Monthly Archives: April 2015

True Detective. Season One, Episode 7. “After You’ve Gone” Recap & Review

“After You’ve Gone”

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Sharing the beer promised at the conclusion of episode six, Marty and Rust engage in a very awkward reunion at a nearby bar. The two play a subtle game of verbal cat-and-mouse, lobbying occasional jabs at one another, until getting down to brass tacks. Rust has returned from eight years in Alaska to finish the job, and he needs Marty’s help. Though Marty is extremely reluctant to rejoin him, Rust insists that they have a debt to pay in solving this crime (not to mention Marty’s killing of Ledoux that robbed them of potentially crucial evidence). Though still not completely committed, Marty accompanies Rust to his storage locker to continue the discussion…

Arriving at the storage locker, Marty straps himself with a gun—perhaps still suspicious of Papania and Gilbough’s suspicions that Rust is the killer. Upon walking inside, however, Marty quickly comes to understand the truth: that Rust is as committed and obsessed as ever in finding the true killer. Clues, leads, and all forms of evidence adorn every corner of the small shed—a literal manifestation of the locked room that is Rust’s mind.

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While absorbing the unnerving display of evidence, Rust further updates Marty on his progress with the case. After following a trail of charges around the Tuttle Wellspring schools, he tracked down a former student/current transvestite—Johnny Joanie. During the interview, Joanie admits that the faculty would induce the children into a “ghost sleep”—where the students would think they would be asleep—but feel awake—and still be unable to move. He further explains that the men would have animal faces, so he felt it had to be a dream. Back in the shed, Rust explains how this cult responsible for the cirmes mixes traditions of courir de Mardi Gras, Santeria, and voudon in their strange rituals accosting women and children. Despite this barrage of evidence, Marty remains convinced…until Rust shows him the tape.

Rust obtained this videotape by robbing Tuttle’s Baton Rouge residence—putting to use his skills as a former B&E man—and also acquiring incriminating photos of a young girl whose eyes have been enshrouded by a cloth. Rust finally plays the videotape for Marty, where the cult leads a young girl into their ceremony. Marty screams and shouts in witnessing the off-screen crimes of pedophilia until Rust finally turns it off. When questioned whether he killed Billy Lee, Rust denies it—believing that it was other men who found out about the robbery and killed Billy Lee before he may be blackmailed. After witnessing the horrors, Marty tacitly agrees to reform their partnership to solve the case.

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He then visits Maggie at her new palatial home, where pictures of an older Audrey and Macie are similarly found. He questions her about the Papania/Gilbough interview, and the status of his daughters, and to which she demurs mostly passive answers in reference to Rust. Nonetheless, sharp as ever, she also asks Marty if after all these years gone by, he has only come to say goodbye before finishing whatever it is he has agreed to help Rust finish. Later, Maggie visits Rust at the bar, though he remains similarly reluctant to promise that harm will not come to Marty when finishing the task at hand.

Marty and Rust set up headquarters at the former’s new P.I. offices, where Rust semi-insultingly asks if they need to worry about a lot of people coming in and out, to which Marty hilariously responds: “What do you think, Rust?”. After redecorating the office with much of the evidence found in Rust’s storage unit, the two then bond over their time in the intervening years. A moving montage plays out depicting Marty’s now very lonely life—a failed relationship, dinners and movies alone—a life much more quiet and removed for the formerly social and motivated family man who instilled so much of his identity vis-a-vis his career. Rust describes a similarly quiet and removed lifestyle—his days filled with tending bar, drinking, and working in isolation. The two share a moment of bonding in equally regretting their career choices: Marty having wanted to be a baseball player or bull rider; Rust, a painter or historian.

The next day, Marty investigates the old police department to retrieve missing persons reports from their archives under the guise of writing a book.* The two are able to track down a Jimmy Ledoux—distant relative to Reggie—at his automotive repair shop. He confesses to know very little of that side of the family which his father described as “too white for white trash”, except confessing that they always shot him with disturbing looks. The reunited detectives are also able to track down a former Tuttle housekeeper—Miss Dolores. She reveals that Sam Tuttle had a number of illegitimate children, and after some prodding from Rust, believes that the scarred man was actually a Tuttle with the surname Childress. She’s then seized by a hypnotizing spell of sorts at the memory, as her voice and speech transforms at the mention of Carcosa.

*(And in a moment of apparent meta-humor, Marty’s fake book is titled “True Crime”—“the genre not the title”, he explains).

Afterward, Marty further tracks down the fact that the Marie Fontenot missing person report “filed in error” was made by Sheriff Ted Childress in ’95—his last name now causing obvious implications as to why it was made in error. Marty also realizes that their former colleague Steve Geraci was the Deputy reporting to Childress. Moreover, they find that Geraci now serves as Sheriff of Vermillion Parish. While Rust is ready to interrogate him with jumper cables, Marty attempts to first reach out to him for a game of golf.

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On the course, Marty tries to slyly wedge out information from his former colleague, but the man remains reticent to divulge more information about handling the report to Sheriff Childress. When saying goodbye, Marty can immediately spot that Geraci is lying and calls Rust to “ready those jumper cables”. On a boat not too soon after, Geraci and Marty are enjoying their morning of fishing and beers, when the latter again begins prodding for answers. Geraci finally decides that he has had enough and refuses to say anymore, until Rust finally reveals himself with a handgun—prepared to torture him for answers.

Meanwhile, Papania and Gilbough are found wandering the bayou backwoods in search of the Church described by Rust during his interview. Without any luck, they pull over to ask a man on a lawnmower for directions. The lawnmower man informs them that the Church burned down, and then directs them toward the freeway. The two detectives drive off before the latter has even finished his sentence. Nonetheless, the lawnmower man finally stands to reveal himself to be the same lawnmower man from Episode Three—now with his beard shaved to reveal scars across the bottom of his face.

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With the interviews now gone, and the storyline now more or less rooted in the present, “After You’ve Gone” uses the reunion of the former partners within this penultimate episode to explore the lost history between Rust and Marty while rapidly advancing toward their finally uncovering the case of the Yellow King. Despite their checkered past, the two bond as only they know how—lobbying passive-aggressive insults at one another between important bits of information. Rust has been in Alaska for the past eight years, while Marty professes to have quit his drinking and become a better man. Though the two exchange insults toward one another’s physical appearances against the ravages of time, the two also seem share to share a tacit understanding of finally being led to this point—as though inevitably so. While Marty protests that he would ever help Rust again (“if you were drowning, I’d toss you a barbell”), Rust’s very simple and pointed explanation that Marty owes a debt is enough to convince him to visit Rust’s storage shed.

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Following Papania and Gilbough’s accusations that Rust may be the serial killer, Fukanaga uses the reveal of Rust’s shed to indulge in possibilities of these suspicions. Marty even withdraws a gun when entering the shed—only to stumble upon the truth of his former’s partner’s devolution over the years. The production design on this space is superb—giving the impression of a man obsessed by his job and now unhinged by social norms in a manner that seems so far removed from typical portrays of such psychology previously seen on film and television. Moreover, six previous hours of establishing this aspect of Rust’s character only help sell and lay the firm groundwork into the reveal of the shed as a space that serves as a physical embodiment of Rust’s mind–his “Locked Room” to borrow the title from Episode Three.

The intricacies of the shed help disguise the deluge of exposition that covers much of this scene recounting Rust’s retrieval of numerous, vital pieces of evidence. Rust’s breaking and entering into Tuttle’s Baton Rougere residence uses some interesting dissolves to heighten the intrigue of the moment along with his admittance that “I was aware that I might have lost my mind”. As the show has always done so well, despite the extremely dark nature of the story, the hinting as to the horror of what is on that videotape and Marty’s reaction of terror actually works so much better for allowing the viewer to imagine the crimes of these men—crimes so terrible that they compel Marty to work with Rust again despite their torrid past.

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But first, Marty must make peace with Maggie. Starting with pictures of Audrey and Macie now grown up: the former on psychiatric meds but also working as an artist; the latter teaching in Chicago for Americorps, Marty seems able to reconcile the fact that this job may end with his death. Maggie, similarly, suspects so, when she asks “Did you come to say goodbye?” And the two are able to share a peaceful goodbye of sorts, after all they’ve been though and accomplished.

Now working within Marty’s quiet P.I. office, the two former partners ask each other a bit more intimately about their lives. These sequences depicting the mens’ lonely lifestyles wrecked with regret and failure are poignant to the point of being heartbreaking. After a string of unsuccessful relationships—online or affairs—Marty has merely resigned to an existence of microwaveable dinners and John Wayne movies alone in his apartment. Rust, meanwhile, remains in a similarly depressing cycle—his entire life now resolved to either bartending, drinking, or obsessive over the case.

There’s an especially moving exchange between the two wherein they reminiscence how neither ever even wanted this career—only to find themselves decades down the line and more than competent at it. Prompting Rust’s line: “Be careful what you get good at”. Nonetheless, it’s also interesting which chosen profession either detective would have liked. Marty, of course, chose the two most traditionally masculine ideals possible: an athlete or a cowboy; while Rust, however, admits that he would have liked to be a painter or historian: “old scenes, new details”. This is interesting in light of the fact of his carrying around his “taxman” book, wherein he illustrates all the details of the scene to provide new context to what others may have missed—somewhat of an amalgamation of these alternatively desired careers.

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Marty return to the old office under the guise of writing a book offers what appears to be one of the show’s few moments of meta-humor with Marty insisting: “It’s the genre, not the title” before then investigating the numerous, archived case files. Meanwhile, the two are indeed able to find two key people that allow their progress into the case. The first is Jimmy Ledoux—a relative of Reggie and DeWall. Though embarrassed of Reggie’s name, the man nonetheless further reiterates his abhorrence toward the “Man with the Scars” that seems to unnerve everyone.

It is their second find, however, Miss Dolores—a former Tuttle housekeeper—that provides their most important lead yet. Despite their false excuse for being there, they are able to confirm their suspicions that the man with the scarred face is an illegitimate child of Sam Tuttle—one with the surname of Childress. Her sudden, startled turn and extreme change voice errs dangerously close to hammy, and it’s the one moment of the series that seems to lean on the supernatural unnecessarily and jarringly. Still, her statements that Carcosa is “a wind of invisible voice” holds some resonance for what happens in the finale—wherein the detectives hear Errol’s voice taunting them from within “Carcosa”.

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Afterward, sharing another late-night drink, the two probe deeper into the devolution of their lives. Rust (as he has always been so capable of when eliciting confessions) asks Marty again why he quit the force, and Marty finally relents in explaining. After a meth raid, wherein the criminal attempted to microwave a baby, he decided to call it quits—never wanting to see something like that again. The scene is shot with a sense of foreboding dread within those few seconds that—like with the videotape—is never marred by flooding the viewer with the dreaded imagery. Again, it’s the look on Marty’s face—keeping the corpse out of focus—that makes the visual all the more powerful. And afterward, Rust’s actual confession as to why he had to return from Louisiana to finish the job turns out to be a more sorrowful reason than even Marty’s. As Rust explains: “This [was] something I had to see to—before getting’ on with something else…My life’s been a circle of violence and degradation…I’m ready to tie it off”. The idea that Rust is ready to commit suicide after finishing the task at hand is at once both heartbreaking and a perfect set-up for his fate within the finale.

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And finally, the man with the scarred face—almost comically revealed through the arrogance of Papania and Gilbough—at last arrives within this penultimate episode. Accompanied by eerie toybox music, bathed in the golden light of a dying sunset, Errol Childress is revealed to be the lawnmower man that Rust first met in Episode Three outside the Light of the Way Academy. Removing the who-done-it at this point in time turns out to be an incredibly wise move on the part of Pizzolatto, for as the series has done excellently throughout, it both eschews traditional expectations of the crime genre in television and allows a stronger focus on character.

Characters whose fates will all finally converge in the next and final episode.

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True Detective. Season One, Episode 6. “Haunted Houses” Recap & Review

“Haunted Houses”

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Haunted Houses” opens with Marty finishing his unfinished business with Audrey from Episode Five—that is, beating up the older boys arrested with her. The guarding officer takes his leave, while the boys beg and plead for mercy, only for Marty to don black gloves and pulverize both boys—then vomit afterwards. Meanwhile, Rust continues his isolated investigation into the Tuttle Schools—interviewing another parent whose child was enrolled in a school funded by the Tuttle Wellspring program who then disappeared.

Later, amidst shopping errands at a mall, Marty looks into buying a new phone and having an afternoon beer. While at the bar, a clerk from the cell phone stores introduces herself as Beth—the same Beth that the detectives encountered at the Ranch for runaway prostitutes of which Dora Lange formerly belonged in ’95. She praises Marty for being a hero, and the two end up having sex in her apartment later that night.

Rust, however, remains focused on the case as always. He tracks down Joel Thierot—the minister from the traveling Church encountered in “The Locked Room”—and questions the now drunken and disbanded minister about his dealings with Tuttle. The former religious man feigns bureaucratic issues at first, only to crumble under Rust’s questioning. He confesses that after questioning the administration with incriminating photos of underage children found hidden within a book that he knew that his days working for Tuttle administration were over.

Back a the office, Rust is in the midst of drawing out a confession from a woman who unplugged her baby from a breathing machine. Rust also makes special note of the fact that her previous two children had also died of “SIDS”. After receiving her confession, Rust offers her the “advice” that: “The newspapers…they’re gonna be tough on you…and prison is very, very hard on prisoners who hurt kids…if you get the opportunity you should kill yourself”.

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A bit later, Rust demands Marty type up the report of the incident—citing the latter to finally confront Rust for his abnormally strange behavior of late (even by Rust standards). Rust becomes particularly aggressive, citing his successes and any of Marty’s due to him, causing a clear rift to begin to emerge between the two partners. Nonetheless, Rust questions Kelly—the girl he rescued from the Reggie LeDoux Compound—where she reluctantly reveals the presence of a third man: The Man With the Scars. The memory of his presence causes her eruption into an uncontrollable anxiety attack that incites Rust to leave and the doctors to sedate her.

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At the office, Rust explains to the new Major—Leroy (played by Spiros Vondas himself, Paul Ben-Victor)—about his theory of more missing children connected with the Tuttle Wellspring program—only to be dismissed by both the Major and Marty. Despite a warning not to pursue this, Rust interview Billy Lee Tuttle himself. Under the guise of investigating tax records, he asks Tuttle about tracking down any files, personnel, or faculty—to which the Reverend blames a flood or dodges his way around questions. Unsurprisingly, the Major quickly learns of Rust’s clandestine interview and suspends him without pay.

Back in the Hart residence, Maggie suspects that Marty is still cheating on her while doing his laundry and checks his phone to find a number of nude texts from Beth. Hoping to turn the tables on him, she goes to a bar to pick up a date—only to find herself unable to follow through. Still, after, she meets Rust at his lonely apartment and speaks about her troubles with Marty. Seconds later, the two are making love—when immediately after, Rust screams at her to get “the fuck out”. Maggie later tells Marty about her stand with Rust, flying Marty into a typical volatile rage.

The next day, Rust returns to the office for his files but Marty quickly attacks him in the parking lot. The two engage in an all-out brawl with the equal damage to both sides. In the Major’s office later, the two remain quiet about the source of the fight—prompting Rust to quit the job but not before complimenting Marty on his “nice hook”.


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The 2012 events are most interesting for their introduction to present day Maggie—remarried and more confident than ever. Perceptive to the detective’s prodding of her, Rust, and Marty, she offers answers that toe the line between truth and lying by omission—but enough to apparently satisfying Papania and Gilbough.

Marty, meanwhile, grows increasingly annoyed by the detective’s questioning of him, Rust, the implication of Tuttle’s overdose after Rust’s return, and the split between the two former partners. Marty finally decides that he has had enough and leaves the room—telling the detectives that if they call again he will not help. Driving back home, Marty realizes that Rust is the one repeatedly honking for him to pull over. He reluctantly does so, and after a decade long gap between the two, agrees to meet Rust for a beer.



Now firmly moving toward its final endgame, “Haunted Houses” is the first episode to set the stage for the series’ finale. With Rust’s interviews now over, present-day Maggie is brought forward to replace him—offering few actual answers but providing further support for the series overarching themes of false narratives. Moreover, the episode works to fill in the gaps for several major narrative elements—finally revealing the (somewhat predictable) cause for the split between the two detectives and further solidifying Rust’s strong suspicions toward Tuttle and his connection with the missing kids, Dora Lange, and the Yellow King.

The episode opens with Marty in quite disturbing fashion, as, yet again; he uses his police powers to fulfill personal impulses of exacting revenge on the boys caught with Audrey. Marty’s quote, as well, in justifying his behavior to the boys in saying: “a man’s game charges a man’s price…take that way from this if nothing else” only underscores the bizarre code of masculinity that composes so much of his sense of identity. This idea is further highlighted during Marty’s shopping expedition, when after purchasing and walking around with a bag of tampons, he feels the attraction of the nearby bar—an area that may help reaffirm his sense of masculinity.

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Moreover, he succumbs to seduction from Beth after her inflating his ego with a barrage of compliments and flirtatious remarks that leads to their having sex. This act helps bring to mind Rust’s remark from their initial meeting with Beth at the ranch in Episode Two, where after Marty handed Beth a sum of money to do something else with her life, Rust commented: “Is that a down payment?” Though Marty rebuked his partner’s remark as “shitting on anything decent”, he has come to fulfill the remark nearly seven years later. It’s also interesting to note that Fukunagu repeatedly trains the camera on the angel/devil figurines with her bedroom—the latter bearing horns that call to mind the antlers imposed on Dora Lange and the former posed with hands bound in prayer that further echo the image of Dora’s death.

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Most importantly, this episode finally brings about the climax for the most prominent relationships in Marty’s personal and professional life—the dissolution of both his marriage and his partnership with Rust. As Maggie astutely notes in her interview with Papania and Gilbough, “Rust knew exactly who he was and there was no talking him out of it…Marty’s single big problem was that he never really knew himself, so he never really knew what to want”. Marty’s conflict over his view of himself as a good man finally comes to a head within this statement. As Maggie has repeatedly told him that he used to be a good man, after his murdering Ledoux, after holding affairs and thinking that he may have failed as a father with his daughter Audrey, when Beth feeds him lines like: “You’re a good man, anybody can see that. I saw it the first time I met you. God gave us these flaws, that’s something I learned…he doesn’t see them as flaws, it’s how he made us, the universe forgives all”—his mistress helps further solidify Marty’s self-delusions of his identity that are broken by the end of the episode.

And after Maggie scrolls through his phone to find texts of Beth, she sits beside him in the living room—only to find Marty being his same old self. He goads his daughter, Audrey, and when she flees the room in a huff—he’s more interested in the game than confronting his daughter’s emotions. Exactly like in ’95. When rather than addressing his daughter’s disturbing drawings, Marty would keep his eyes on the TV—rather than on his daughter just below him—the detective’s curse mentioned previously. When Maggie finally confesses about her affair with Rust, his first reaction is—of course—to threaten her with violence, which she counteracts by urging him to do so: literally pushing her throat into his hands. When Marty fails to follow through with the act, Maggie calls him a “coward”.

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Nonetheless, he carries this rage over to Rust the following day, where he engages in a full-blown boxing match with his former partner. There’s an elliptical sense of structure to ending on this after the opening of him beating up the boys in the opening—boys who engaged with another of Marty’s family members in illicit sexual activity. Though Rust almost appears to be dodging Marty’s blows and letting him have it out, the former finally slams Marty’s head into the taillight to stop the fight—breaking Marty’s self-delusion of physical power that the opening fight with the boys may have instilled.

Despite their torrid past, Marty feels reluctant to believe that Rust may be the killer responsible in the present. Juxtaposed with Maggie’s interview, this episode serves as almost a companion piece to the idea of Marty (and now Maggie) presenting falsified versions of the stories of their past while the viewer watches the “real” version play out in ’02. For despite their individual histories and problems with Rust, both seem to demonstrate a sense of complicity in Rust’s quitting the job—though neither seems willing to acknowledge that he may responsible for any crimes.

Meanwhile, Rust’s own drive to solve the crimes by looking into pieces from the past helps confirm his suspicions about the Tuttle organization’s involvement. When first meeting with the bereaved father, then former minister Joel Thierot—Rust hardly needs any more credence to his theory regarding the Wellspring program. * Like he’s able to do with so many suspects, Rust is able to draw out a confession for the minister’s real reason for leaving the organization after finding incriminating evidence damning Tuttle only for the matter to be handled “internally”.

*(At this point, it’s also worth noting that the exterior of the Tuttle office is completely surrounded by children and his wearing a Yellow Tie sends an all-too symbolic signal. Also, Tuttle’s remark regarding Thierot that: “It’s hard to trust a man who can’t trust himself with a beer…don’t you think?” has an especially ironic tinge to it knowing that Tuttle will later die of a supposed drug overdose.)

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Moreover, we’re offered a more abrasive and confrontational Rust than ever before—a Rust who has reached his breaking point with Marty, with the bureaucracy of the police institution, and with the hypocrisy of the religious institution. His meeting with both the woman who killed her daughter and blamed SIDS, then with his meeting the still horribly traumatized Kelly from the Ledoux Compound—all seem to incite that fire that Rust has managed to keep somewhat in check before. Nonetheless, as Maggie tells the detectives, “Rust knew exactly who he was”. His chastising Marty for just needing “something to salute”, his passive-aggressive dialogue with Tuttle, and his decision to ultimately quit the force after his fight with Marty and refusal to obey the Major—all these factors help Rust to ultimately shed even that thin veneer of traditional social appearance that he had upheld for these years in favoring of becoming the man that we see in the present—an alcoholic, disheveled, shadow of himself—yet one still uncompromising and resolute in his determination to finish his job as a detective.

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True Detective. Season One, Episode 5. “The Secret Fate of All Life” Recap & Review

“The Secret Fate of All Life”

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The fifth episode of the series and last to depict the events of ’95 begins with Rust and Ginger meeting Reggie’s cousin and cook partner—DeWall. The latter declines to do business with Cohle (“I don’t like your face, it makes me want to do things to it.”), but with Marty trailing his vehicle in the aftermath of the meeting, unknowingly leads the two detectives back to his and Reggie’s drug compound found deep in the bayou. Rust and Marty avoid the various traps and hidden explosives before confronting and arresting Reggie in his bathrobe. The supposed killer of Dora Lange mutters a number of cryptic comments to Rust regarding Carcosa and Black Stars, though his ramblings are quickly stopped when Marty reappears from the home and shoots Reggie in the head upon seeing something of horror within the compound. DeWall flees the scene in a panic and kills himself after tripping upon what Cohle later describes as his “homemade cracker-ass security system”.

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Rust then investigates the Ledoux Compound that drove Marty into such a rage to find two imprisoned children. The two detectives then stage the scene to hide Marty’s murder and leave behind evidence that would point to a shootout between the two parties. Afterward, the two carry away the children from the compound and are awarded as heroes for their actions. Maggie even forgives Marty for his infidelities, and Rust seems to find a connection with a nurse named Lisa that Maggie set him up with in the intervening years that transition into…

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Despite Marty’s somewhat solid footing back in the good graces of Maggie, his relationship with his daughter Audrey has dissolved over the subsequent years. She now sports a rebellious attitude that does not bode well with her traditional father—culminating in a night wherein she is arrested and Marty ultimately slaps his daughter across the face. Meanwhile, Rust’s reputation as the best “assist man” in the state has led to his being called in to interrogate nearly any suspect that the Louisiana PD can’t crack on their own. One of these interrogations leads to Guy Francis—a robber who attempts a plea deal by mentioning the name of The Yellow King.

This sends Rust into a fury, and he slaps the criminal for more evidence in a move that ultimately makes the confession inadmissible. When Rust later demands for Marty to join him in questioning Guy, they find the suspect dead—having committed suicide after a phone call with his “lawyer”. Rust investigates further to find that the phone call was made at an anonymous phone booth way out in the middle of nowhere and that Guy had family who were no doubt threatened by whatever conversation occurred over the phone call in the aftermath of his mentioning the Yellow King name. In the midst of this investigation, Rust finds that one of the two officers guarding Guy’s cell had the last name Childress. Unnerved by Guy’s revelation, Rust begins looking into old case files and examining other reports “made in error” before again investigating the Tuttle Light of the Way School—wherein he finds a collection of eerie angelic drawings and bird/devil trap totems like those left at the crime scene of Dora Lange.



Marty and Rust recount their version of the events in the Ledoux compound to Papina and Gilbough with a drastically different account than the one depicted on screen. Instead, their version favors a wild shootout that led to Marty being able to find a clean shot and murder Ledoux in the back of the head. Marty then further discusses his belief in the detective’s curse over the intervening years after the arrest, when he realizes that so many of the clues to his current state of life were right under his nose the whole time. Moreover, he ponders the idea of letting the good years of life slip through your fingers. At last, he threatens to walk away unless the inquiring detectives reveal their motive—to which Papina and Gilbough admit their suspecting Rust for the most recent murder and pushing the narrative of the Dora Lange case how he sought fit—citing the discovery of Rianne Olivier as their biggest piece of evidence. All this, however, is quickly dismissed by Marty, who believes Rust was reading into them and their materials—rather than the other way around.

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Rust, meanwhile, finally concludes his previous philosophical ramblings—but not before the grand finale of detailing the m-brane theory and incorporating some of Nietzsche’s teachings to the two detectives. Rust similarly explains the arrest in a falsified version of the story before launching into a thought-provoking monologue into ideas of time, death, and existence that leave Papina and Gilbough befuddled yet also help succinctly explain for so much of enduring cynicism and hopelessness seen in Cohle’s character throughout previous episodes. More importantly, these ideas illuminate ideas of narrative that have been at the heart of his prior confessions and which ultimately epitomize many of the show’s most prominent themes. Lastly, the detectives finally lay their cards on the table—showing Rust surveillance shots of him captured at the latest Lake Charles crime scene and believing that he may be with holding evidence in his storage shed out near Church Point. They cite the inconsistencies in his story, the death of Billy Lee Tuttle upon his “return” from Alaska, and their ultimate theory that he may have been pushing the agenda of the case. All of this is more or less laughed away by Cohle, as he finally leaves the interrogation room refusing to give them access to his shed—thanking them for the beer, but “beyond that, you wasted my fuckin’ day, company man”.



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While the previous episode contains the show’s most memorable action sequence through the tracking shot of Rust’s escape from the housing project, “The Secret Fate of All Life” contains what is perhaps the show’s most memorable writing from a storytelling standpoint. From Rust’s philosophical expansion of Ledoux’s “time is a flat circle” comment, to the false narrative employed by 2012 Rust and Marty against the incredible set-piece of their raid on the compound, to the excellent transition out of ’95 and into ’02, “The Secret Fate of All Life” demonstrates exactly why the episode deserves the many writing accolades for which it achieved.

The conclusion of the ’95 storyline and the hunt for Ledoux marks a major turning point for both the larger story and characters. Using the Louisiana backwoods and bayou setting to incredible atmospheric effect and building up the detectives’ raid upon the compound with an excellent escalation of suspense—from their spotting the bird traps, the trip wire explosives, their refusal to call in back up, their slow stalking of Ledoux—the raid itself starts off this riveting episode with a bang.

Ledoux’s cryptic and haunting comments to Cohle—mentioning all the series’ mythological touchstones from Carcosa, to the Black Stars, and culminating in his “time is a flat circle” comment—offer further tension in the midst of Marty’s own investigation into the compound’s contents, where he finds two kidnapped and traumatized children. After now multiple moments depicting Marty’s immediate response to conflict as explosive violence, he exits the compound and shoots Ledoux in the head in cold-blooded murder. Though Cohle justifies Marty’s murder in stating that Ledoux deserved to die and that he’s glad to see Marty “commit to something”, the two must immediately clean up the crime scene to leave evidence for a different story. Within this incredible sequence, Marty and Cohle’s testimonials from 2012 are expertly weaved through the editing to be simultaneously juxtaposed against the real events of ’95 that are as cinematic and compelling as they are thematically relevant.

With so much of the series’ main thematic focus on being on the idea of narrative—the stories Marty and Rust tell themselves about their own identity, their story to Papania and Gilbough about the story of ’95, the mythological touchstone of the Yellow King being a reference to Chambers’ “The King in Yellow” (a story about a story that drives people insane)—this sequence which so expertly marries the editing, dialogue, and character demonstrates all of these ideas to unifying and compelling effect.

Moreover, the “time is a flat circle” comment that has grown to become one of the show’s most memorable and quoted phrases serves as a perfect transition and expansion of this theme from the ’95 storyline, to 2002, and the present. For despite catching whom they believe to be Dora Lange’s killers, and being rewarded as such, so many of the same struggles previously seen still remain. Maggie reluctantly accepts Marty back into their familial life, only for him to remain as hypocritical and confused as ever. For after having his own affairs and sexual deviances, Marty finds himself belittling his thirteen-year-old daughter and eventually slapping her in the face for her behavior and refusal to adhere toward how he wants a woman to behave.

Like murdering Ledoux upon seeing his crimes, Marty’s slaps his daughter in the face in yet another demonstration of his explosive, violent response to conflict. Likewise, when his daughter protests that Marty can’t press charges against the older boys, he responds, “I can do whatever I goddamn want to those boys”—yet again demonstrating his abuse of authoritarian and police power as a detective with a badge. Like with his terrorizing Lisa for having an affair, like his shooting Ledoux in the face, and now like slapping his daughter in the face—the detective’s repetitive response exemplifies the “time is a flat circle” idea that he is doomed to live out these horrible choices within himself time and time again—despite whatever small victories he may have. Though he does admit in the 2012 interviews that “infidelity is one kind of sin, but my one true failure was inattention, I realize that now”, Marty appears destined to repeat his same mistakes time and time again.

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Likewise, despite Rust’s apparent victory against Ledoux, he learns that the events of the Yellow King have returned in 2002 during his interrogation of Guy Francis. The mention of the Yellow King returns him back to the tree in Erath where he once found Dora Lange (and finds a flat circle of knots within the trunk), along with the missing picture of Stacy Gerhart, and his return to the Light of the Way school from Episode Three. And upon further investigation into the school, he finds disturbing pictures of angels (mentioned in Dora’s diary) and an array of twig totems like those found at the Ledoux compound and numerous other locations connected with the King. When the detectives ask Marty what happened to Rust and his girlfriend, he responds: “What always happens between men and women: reality”. Again, there’s meaning to be interpreted here with the false narrative of Rust being able to live like a normal, married man only for the reality of his job and personality to supersede any chance of making that a reality.

Much of this philosophy incorporating elements of Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence helps give some insight into Rust’s unstable psychology and cynical attitude toward resolution that has been peppered into prior episodes. It’s worth noting that in the shot of the detectives rescuing the kids from the Ledoux compound, with each carrying one of the two children, Rust is carrying the dead boy in his arms rather than the afflicted girl that is in Marty’s–perhaps representing Rust’s own dead child–and his continual failure to save the child’s life. Rust repeats this idea in his interview with Papina and Gilbough that those kids will always be there in that compound, that his interview with the detectives may have happened or will have happened again, and these evils that have haunted his life so far (like the death of his daughter and inability to maintain a stable marriage) will only continue to recur in endless cycles of time. As further outlined in more abstract concepts regarding eternity’s creation of time in order to have something kill, this horribly unnerving idea is what lends the episode its title as being the secret fate to all life.

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Nonetheless, this episode does mark the turning point for the typical structure of the series’ episodes by having Papina and Gilbough finally lay out their cards on the table that they do indeed believe Rust may responsible for the most recent Lake Charles murder and may be withholding evidence within his storage shed near Church Point. Rust insults them for the accusation and leaves the confession room—disappointed in not being able to glean any new information about the murder. (It’s worth noting at this point that Rust’s drinking throughout the interviews will make his interrogation inadmissible.) Still, with the ’95 storyline more or less wrapped up and much hinting toward the break between Marty and Rust in ‘02, the episode’s conclusion leaves the viewer with more questions than ever toward finding the true identity of the killer and wrapping up the case of Dora Lange.

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True Detective. Season One, Episode Four. “Who Goes There” Recap & Review

Season 1, Episode 4: “WHO GOES THERE”

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 “Who Goes There” opens with the return of Charlie Lange—Dora’s ex-husband—locked up in prison. Rust and Marty are irate with the man for apparently concealing information on his cellmate—Reginald LeDeoux—who the detectives have fingered as the most likely suspect in Dora’s murder. Charlie adamantly protests the accusations—growing more and more irate himself that Reggie could be responsible for Dora’s death. When further questioned, Charlie insists that Reggie is crazy in a very real and dangerous way—that he would often speak of devil worship and violence to women and children in a manner that even caused his fellow prison inmates to avoid him. Nonetheless, he gives up a known associate between them—Tyrone Weems—that may help the detectives track down Charlie’s whereabouts.

The next morning, Lisa confronts Marty about his drunken trespassing the other night—to which the latter basically shoves his mistress aside. This leads to Marty coming home to find his family absent…and a left note by Maggie. Marty immediately calls Lisa to confirm that she told Maggie about the affair. In an angry and drunken stupor, Marty then takes to the streets to find Tyrone. He tracks him to a nightclub, where he then pulls a gun on Weems for information on Ledoux. Weems confesses that he has fallen out of contact with him, but there are rumors that he only supplies his brand in bulk to one group: The Iron Crusaders. Marty passes along the information to Rust, who explains that he is familiar with the bikers from his days working undercover.

Marty drunkenly confronts Maggie during her hospital nightshift, until Rust manages to corral him with the news that he has a line on the Crusaders. Marty takes up temporary resident with Rust in the midst of this separation, where the latter decides that the two will have to go “off the books” in order to find Ledoux. Rust uses the excuse of having to visit his father in Alaska in order to reinstate himself in his undercover identity—stealing cocaine from the evidence room, injecting ink and cayenne to pass as a drug addict—while Marty adapts to his new life as a bachelor living in Rust’s apartment. Rust also reaches out to Maggie about the possibility of getting back with Marty, though she seems reluctant to do and insults Rust’s suggestions for rationalizing the situation.

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A few days later, the big night has finally arrived. Rust makes contact with his former Iron Crusaders contact—Ginger—under the guise that he was formerly working security for a Mexican Cartel and is now breaking off to do his own thing. He wants to make a deal exchanging his cocaine (stolen rom the police evidence room) for the Crusaders’ meth dealer. Ginger agrees to connect the two under the condition that Rust helps rob a stash house in a housing project that night, which the undercover detective reluctantly agrees to. The Crusaders invade the stash house disguised as cops, and the robbery quickly turns awry. One of the residents is murdered, and a riot breaks out amongst the entire project. Rust quickly drops his undercover façade, coercing Ginger at gunpoint to cooperate, and manages to flee the chaotic scene with Marty acting as their getaway driver.


Since most of the ’95 storyline involves Rust’s off-the-book behavior and “leave of absence”, the 2012 interviews are pretty much a moot point. Papania and Gilbough question inconsistencies in Rust’s story—most notably the fact that there are no records of his father’s leukemia—but these are small additions to their already strong suspicions surrounding Rust’s story.



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Despite being one of the most riveting episodes of the season, “Who Goes There” is also an episode that spends the most time on what seems like almost a complete diversion from the main case. Though the two detectives are obviously in search of Ledoux—the episode’s main narrative focus with Ginger allows for sequences of incredible tension and a long-take that stands as one of the best in television and filmmaking canon at large. Nonetheless, it’s also a storyline so completely removed from the laser-focus goals of normal episodes that it’s truly an anomaly of an episode on second rewatch. This isn’t so much a criticism, as a curious observation, as a great deal of material remains to be discussed in this noteworthy episode.

Starting with Charlie Lange, Dora’s former husband gives further subtle hints in identifying the unifying mythology of the Yellow King and Carcosa in his cell—remarking: “He [Charlie] said that there’s this place down south, where all these rich men go to…uh, devil worship…he said they sacrifice kids and whatnot…women and children…all got murdered there…and something about some place about Carcosa and the Yellow King…He said there’s just so much good killing there…Reggie got this brand on his back like in a spiral…he says that’s their sign.”

Past that, much of the Yellow King storyline is pushed to the side in favor of tracking down leads to Charlie LeDoux largely removed from the Yellow King. Likewise, the 2012 interviews are rendered a mostly moot point past further Cohle suspicions since his dying father excuse doesn’t match police records. Instead, the story pushes important character plot points forward—namely, Marty’s divorce. After a great scene of Marty giving his disposition toward justifying his breaking into a home—with Lisa glaring daggers at him as the court reporter and remembering his similar behavior (similarly unjustified) from the night prior—she confronts him about his abrasive and inappropriate behavior, which Marty more or less shrugs aside.

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Marty’s problematic morals are underlined by Rust in the episode’s opening after the former criticizes Rust for reminding Charlie that it was “his fault…Guy was already low”. To which Rust respond, “…You’re funny, Marty. The shit you get soft about.” Though the prior episodes have routinely established Marty’s moral hypocrisy on multiple occasions—juxtaposing his sense of righteousness and values as a family man in his Papania and Gilbough interviews with ’95 scene of his infidelities—this episode finally sets the stage for the separation between Marty and his family that will result in his stark change of character in future episodes.

During Marty’s intense tracking and interrogations of Weems, as well, Marty finally exposes cracks in his psychology between his instinct for explosive violence and following the proper code expected of an officer. (There’s also a hilarious Easter Egg during Marty’s investigation wherein he must question a bartender—who is played by the show’s writer and exec producer Nic Pizzolatto—asking him “Why you make me say this, man?”)

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Moreover, his and Rust’s decision to go completely off the books in the pursuit of their goal reveals a sense of moral similarity between the two and understanding when they believe it is appropriate to engage in more unlawful activities in the pursuit of a greater good. This unlawful activity, of course, is given the majority of the episode’s running time through Rust’s going undercover as an Iron Crusader. From his horrifying story about a Cartel’s routine for catching an undercover agent, to his stealing cocaine from the evidence room, to injecting ink and cayenne into his arm to pass for a heroin user, the sequence takes on a palpable level of dread and tension about this rendezvous with the bikers. Though Rust adapts to his undercover appearance with ease, there’s always an atmosphere of suspense hanging over every moment as the viewer waits for things to take a turn for the worst. And when Rust is seeing being driven away to Ginger’s headquarters to prepare for the heist, Marty’s sinking feeling of anxiety translates directly upon the audience. Then, watching Rust snort copious amounts of heroin while in a room with a gang of dangerous bikers and a hostage, this mood of heightened anticipation never abates.

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Instead, Fukunaga amplifies and intensifies the suspense through a six-minute-plus uninterrupted single tracking shot of the robbery. With a soundtrack that perfectly mixes an unwavering and unsettling beat mixed with the chaotic noise of robbery gone awry, this unbroken shot elevates the tension of this moment into full-blown pandemonium. However, it is a controlled pandemonium—one that nearly overloads the viewer’s sensory expectations for how such a scene can unfold by refusing to break the rising suspense of the moment against the aggressively expanding wave of dread and confusion surrounding it.

Despite knowing that both detectives will obviously remain unharmed in their future 2012 interviews, this sequence just demonstrates with extraordinary aplomb—like the series itself—its incredible control of craft and ability to transcend typical production values as previously seen in television. A sequence easily able to stand against the Henry Hill’s Copacabana entrance of Goodfellas, anything by Paul Thomas Anderson, the Oldboy hallway fight…this is a tracking shot that imbues every element of emotion and narrative necessary to rank amongst the best and deserves to be applauded and remembered for doing so. Though no other moment in the series may rival this sequence from a technical standpoint, it’s one of the show’s most memorable and riveting—one that serves as an excellent endpoint to the series’ halfway mark.

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