TRUE DETECTIVE: “After You’ve Gone”

It’s the penultimate episode! Come step inside Rust’s Storage Room of Solitude. Nothing creepy here at all.

Father Time has his way with us all…I’d say you must have pissed him off.

–Marty

It’s always the guy on the lawnmower.

If Gilbough and Papania — appearing, at the end of the hour, outside their interrogation room for the first time — weren’t so tunnel-visioned, they might have clued in on the overly-friendly greenskeeper giving them directions. But they seem to only exist as characters to be wrong, feeble-minded dunces not worthy of the badges they carry, while the enlightened Rustin Cohle is the only one fit — nay, anointed — to put this “deep and dark” case together.

We’ve seen the scarred man, whose name is Errol, before. Way back in Episode 3, Rust actually met him, but Errol had a beard at the time that hid his cracked-tree visage. When he says “my family’s been here for a long time” so ominously, what does he mean? Is he the Yellow King? Family with a lower, or upper-case “F?” Is he a Highlander?

Eh, probably not. As much fun as the supernatural/weird fiction clues have been, we’re more than likely building to a straightforward conclusion, one that Rust and Marty may or may not survive, but the monster at the end of this book is just a group of culty religious white men, who commit unspeakable acts on women and children while hiding behind cloaks and animal masks. Horrifying? Absolutely (as Marty’s verge-of-vomiting reaction to that VHS tape shows us, in another stellar scene for Woody Harrelson) — but there’s not Cthulu here. No spaghetti monster. And if you’re disappointed by that, you’re not alone, but it’s also your own darn fault for spending so much time reading about this show on the internet instead of taking what you’ve been shown at face value.*

*Guilty.

But if you’re still looking for connections, let’s revisit Stephen King. Not his Dark Tower dark fantasy multiverse, but his small-town tales of dread. (Oh yeah, he wrote The Lawnmower Man, too.) The fictional Derry, Maine, which serves as a location in many, many of King’s novels and short stories (most notably It, and more recently 11/22/63), is the nexus of assorted paranormal activities, but there’s a general feeling about the town that Rust echoes this week when describing this backwards bayou: “I don’t like this place. Nothing grows in the right way.” The needling, unsettling feeling of dread that the show does such a great job of planting in in the back of your head, he speaks of out loud. There’s evil at work here, in the shadows, just in the corners of your eyes. Most would rather drive past as quickly as possible, but Rust goes exploring. And now he’s taking Marty with him.

Not that Marty didn’t “need convincing,” of course. When Rust brings him to that dive bar that Rust is apparently now tending for a day job, Marty is planning to just hear what he has to say and then walk. And to be fair, Rust is talking some crazy conspiracy “sprawl.” According to Rust, the Tuttle family is knee-deep in this business, and because of their wealth and influence, there’s no telling how far it has spread: law enforcement, politics. Marty is the only man Rust can trust, and Marty doesn’t trust Rust one bit. It’s only Rust’s charge that Marty “has a debt” — referring, of course, to the Lange case that might have been sewn up in 1995 if it weren’t for Marty’s trigger finger — that gets Marty out to Rust’s storage building, the one he didn’t want Gilbough and Papania to see.

What’s there is not only the work of a True Obsessive (Carrie Mathison would be impressed by the corkboard and strings), but the decade-spanning work of a man who has already interrogated himself, and has found enough cause to believe he’s really on to something massive. As Rust tells Marty, before hitting him with the double whammy of the (stolen) late Rev. Tuttle’s damning photographs and videotape: “I had a time when I wondered if this was all in my head. That done passed.” Rust went all the way to Alaska to forget, but it didn’t last. Unfinished business has brought him back, and his B&E experience brought him the evidence he needs. All that’s missing is Marty’s contacts and access to chase down the remaining leads, and connect all the dots.

Marty, who you can believe is thinking of his own daughters while Rust subjects him to that tape, has in the last decade settled down to a perfectly banal existence. After one twisted crime scene too many led to him quitting the force, he started up his own P.I. shop and has been coasting on safe, ordinary cases ever since. He doesn’t even muster up the machismo to fake-boast to Rust about any romantic conquests. A few dates, here and there. Nothing special. His relationship with Maggie is civil. His children are doing fine (though Audrey, an artist, is on medication.) At least on the surface, he’s the decent, honest man he always pretended he was, only without the family to show for it. But Rust’s re-appearance — and subsequent revelations — brings that dogged, stubborn ambition back to the fore, and he agrees to help Rust close the book on this Yellow King business for good.

Maggie, seeing Rust for the first time in a decade when she shows up at his bar (how did she know where to find him?) serves dual purposes to Foreshadow Bad Things For Marty, and Annoy Rust By Showing Up. She shares with both men what she was brought in by G&P for, and that she didn’t reveal the truth. Rust can’t even make himself look her in the eyes, though she doesn’t react at all to his haggard appearance. Which is fine, okay, thanks for participating this week, Maggie. Glad you’re so well-adjusted.

But with all of the catching up out of the way (again, an awful lot of exposition for a show in its seventh of eight episodes), our two anti-heroes are back on the hunt. One stop has then visiting an old woman, a former employee of the Tuttle foundation, who is all sweetness and light until Rust asks her about those stick lattices — and then things get weird. “You know Carcosa?” she asks. “Him eats time…wind of invisible voices…” AUGH, OKAY, THAT’S ENOUGH, “Rejoice, death is not the end.”

Heebie-jeebies. Of a relatively cheap kind, as it doesn’t really give us any new information (just additional confirmation of the Tuttles’ responsibility for the bemasked, child sacrificing dungeon club), but it’s spooky nonetheless. The investigation ultimately leads Rust and Marty this hour to one of Marty’s old buddies, now a sheriff, who took reports on (and, apparently, subsequently buried) the case for that young girl on the VHS tape. After Marty’s skills as a “people person” don’t yield fruit, they elect to try Rust’s more…direct approach. The pieces are out there — Tuttle, Ledoux, and the Scarred Man — they just have to fit them into their rapidly-expanding puzzle. And then, I guess, find and kill them all. Easy.

So as this first season of True Detective comes to an end next week, there’s been a lot of ink spilled about its “place” among the rest of Prestige TV. The show has probably been artificially elevated by an overzealous blogosphere still missing Breaking Bad, and while we’ve been thrilled by the performances and impressed by the direction and tonal control, like Rust many feel that there’s something that’s just a little bit off. I’ll have more to say after the finale, depending on how it goes, but let’s all agree to, for once, not talk about what the show is not, but what it is. Cool? Cool.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.