Over the past two weeks, in Four and Five, HBO’s True Detective has been kicking asses and taking names in terms of taking both the filmmaking and the crime/character developments to the next level, and with Episode Six, we see a slinking back to the Episode Three days (which I like to refer to as the “I Like to Mow My Own Lawn” episode). Which is both good, in a sort of old-fashioned crime drama way and as a brief respite form the breaknecking we just experienced, but also sort of a let down because after this week, we ONLY HAVE TWO EPISODES LEFT (have that fact simmer inside your soul for a minute…. there… ok… oh, not ok?) and, you guys, there is no time to waste for this to achieve the levels of greatness we’ve all been anticipating. We, the viewers, are like the stage parents for the True Detective cast and crew at this point: rooting from the sidelines, nitpicking, projecting our blind ambition their way, hoping to relive all our thus far unfulfilled TV dreams though them. So they better deliver.
Having said that, there is nothing wrong with Episode Six per se. It is the most easy to follow of all thus far probably, with most of the narrative happening neatly in 2002 (a welcome break after all the time/space swirls we’ve experience lately or a total cop-out?), and probably most notable because, finally, Michelle Monaghan lives up to the promise of her Michelle Monaghanness, which has been deeply underutilized up until now.
There are two developments to talk about here: one is personal, and one is professional. And as much as I, as a viewer, am way more into the professional aspects vs. the demons that haunt Hart and Cohle, it is the personal that needs to be addressed first. The question of WHY Cohle left the force so abruptly in 2002 is answered, and the answer is, naturally, Maggie. But, what did it take for her to do what she did (and I’ll say what she did in the next paragraph, but we all knew what it would be she would end up doing, right?), after years and years of Hart being the reliably unreliable husband he had been? EVERYONE has a breaking point, naturally, but what would it take send Maggie over the edge?
The answer, expectedly, lies in the depths of the Dora Lange case, in that best little trailer park whorehouse in Louisiana, as well as in Hart’s (at this point almost pathological) need to be the savior, protector, rescuer, you-name-it of all (wo)mankind. The girl he handed the money in Episode Two and told her to “Go do something else” pops back up seven years later, as a T-Mobile employee (somehow product placements feel awkwarder here, since we’re supposed to be looking for signs in EVERYTHING, right?), follows him to a nearby bar, orders a dirty martini and proceeds to thank him in the only way that Hart can appreciate. Which is to say: with a sex scene meant to provoke even more Hart sex scene gifs on the internets. Anyway, it being 2002 and there being cell phones, and her being a T-Mobile employee I guess, there is some casual early era sexting that happens afterwards (horrible resolution, tiny picture, predictable thong, probably not worth the trouble) and Maggie catches it and, in a spectacular moment of Southern female can-do attitude, puts on a great dress (a little too short, but still flowery and wholesome), and a great pair of heels (very high yet adult), and grabs a bottle of wine (not a single person has had a glass of wine on this show so you know it is a bullshit house gift the second you see it) and walks over to Cohle’s and the two of them share what can only be described as one of the most heartbreaking sex scenes ever (after maybe Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in “Don’t Look Now“). Probably because it is not even (rushed, no-eye contact, deeply impersonally personal) sex we are watching, it is the final undoing of Cohle.
They both know this is wrong, and while Maggie has an agenda (“He (Hart) will not stand for this.”), it is Cohle’s motivations that are more interesting. The obvious dress and heels appeal aside, he, up until now, was a man who said “No” to a lot of potential sexual satisfaction on this show, putting him in sort of a definitive anti-Hart role: the man who won’t let his libido rule him (there’s too many other things that do rule him, anyway) and watching him just crumble in front of Maggie like that implied a certain amount of self-desctructiveness within the man we had not experienced thus far (and, we can all agree, we have experienced PLENTY of his self-destructiveness). It is as if, with this moment, he has simply relegated himself to not ever being happy. Not deserving of happiness.
What happens next is expected-a fist fight blow out, and a decade that would lead us to 2012 and those interview rooms they are in right now. Personally, I found all this to be pretty predictable but deeply devastating stuff. I cowered and shivered and didn’t want to be in the middle of any of these confrontations, even remotely.
On the professional side of things, the “case” (which, mind you, is no longer officially a case anymore) is developing in all the ways I was hoping it would NOT be (as in-in all the ways I could sort of predict it would develop) – yes, there is a Tuttle foundation conspiracy, yes there are pedophile priests, yes, there is some kind of high powered conspiracy, yes there are some more files missing in this mystery flood that also destroyed Gillbough and Papania’s Dora Lange records, yes, sure, why not? This is all fine and sinister enough stuff but it is also just NOT REALLY ENOUGH. It would be on most other shows, but I don’t think it is here.
The only truly chilling moments of the episode come from Cohle’s interactions with two young women: one with the “Marshland Medea” a woman responsible for killing her own children and the other with Kelly Rita, the young girl who they rescued from LeDoux’s compound. To the Medea, mid-confession, Cohle whispers “If You Get the Opportunity, You Should Kill Yourself” and you get this Messianic vibe from him that you just cannot shake (conveniently, Billy Lee Tuttle committed suicide after a series of break-ins which we suspect Cohle was responsible for while “off the grid”), sort of a Bayou mind-instead-of-weapons Dexter of sorts. And when he asks Kelly about the man/men she remembers from her captivity, her wail is the closest to a true sound of terror as we have heard on TV ever.
Where all this is going, there are two more hours to tell us. The internet (predictably) is rife with speculation: just how yellow is Harrelson’s hair, is it yellow enough for him to be The Yellow King? the Police Captain’s name is LeRoy, as in The King? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Should we all be googling these 12th century mystics people are now namedropping? (let me save you the trouble: they’re pretty ungoogleable), and where does that circular rabbit hole on the side of that tree lead? Two more hours to go and the answers will be in our hands. Presumably. I just hope they are worthy answers.
I have watched A LOT of murder mystery TV in my time (some may even argue TOO MUCH of it) and am cheering this show on so hard for it to be everything I want it to be (which I am coming to realizes is basically a deep-fried true blue American/Southern Gothic variation of Broadchurch, the finest piece of TV BBC has produced in a while) and I will keep doing so, despite Episode Six clipping the wind beneath my True Detective wings a teeny bit. Episode Seven, lets bring it.
HOW WAS IT FOR YOU?