Coming off that long ending shot of True Detective’s Episode 4 most viewers approached Episode 5 with a combined sense of trepidation (Could the dizzying effect and ambition of that moment even be beat?) and anticipation (If the front part of the series was this good, what could they possible have in store for us as things start to slowly, but inevitably resolve?). And luckily for all of us, Episode 5, ostensibly the beginning of the end of Season 1, delivered.
Before the first third of the episode was over, we saw the Dora Lange case “solved”, Reggie LeDoux dead and our two heroes declared, well, OFFICIALLY heroes by the police, the people, the press, the everything. What we also got to see is however that, nothing Cohle and Hart shared in that interview room could be taken on face value. There is ALWAYS the other version of any story in True Detective.
The way they played the 2012 narrative against the 1995 playback is nothing short of a telemaking masterstroke, equivalent (if not greater) than that long shot of episode 4, a finely choreographed dance of perception and truth. Cohle and Hart are in perfect, watertight sync on what they want you to know happened: they came to the LeDoux meth-and-child-abuse compound, they were spotted by and shot at by the suspects, Hart had no choice but to kill Reggie, while his cousin died, in the midst of an escape attempt, a victim of his very own hillbilly boobietrap security system, and inside the house two children-one dead (boy) and one catatonic (girl) were found and “rescued”. Nothing but acts of necessary and highly justified heroism all around. The kind of stuff newspaper headlines and medal dreams are made of. But as they tell the story and the camera simultaneously pans to the actual events – we see that the final sum of all parts didn’t result from an equation that played out quite like that or in that order. They arrived, quietly and unspotted to their destination, Cohle arrested Reggie and Hart swept the house, finding the captive kids, and in a moment of protector rage killed LeDoux point blank, despite the man being unarmed, on his knees and handcuffed at the time, with Cohle firing off shots in order to fully set up the false story they are about to start telling anyone who’ll listen for the next seventeen years.
As we watch it, we are probably supposed to start asking all sorts of hard questions: Was this all just too convenient a way to close the case? Is it ever acceptable to simply kill, no matter how confirmed you feel your suspicions are that the person in front of you IS not a person but a monster? Should all the lines of inquiry previously presented in the show (and especially the ones involving the tall, scarred faced man) have been abandoned so swiftly? And also … Why aren’t there more questions? This IS a show about endless questions, after all.
And as you do ask yourself all of those, True Detective takes us on what is as close to a feel-good montage as this show was ever going to get: the men are commended and all-of-a-sudden upwardly mobile in their careers, Hart and Maggie reconcile, Cohle finds a woman who makes sense for and to him, there are tidbits of rollerskating and double dinner dates and cozy nights on couches and well, lets face it-we know this is not bound to last. Not here. Not in this world. After all, the secret fate of all life is that you’re trapped, as we are soon told. Don’t ever get too comfortable.
Still playing with our inner time/space continuum compass, the story then shifts to 2002 entirely, aka “the year Cohle left the force”. Cohle has become the #1 man for getting confessions in all the county and during one of those seemingly routine negotiations with a junkie looking for something to leverage the ominous “Yellow King” gets dropped in his lap again (p.s. this io9 story about the literary reference in here is a must read for all you TD obsessives-ed) and the perfectly packaged box of the Lange murder case starts looking a little less shiny. At least to Cohle.
But in 2012, Papania and Gibough obviously don’t care too much about that development, which we soon find out as they present to both Rust and Cohle, in their respective interviews, the real purpose of their almost five episode long conversation: Cohle has been spotted on several occasions at the new, Lake Charles murder scene. And clearly, to them, he is a person of major interest. Not the pedophile meth cooks and mythological masked creatures of the previous four episodes-no, to them-Cohle is who they are interested in.
Trouble is, Cohle is not that easy of a fish to hook. “You want to arrest me, go right ahead,” he faces off to them “You want to follow me, c’mon. You want to see something? Get a warrant.” McConaughey is clearly having a ball at that particular moment, all nothing-to-lose bravado and the most alert tiredness ever, and as Hart lets Papania and Gibough in on a fun Cohle character fact (“If you two talked to Rust and you weren’t getting a read on him, he was getting a read on you“) you know that the roller coaster of True Detective is only warming up. And with less and less people you can trust at all (even if, to me, it is clear that Cohle will not be the killer, it is just a delicious red herring the show runners decided to plant along the way, and hook you all into episode 6 before you could make any other plans for next Sunday night) it is bound to be a very interesting ride to the end.
And since it seems that everyone’s favorite pastime these days is to play True Detective guessing game, and we ARE approaching the end of it all with the remaining three episodes inevitably containing a reveal after a reveal, I’ll close this recap out with a question:
What do you all anticipate happening in the closing three hours of the show?
With the limited supply of characters, some suspects are more obvious that others (that Tuttle, for one, feels a little too omnipresent for my own comfort) but also, in many ways, the show could evolve from a relatively straightforward procedural (albeit a spectacularly written, acted and directed one) to what it has been hinting at all along: a meditation on vulnerability and the fleeting sense of security we all seek in the supposed constants in our lives: family, business partnerships, friendships and beyond. And would you be disappointed if it doesn’t, if it simply stays one of the finest pieces of genre TV (but still a piece of genre TV nonetheless) and that’s all?