'True Detective' Just Got Messy — in a Good Way

Though True Detective has been a short, but confounding journey thus far, something has to give eventually — as is the case with any good mystery — and that something comes up in this week’s “Haunted Houses.” It’s this slow burn to a fiery conclusion (at least as far as we can tell so far) that lends a cinematic element to this series: It sometimes feels like a lengthy film delivered 52 minutes at a time each week.

The fire starts this week when Marty and Rust’s testy relationship finally comes to a head. Having “solved” the Dora Lange murder and ridding the world of the spine-chilling Reggie Ledoux, Marty and Rust still have three episodes left, and, as we learned last week, the series’ new mystery is “Did Rust Cohle commit the 2012 murder?” The series is working hard to make Rust the strange one, but if we’ve learned anything from his lengthy soliloquies, he’s the one person in this whole mess who — against all odds — is making any sense at all.

Rust truly understands the way the mind of a sociopath works because he’s got those tendencies himself. He’s the perfect crazy person to solve this insane crime, and, as we learn this week, he’s been investigating what he thinks is a network of killers — rather than just one abnormally tall, blonde meth cook. The problem is, as it usually is with eccentric and exceptionally smart people, no one seems to believe him.

So without further ado, here’s how the Louisiana mud got thicker this week on True Detective:


We always knew Marty was in a bad way — his violent outburst upon finding his first mistress in bed with another man was certainly an indication — but now that our storytelling journey has jumped forward to 2002, we can see that Marty is a troubled guy. His daughter takes after him, as we saw last week, and, this week, Marty has the chance to confront the two adults his minor daughter had sex with. Immediately, he throws on a pair of fingerless gloves he brought in with him and begins beating one of the guys to a pulp as the other looks on in terror.

But his bad behavior doesn’t stop there. On his way home from picking up tampons for Maggie, he stops by a bar and strikes up a flirtatious conversation with a woman named Beth. Cut to a few hours later, it’s dark and Beth — who tells Marty she’s a reformed hooker — takes Marty home so he can cheat on his wife and HBO can get in its bare breast quota. We find later that Marty turns this indiscretion into yet another affair. You know what they say — once a cheater, always a cheater.


After we learn about Marty’s continuing issues with staying faithful to his wife (and keeping his anger in check), we cut to 2012, when the detectives are interviewing Maggie about her knowledge of Rust and of his partnership with Marty. From the get-go, she is furious.

She sits down with the detectives and immediately tells them to get on with it – simultaneously becoming more suspicious and my new favorite character. “I used to exhaust myself with navigating crude men who think they’re clever. Ask your questions,” she barks. Damn, girl.

The investigators move on to their suspicions about Rust and she shuts down the notion of his guilt immediately, turning instead to talking about Marty. Rust is a good man. Rust knows who he is, Marty doesn’t. Later, she says that after she got back together with Marty and broke up with him once again — she’s single in 2012 — she realized that Rust had been right about forgiveness: it’s more about having a short memory than it is about actually forgiving someone. She’s talking about herself and her ability to forget the emotional hell Marty put her through the first time he cheated.

And from then on, the show is kind enough to show us exactly why: Maggie finds evidence of Marty’s new mistress while she’s washing his clothes and later checks his very appropriately 2002 flip phone and finds naked pictures of Beth. Rather than confront him, Maggie ices Marty out — replying “thank you” to one of his weekday evening confessions of love for her. Later, she dresses up and heads out to a swanky bar alone, hell bent on letting a strange man buy her a drink — a feat she accomplishes quite easily.

But it doesn’t go smoothly. She tries to get up the nerve to sleep with this stranger, but can’t, so she visits Rust instead. He’s at home clearly investigating more twig structures because he’s still on the hunt for his supposed network of killers. She doesn’t notice the strange artifacts and is instead focused on Rust. After she cries and tells him Marty is cheating again, she pushes herself up against Rust and begins kissing his neck. Rust doesn’t often bend to women’s charms — as we saw when he was on a date at the rodeo bar with Maggie and Marty — but Maggie is different. He understands Maggie and Maggie understands him — at least more than Marty does. Rust bends to her and they make rough, quick love on his kitchen counter, but when they’re done, Maggie cries and says Marty will kill Rust for this.

Rust realizes what’s just been done and yells as Maggie, demanding she leaves and eventually she does as he bellows after her down the hallway of his apartment building. And all the while, we can’t help but think that as surprising as this encounter was, it was coming all along.


But Rust’s tryst with Maggie wasn’t his only source of trouble this week. We find that last week’s foray into the defunct Tuttle school was the beginning of Rust’s side investigation of what he thinks is a murder network or cult. He hasn’t brought Marty along for the ride and this week we find out why: Marty is not supportive of his theory and when complaints of Rust visiting cold case victims with missing children and wives flood in, Marty doesn’t budge. The captain demands to know why Rust is doing this — especially after he visits the young girl Ledoux imprisoned and finds out there were more killers and causes her to break down completely.

The captain tells Rust to cool it, but he visits Reverend Tuttle and demands to know more about the schools his ministry funded — in a previous scene the minister from the tent church has been expelled from the ministry and tells Rust all about finding child pornography in the Tuttle school library when he worked there. Tuttle is cagey and invites Rust to come back another day when his secretary can make an appointment for him to thumb through the conveniently damaged school records, but later we learn that he complains to Rust’s captain about the visit.

Naturally, the captain has questions and when Rust tells him and Marty his theory, Marty plays dumb and the captain suggests that Rust is having a mental breakdown and puts him on suspension.


With Rust on thin ice at the department and Marty on thin ice with Maggie, everything comes crashing down. Maggie tells Marty she “fucked” Rust and dares him to put his hands on her. He gets close, but lets up and bottles his rage deep down. The next day at work, Rust comes by the station to pick up some files to peruse during suspension (i.e. continue the investigation against orders) and once Marty hears he’s there, he runs out to the parking lot and flies at Rust. The two fight — Rust takes a few brutal shots in an attempt to stop Marty, but Marty’s got blood in his eyes — and the captain brings them into the station and demands an explanation. Neither party agrees to say a word and in the end, the captain seems to blame this on Rust and that’s when it happens: Rust quits the force altogether and storms out.

Of course, with that knowledge and an understanding of his deep commitment to solving the murder ring mystery, we can assume that even after he left, he continued the investigation on his own — hence the recon photos and the storage locker that the 2012 detectives brought up as evidence of his guilt.

The real mystery for next week is what’s going to happen when — in 2012 — Marty and Rust go for a beer. The former partners meet up on a rural road and Rust asks Marty to buy him a beer. Marty agrees and they decide to head down the road, but as Rust pulls away ahead of Marty, the former cop checks a gun in his pocket. It’s loaded. And it seems that he has plenty of ammunition to pull the trigger on his old partner.

Images: HBO (3); Wifflegif