Episode 3 of HBO’s True Detective really starts cooking with gas, so to speak. Episode 1 did a fine job of setting the macabre scene, Episode 2 got our two (anti?) heroes on their way and offered a little, deliciously disturbing glimpse into Rust Cohle’s mind, and now, in Episode 3 all sorts of demons, real and otherwise, are ready to be set loose out of their (peronal) hell.
Appropriately, the episode kicks off with a visit to the church Hart and Cohle have been chasing down for better part of episode two. It is a tent, plopped open in a field, filled with small town, small minded folk in desperate search of some sort of escape on which Cohle’s inner realist has some choice thoughts, the kind of thoughts people don’t share out loud too much in small town Louisiana. Especially not with a religious crimes task force breathing more and more down their necks.
They speak to the pastor, the town idiot (with a especially sad secret hiding in his high wasted, ill fitting pants) and some “parishioners” and all signs point to a “tall man, with shiny skin around his chin”. So a parade of tall, lightly scarred, facially burned sad souls starts making their way to the precinct and with all that interview busy work there is plenty of time for some more inter-personal development between the two leads.
If episode two was all about McConaughey’s Cohle and the events that led him to be this 1995 over-thinking shell of a man, episode three takes a peek inside the Harrelson’s Hart home, where not all is good on the homefront. Hart, whose big, swinging dick has always been a major part of his idea of self, is going through an identity crisis of pretty epic proportions: the man wants his cake and he wants to eat it too, and then maybe even have seconds and thirds if he can get away with it. With a wife who wants her husband back, two adorable daughters who need a Dad more than ever, and a young lover who is getting sick of waiting, he is so consumed with his own issues (“I see 40 staring at me….”) all he can do is try and desperately mark his territory all around.
In a scene early in the episode, he finds Cohle at his home, chatting to Maggie having mowed their lawn, and instantly loses it. “Don’t mow my lawn. I LIKE mowing MY lawn” he growls. But when he needs to talk to his daughter about the disturbing, sexual drawings she’s been making at school, or speak honestly to his wife about what has been going on with him, he is really not that interested in maintaining his proverbial lawn. He is stuck in the past, lamenting about the early days of his and Maggie’s courtship, the uncomplicated times when a sexual connection was all he was needed to deliver. That, he still can do, it is just this emotional introspection that no one ever warned him about. He just can’t stand to lose and the flip out he has with Lisa’s one night stand after he sees them in a bar where he is on a double date with Maggie and a friend she is trying to set up Cohle with is a little masterclass scene of a moment where a man is officially not in control of his anything anymore. “I’m all fucked up”, he mentions to Maggie. Desperate times, desperate measures.Speaking of, Cohle decides to “make good use of his insomnia” and dives neck deep into the underbelly of their police station on a hunt for cases that fit the Dora Lange profile, on the hunt for what he is now sure is a serial killer. With just two days left till the task force hand off, and his partner starting to believe he “simply just liked looking at photos of murders”, the trail takes him to a girl, maybe drowned, last seen with a certain Reggie LeDoux, a meth cook with a prison stint or two, one of which included four months sharing a cell with Dora Lange’s husband. BAM! A break-through.Or so it seems. As the two detectives approach the wild, wild home of LeDoux’s and spot him like a beast in the distance, gas masked and half naked, you know that a big part of them just wants to find this bad man so they can both feel a little less bad about themselves. As Hart puts it “The world needs bad men. We keep other bad men at the door”.
Still, we know and True Detective knows it is probably all too easy. Too many careful suspicion drops left throughout: Tuttle’s name keeps popping up: in conversations with the tent revivalist minister, as the benefactor of the school where the second victim went, and is just glazed over. And those tall man burns, could they not somehow tie into the spaghetti face monster that little girl saw in Episode 2? And obviously, the bait of the killings truly ending with which episode 1 closed is still very much present in mythology they are building. LeDoux is a fine bogeyman for now, but we all know there is still a long way to go till this is over. One thing is for sure: