Avid True Detective viewers like you have seen what Rust Cohle is capable of, but his colleagues and others around him must be either oblivious or disillusioned.
While it is true that “word got out”; that during Det. Cohle’s stint in Louisiana, he was the go-to guy; that officers in the state Criminal Investigation Division themselves often called for Cohle to come in, when a suspect was just stonewalling. With powerful humanity and duplicity, Rust cajoled confession after hand-written confession from them. His secret? He just read “the hunger in their haunt.” It’s this way, supposedly, people carry themselves in this world (heart/sleeve) which reveals how to manipulate and to render their guilt.
Somehow, Cohle came to be overshadowed by his super PAC (Partner Against Crime?), Martin Hart, himself a much more likable man, generally speaking. Note that Marty got most of the back pats, media kudos and high praise for closing that big Dora Lange murder case they both worked, back in 1995.
Hence, why Rust Cohle couldn’t drum up support to investigate evangelist kingpin Billy Lee Tuttle. Not even Marty had his back here because (allegedly) Marty didn’t know what he’d been up to. Rev. Tuttle was kin to the state’s Governor; on sort of a tour, he passed through the CID in person, back in the series premiere. He was there as
the Governor’s puppet a bullhorn for the oppressed majority, forcing conversation about the wedge (salad) issue of “anti-Christian” crimes in the state of Louisiana. Cohle rubbed him the wrong way, and that was enough to plant the seed.
By 2002, Rust had dug deep enough to be convinced of Tuttle’s substantial ties to dozens of missing women and children in the state. We’ve seen some of the names, haven’t we? They’ve flashed across Cohle’s computer screen while he was sifting through archived files “recorded in error.” They’ve been plastered on billboards – now peeled and fading – like painful blemishes along the highway’s shoulders. He puzzled out the connections of a sweeping conspiracy involving “schools” Tuttle ran between 1980 and 1995, in rural Louisiana. They were purposed for an “alternative” education, religious in nature. Records kept by the schools – supposedly privately owned and operated facilities – appear to’ve all but vanished.
Rust went to the good Rev. Tuttle’s office compound, lightly grilled him about the “Wellspring program” and it’s connections to those schools and other “dead women and children.” A conversation so laden with pretense came to follow, it defies description. Rust made veiled accusations Tuttle knew something about Wellspring and its connections to some “dead women and children.” It was all in his tone though; Tuttle knew this was a shakedown, of sorts. Tuttle played innocent, pushed back and made a jab about alcoholism (knowing he has a problem?), before kindly escorting him out. Back at the office, the detectives’ boss gave Rust a tongue lashing, in front of a small audience. Marty cried out in his defense as the boss suspended Rust without pay for a month. Cohle was textbook cool, but rightfully nonverbal in his expression. A very nice finger for you. He wondered if this latest cover-up for the Tuttle family was another instance of “garden variety incompetence,” but that doubt was about to be put out. Let’s fill in the other blanks.
True Detective picked up with Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and his latest family drama. Marty was understandably livid and grief-sick, dealing with the aftermath of his daughter’s crazy sex life/possible sexual assault. Some other cop told Marty they’d found his sixteen year old in a van with two other guys (turns out, those two were both well enough over 18). There inside, he saw the group in “various states of undress.” You know..
We all have come to see Det. Hart to be a man of patience, slow to anger and rich in kindness. Hold the phone.. I mean, how’d you expect he would react if he got “those boys” alone in a jail cell?
He put on some black gloves, methodically. They looked padded maybe. He threatened statutory rape charges and prison misery. Instead of legal justice, however, he invited Boy No. 1 out of the unlocked cell, then beat the shit out of him. Boy No. 2 was cowering in the corner, franticly apologetic. Marty approached. End scene. Just.. Wow.
True Detective leaves little mystery when it comes to Hart’s demons. What plagues Cohle seems at times indefinite (though its root cause is discernable); Marty’s shortcomings are so straightforward (alcoholism/selfishness/infidelity). Is there some significance to this, in the grand scheme?
Before getting to Tuttle at the episode’s end but after Marty’s personal prison riot and spit take, Rust paid a visit to another minister-type. Remember Joel Theriot (Shea Whignam, of Boardwalk Empire)? Sure, of course you do. He was the revivalist preacher beneath the roving tent, from earlier episodes. Hart & Cohle had questioned him about Lange’s disappearance, because she’d recently been seen there in congregation, with a “tall man” that had “scars.” In fact, at a church Theriot and his clan use to occupy, the detectives found a mural depicting the crime scene where Lange’s body was found. Still, Theriot and his people remained reasonably above suspicion. As Rust finds him some seven years later, in 2002, Theriot’s evangelizing days are behind him. How come? Apparently, he stumbled onto some child porn while studying at Tuttle’s seminary. “It looked like they were sleeping,” he mustered. Taking it to the powers that be, he was rebuked, threatened and soon left the school.
A few scenes come to pass; we don’t know what they’ll mean yet, but if I know Pizzolatto (and I don’t!), I can’t doubt the dots are now drawn and he’ll be connecting them with lines of Rust Cohle’s Select® Columbian bam bam. Marty re-encountered that underage prostitute he so carefully
made a downpayment on years ago advised, “do something else”; that girl from way out in the woods, back in ’95, at that trailer park “hillbilly bunny ranch.” Older, more aggressive, she served as yet another example of just how messed up Hart’s priorities were. Despite all the perspective we’ve heard Marty espouse to Papania & Gilbough in 2012, can we believe he’s any different? And why’s he been so adamant to distinguish his lifestyle (at the time) from Rust’s?
We then caught Rust and Marty at each other’s throats. Rust secures a chilling confession from a mother accused, like, three times of killing her newborns. Rather, she had previously lost two young children. Unstable, she was a classic case of the serious if extremely finicky and elusive Münchausen syndrome by proxy. I won’t explain, because it’s just sad. Suffice it to say, Cohle was on-point with this woman. He got her to confess to a shit list of horrible crimes but tossed his legal pad to already-ruffled partner Marty, ordering him to type it up. It devolved into a pissing contest, paving the way for their fight.
Maggie should blame herself for that, shouldn’t she? Letting Marty back into her’s the girls’ lives after he cheated, that was a mistake. Maggie came around and forgave but didn’t forget. Or did she forgive at all? Her memory was simply too short. For the first time, we see Marty Hart’s ex-wife, there in 2012. Dets. Papania and Gilbough brought her in for some clarity as to what happened between Hart & Cohle in 2002, when “things went bad” between the partners. Asked for a reason why, she deflected and defended; coming to bat for Rust Cohle a decade later, I wonder if she wasn’t just saddled with the weight of literally fucking him over, so long ago.
Indeed. Because the actual Rust-Maggie action? I thought for sure it was a foregone conclusion. That Maggie prioritized revenge on her husband Marty over Rust’s sensitivities? Sounds ludicrous – considering who was married to whom – but I honestly believed Maggie was better than that. Blame the vino. The next day, next thing you know, Marty assaulted and battered Rust at work in the parking lot. The two of them, scraping and scrappin’ in front of the station. They bloodied each other’s knuckles and faces, but neither would respond to questions about why. Not then, in 2002, did either Rust or Marty explain. And when Maggie is probed in 2012, she feigned ignorance. How come?
Ending on a grim note and with a gaping question, those are poor components of a polished conclusion, but such is life. Such is True Detective. Your expectations can take a hike. You think you know what Rust Cohle is capable of – the insight, the power, the manipulation – only to find out Maggie Hart, blinded by wine and one too many cheating husbands, could neutralize all of him, like some women just do.