'True Detective' Killer Theory: Marty Is Not So Innocent

HBO's True Detective has been a short, yet incredibly twisted journey thus far. For the first few episodes we were as clueless as newborn babies, floundering around in this dark, Southern realm and searching for some semblance of understanding in the murder of Dora Lange (the woman tied to a tree with antlers on her head). As with any real investigation, it took a few episodes for the mystery to take shape, and once it did, we were off in a heartbeat. Rust and Marty took down the supposed murderer, Reggie Ledoux, and moved onto their subsequent cases. But that opened a new question: if Reggie Ledoux was dead, then who committed the ritualistic murder in 2002? All signs point to Marty.

While he's certainly set up as the good cop in the Marty-Rust partnership — Marty would never tell a witness or suspect that he got his wife killed or that she should probably just kill herself if she gets the chance — but there's a bevvy of evidence, however subdued, that props Marty up at the more likely killer. Rust understands humans on a level that Marty and the 2002 detective duo can't understand. In fact, it terrifies them enough to suspect he's the killer, but if I were to put my money on anything, it's that they're dead wrong. 

Marty is the one dropping evidence bombs throughout this series:

1. The Series "Has it Out" For Rust

If I had one complaint about True Detective, it's that the series has been far too heavy-handed in suggesting that Rust is the killer. Between his philosophical rantings, his deep dark secrets, and his terrifying understanding of humans and their basest desires, he's a regular poster boy for the text-book crime drama twist: it was the creepy detective all along! 


But True Detective is a series that aims to change the game and this early suspicion placed on Rust seems to almost be a dig at the Law & Order sleuth in us all. Rust looks guilty because he's the outlier of the bunch are we're taught to suspect the brooding outliers, but if True Detective is worth its salt, the truth won't be so simple. 

2. Which Brings Us to Marty

For a series that has it out for Rust, it certainly spends a hell of a lot of time on Marty — an exorbitant amount of time, in fact. While Rust is the potential bad guy, we still know very little about his ex-wife or his deceased daughter. When he momentarily had a girlfriend post-Reggie Ledoux, all we learned was that she was a doctor played by one of the Twilight cast members. 

However, we know that Marty's daughter drew sexual cartoons as a kid. We know that Marty had a mistress and wrecked her apartment. We know all about his divorce and reconciliation with Maggie. We've spent a hell of a lot of time at their dinner table and in their living room. Sure, there's such a thing as character development, but we spend so much time with Marty's personal life that it begs the question, what does this have to do with this giant, terrifying murder mystery? Perhaps it has a lot to do with said mystery. 

3. The Ticking Time Bomb

In all the that time with Marty, we've learned that he's working with a rather short fuse. He flies off the handle when he sees his first mistress out with another man, so much so that he gets drunk and bursts into her house to attack the guy. When he and Rust catch Reggie Ledoux, Marty's anger after seeing that Ledoux had children being held captive was so strong that he immediately shot Ledoux in the head. Yes, anyone's blood would be boiling after seeing those children, but not everyone would immediately spray someone's brains out on the dirt. That takes a rather short fuse. 


Later, Marty wails on the two over-18-year-old boys who had consensual sex with his daughter. He puts on the fingerless gloves he brought — so this "outburst" appears slightly premeditated — and he pulverizes the first of the two young men. Later, when Rust sleeps with Maggie, Marty literally flies at Rust to attack him in the parking lot and while Rust fights back, Marty's got blood in his eyes. 

4. Slut-Shamer is His Name-O

Marty continually has trouble wrapping his head around women's sexuality. He thinks his first mistress is a slut for moving on with another man -- but not for being his other woman. He finds Beth — his mistress in 2002 — appealing because she's a reformed hooker, and perhaps reborn as a result. 

When his daughter Audrey first creates drawings of sexual acts, he can't understand it and he even shuts down when Maggie suggests, in a motherly way, that girls just learn about sex earlier in their lives because they have to. Later, when Audrey is caught having sex with two boys, Marty is furious and calls her "Captain of the Varsity Slut Patrol." Most fathers would be furious, but slut-shaming your own daughter is a bit far. 

If you recall, Dora Lange was a prostitute and part of their original theory was that she was being punished. 

5. A God-Fearin' Man

In her interview with the 2012 detective duo, Maggie says that when she and Marty reconciled, he started getting religious. She says that she preferred the old Marty because he had a sense of humor, suggesting that Marty's faith was a strict one. Additionally, she says that he was religious for a while, suggesting that it was temporary. 

This is interesting for a few reasons. One, because if we're too assume that Marty was battling his usual violent urges, that he might have turned to the church to help quell them. If you recall the conversation he had with Rust at the Tuttle tent church, in which Marty suggested that church keeps people in line and Rust replied "If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward, then that person is a piece of shit." Rust also added that if church is squashing those urges, they just eke out in dark, sinister ways. 



Two, earlier in their investigation, when Rust attempts to investigate at the old Tuttle school, Marty pulls him away with word on Ledoux. It could be nothing, or it could be that Marty had turned to the Tuttle church, which we later begin to suspect is involved in the string of missing women and children that Rust is investigating. 

6. No Trust in Rust

When we revisit the duo in 2002, Marty thinks Rust's extracurricular investigation is nuts and he says so in their meeting with the captain. It's Marty's dismissal that sets in motion Rust's eventual suspension, which leads to Rust quitting the force altogether. 

But it's rather strange that Marty doesn't even think for a second that Rust could be onto something. Back in 1997, Marty was practically inspired by Rust's theories leading to real conclusions. He followed Rust as he dug up old murder cases and threw himself back into the undercover game. All of that was completely insane and yet, at the time, Marty followed. Is it not the least bit strange that when Rust is so completely certain that something terrible is going on that Marty won't even listen for a half of a second? 

7. Guilt By Omission

When Marty gets to the Rust part of his discussion with the investigating detectives, he gets furious, twice. Multiple times he calls Rust a good man and eventually, he says that whatever Rust has become, he's not helping them investigate him any further. Considering how angry he is with Rust for having sex with Maggie and how irrational he's shown he can be, he could have just let the investigators go after him. But perhaps he knows Rust is innocent because Marty is not. 



8. Marty, The Outsider

Through the series, Marty has shown himself to be an outsider. At home, he's surrounded by women he doesn't quite understand. When Rust goes undercover with the biker gang, Marty inserts himself and stands out like a sore thumb, then spends the rest of the episode feeling left out. He continually appears to be alone or to feel alone, even when he's got his family. 

If we're to believe Rust's theory that there is a network or a cult of killers — potentially tied to Tuttle — there could be room to suggest that Marty either joined the group or committed a copy cat crime to get his dark urges out. 

9. Killer Rage

Marty is already a killer. Fact: Marty shot Reggie Ledoux in the head, execution style without even blinking. Fact: at the end of Sunday's episode "Haunted Houses" Marty agrees to meet up with Rust for a beer and then checks his pistol for ammunition. When they fought the first time, he told Rust he'd kill him and it seemed like something most angry cuckolds might say, but now it's 10 years later and he's going to meet up with his old friend with a loaded pistol. It's not so unreasonable to suggest that he plans to use it. 

Of course, March 2's episode could roll around and undo this entire theory. But from where we stand right now, Marty looks pretty damn guilty. 


Images: HBO; Tumblr/glassmenagerie; Tumblr/visualsatori (3); Tumblr/rustincohle

Must Reads