselves searching out Ledoux relatives. One of them tells the detectives about a man with scars. It visibly shakes the guy. As a kid he met the guy and felt strangely about the way he looked at him. Creepy.
Rust: “Life‘s barely long enough to get good at one thing”
Marty: “If that long”
Rust: “Yeah, so be careful what you get good at.”
The detectives go to see a woman named Miss Delores (Carol Sutton) who once worked for the Tuttle family. With a few questions, Rust manages to coax a bit of information out of the frail, old woman. She talks about how Tuttle had kids that weren’t officially his, that he got bored of women easily. When the mention of scars comes up she reveals the boy was scarred by his father; he was part of the Childress family branch. Suddenly, Miss Delores gets quiet and doesn’t want to talk much. She then asks: “You know Carcosa?” Ah, the symbolism of the killer comes out more. “Death is not the end,” she almost warns Rust in cryptic fashion. Something has brought a plague on anyone connected to the Tuttles, as so easily can be seen through Delores. Crazy as she is, part of it makes sense.
In other news, former pain in the ass Steve Geraci (Michael Harney) might know something. He’s now a Sheriff, more pull and weight behind him. That starts getting the detectives thinking about chatting with Geraci. Off the books. With a car battery and jumper cables. So Marty gets out golfing with the guy, asking questions trying to smooth the info out normally. When he believes that Geraci’s lying, Rust and his jumper cables are at the ready.
Rust and Marty finally get to the truth about the latter walking away from the job, as well as the truth about why Cohle came back. In his last days, Marty saw a crime scene where a tweaker tried drying his baby off in a microwave. Fucking savage. So he left the job. And Rust, he’s driven by duty. He needs this to end, in order to be able “tie it off” and be done with all the violence of his life. They both need it. The boys get Geraci and begin their efforts to figure out what he knows.
At episode’s end, Detectives Gilbough and Papania talk to a gardener mowing a cemetery. He’s the one Rust talked to back in ’95 at Light of the Way. He has scars all along the bottom of his jaw, around the sides of his face. Also notice he’s mowing the lawn strangely in a circle, just like that spiral tattoo we see crop up so often. The secrets that hide in the bayous of Louisiana are many. This is one of them. That serial killer is lurking just underneath everyone’s noses.
An amazing penultimate Season 1 episode. The finale – “Form and Void” – is poised to give us a spectacular ending. Solid lead-up here. Looking forward to seeing the killer revealed more before we come to the inevitable showdown with the true detectives.
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.
HBO’s True Detective
Season 1, Episode 5: “The Secret Fate of All Life”
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the previous episode, “Who Goes There” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Haunted Houses” – click here
1995: Detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) now have one of the Iron Crusaders, Ginger (Joseph Sikora), in their grasp. This is a way in to figure out where Reggie Ledoux (Charles Halford) is holed up, cooking meth. Cohle has Ginger arrange a meeting with DeWall Ledoux, cousin and cook partner to Reggie. They get together at a bar, but DeWall doesn’t even like the look of Rust: “I can see your soul at the edges of your eyes. It‘s corrosive, like acid. You got demons, little man. And I don‘t like your face, it makes me wanna do things to it.” He refuses. However, you know that ain’t going to stop someone like him, or Marty. They tail DeWall.
2012: Detectives Gilbough and Papania (Michael Potts/Terry Kittles) are edging towards something, but are reluctant to give in and let Rust take a look at the files on their recent murder, the one suggesting a serial killer is still roaming the state.
Back to ’95.
Out in the the bayous of Louisiana, the two detectives discover a compound where DeWall and Reggie cook their meth, hide out from the world. Rust’s early life with a survivalist father comes in handy, as the place is heavily booby trapped to the outside world. There are also strange wooden structures, little trinkets strung up and left about the land. Very spooky stuff.
In 2012, Gilbough and Papania question what exactly happened at the compound. Obviously, nothing panned out as planned. And we see the conflicting stories of what happened. Rust and Marty give the two detectives a story they’ve held to for nearly two decades. That is, what really happened is explained away through a supposed gunfight that went down. So what actually went down?
During the off-the-books ’95 investigation, Hart and Cohle capture Reggie, as the larger DeWall tries escaping. Reggie talks about how “time is a flat circle” and speaks of “black stars” – these are becoming part of the lexicon of True Detective‘s first season. Things get especially tense once Marty finds two kidnapped, likely abused children inside cowering in the dark. He comes back out to where Rust is reluctantly listening to the madness of Reggie, and then Marty blows the guy’s face off. Oh, and DeWall, he steps on one of the homemade booby traps, blowing himself to bits.
After everything, the tried and true detectives do their best to fire off AK-47 rounds, to set the place up looking like a real gunfight erupted between them and the suspects. Tricky stuff. Although they earn themselves promotions (well, Mary did), commendations, and all that jazz. Just another bit of guilt to weigh them down.
Reggie: “You‘re in Carcosa now. With me. He sees you.”
Around 2002 the Hart family is back together, mostly, as Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) takes Marty back. For now. Their daughter’s causing lots of trouble now being found having sex with a couple older boys in a car. Marty isn’t above handling that in his old ways, either. He does the whole family disservice by calling his own daughter “Captain of the varsity slut team” – as if he’s the one to talk.
As for Rust, he’s back in the dating game seeing a woman named Laurie (Elizabeth Reaser) and trying to live a half normal life. He finds himself back in the interrogation rooms, the box man working his magic. Only he comes up against a man hoping to make a deal. He mentions the Dora Lange case, that the murderer is still out there. The serial killer still kills. Then he drops the name “Yellow King” and that puts all sorts of fire in Rust’s belly. Before anything can come of it the guy winds up killing himself in jail. Or, that’s the story, and the PD is sticking to it. Rust tracks down a call from a payphone that went to the dead prisoner before his death. Nobody else except Cohle believes there’s more to it.
Again, notice in 2012 that Rust lines up his five little beer can men, much like those five men surrounding little Dora in the picture at her mother’s place. This reoccurring image of five comes up time and time again.
What we come to understand in 2012 is that Dts. Gilbough and Papania suspect Cohle has been leading Hart since their original investigation, that he’s been orchestrating the murders. The Rev. Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders) apparently died right after Rust showed up back in Louisiana. Despite whatever tore them apart, Marty isn’t happy to hear these guys are taking a run at Cohle. As for Rust, after he’s accused by the detectives he walks out.
During ’95, Cohle found himself at Light of the Way, one of the rundown schools, trying to piece together bits and pieces. Anything at all. He comes across more of the strange stick figures lying around, the makeshift ornaments. The symbolic nature of the serial killer only gets deeper with each new chapter.
Another great, whopper of an episode. The end is fantastic. But just the entire thing was excellent, exciting, mysterious. Lots more to come. Next up is “Haunted Houses” and that holds more secrets and lies and wildness to indulge.
HBO’s True Detective
Season 1, Episode 4: “Who Goes There”
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Locked Room” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Secret Fate of All Life” – click here
In 1995, Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) go to the prison to visit Dora Lange’s husband Charlie (Brad Carter). They tell him about Reggie Ledoux (Charles Halford) likely having killed her. He’s not happy. He tells the detectives about Reggie being a chemist of sorts, inside and outside of prison. Also, he claims Reggie talked about The Yellow King, Carcosa, that there were child sacrifices and “so much good killing.” A spiral tattoo, even. Too many strange things. Stranger still, they connect with tiny bits that Rust and Marty haven’t yet fully put together.
But it isn’t only the case that’s making things difficult. Marty deals with the fallout between him and Lisa Tragnetti (Alexandra Daddario). As in the fallout from him breaking his way into her home, attacking the man with whom she was having sex. Insane, really. He’d be up on charges if he weren’t a cop. Now, Marty is playing with fire. She feels disrespected, and that can’t mean anything good. At the office, Marty acts like the man, as he and Rust let everyone in on the Ledoux situation. He’s suspect numero uno. Another guy, Tyrone Weems (Todd Giebenhain), is someone connected to Reggie, so naturally he’s someone they want to find. When they talk to his mother, this leads them to his girl, which further and finally leads them closer.
For those who don’t know, writer Nic Pizzolatto plays the bartender in the scene where Marty acts like an asshole at the strip club bar. He’s wearing a KISS ME I’M AN ASSHOLE shirt if it isn’t obvious enough.
Problem is Marty fucked with the wrong girl. At home, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) and the kids are gone. Only a note left. Seems young Lisa went to see Marty’s wife, let her in on what’s been going on. Y’know, extra-maritally. This puts quite the curve in the plan Marty had in mind for his life. The one where he pretends to his wife that he isn’t a cheating, lying piece of shit. While he is a great detective, a good man in the sense of being an honest husband, a faithful one, he is not. Not in the slightest. In 2012 with Dts. Gilbough and Papania (Michael Potts/Tory Kittles) we see more of Marty trying to justify to them – but mostly himself – that he’s a good man, underneath it all. And essentially, he does so through his work as detective. That’s his one and only redemption having obviously destroyed his own family life. Back to ’95, Hart tracks down Tyrone Weems and gets more info on Ledoux: the guy cooks meth exclusively to one client, the Iron Crusaders, a biker gang.
And this connects into the former life of Rust Cohle, a.k.a Crash when he’s undercover. This means there’s a way in, off the books, for Marty and Rust to get the drop on Ledoux. Hopefully. What I love most here is how Cohle keeps a lockbox of stuff from his old life undercover, right there. Can fit it under the couch, the bed. Wherever. Ready to come out at a moment’s notice. This gives us a look inside the other Rust and Marty, the detectives willing to cross the line of morality when absolute necessary, even if it’s not totally necessary, and do what needs doing. The cover story for what happens next is that Rust has a sick father, he took time off in ’95 to go see him. Both detectives tell Dts. Gilbough and Papania this same story in 2012.
What really happened?
Crash Cole doesn’t only go back undercover, he goes DEEP undercover. He makes fake track marks in his arm to look sincere, but snorts very real cocaine to get in the mood, smuggling some out of lockup to make things appear above board to the targets of his in the Iron Crusaders. At a big party, he meets with Ginger (Joseph Sikora). Perfect time, as Ginger has a job that requires someone just like Crash. With Marty worrying constantly about the state of his family and his marriage, Cohle is headed into the lion’s den with a bunch of racist bikers.
In this scene we’re treated to the single greatest tracking shot ever in television history; a whole six minutes which brought this series an Emmy, or two. Cary Fukunaga makes magic happen. We literally ride along with McConaughey’s Cohle in the face of danger, moving through the hood as the Iron Crusaders involve undercover Crash in a terribly dysfunctional scheme that goes bonkers haywire in the middle of it all.
The whole thing kicks off with Crash proving himself all over again, ingesting more drugs than some normal folks might be able to handle, sitting in with Ginger, Mitch (Joshua Leonard) and other hardcore bikers. When they first get into the target area, things go smooth. Shortly afterwards the whole job goes sideways. One of the Crusaders blasts a black man they’d taken hostage, and all hell breaks loose quick. Trying to keep things from getting completely fucked Crash Cohle is forced to reveal himself to Ginger, taking the biker as his own hostage. He gets on the phone to Marty, who waits not far off. Just in the nick of time, floating right beyond harm’s reach, Cohle gets himself and Ginger to the car, then Marty takes them out of there, as police helicopters and gunshots make the place sound like a ghetto symphony. Now they’ve got a means to an end; that end is Ledoux.
One of the greatest episodes, if not the greatest of all, in the entire series. Fukunaga does a lot of great stuff, but almost none better than this six minute sequence, this feat of filmmaking. Took hundreds of crew to pull off. Makeup artists had to apply touch ups and bits of character work within seconds, as cameras focused themselves on other things. A truly amazing bit of television. Next episode is titled “The Secret Fate of All Life” and continues us into the second half of Season 1. Things are really going to get deep now.
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.