TRUE DETECTIVE Recap: “Haunted Houses”

by     Posted 300 days ago

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There was a lot of discussion after last week’s episode about what kind of show True Detective really is.  Some felt kind of duped into believing it was a cop drama, before getting drawn into what has become an emotional and metaphysical slugfest of souls.  But why do they have to be mutually exclusive?  True Detective clearly gives time to both, and the point is that this crime triggered something in Martin and Rust that changed them, fundamentally, forever.  Or to look at it another way, the crime facilitated, or even acted as an excuse, for them to go deep into their own darkness.  Hit the jump for why I think we should talk, but you can buy the beer.

true-detective-posterEvery episode of True Detective has delivered something different.  Sometimes there’s visual experimentation, sometimes a deep look into the specific horrors of the main crime, and at other times, a loosening of Martin and Rust’s grips on their own lives.  “Haunted Houses” was of the latter variety, but it’s a mistake to say that the crime isn’t still the lynchpin of the series.  Does the series, like for instance, BBC America’s Broadchurch, go deep beyond the murder case in order to uncover and illuminate personal aspects of those tangential to it?  Of course.  But it also needs to have the most depraved evil at its center, to draw Martin and Rust so close to it and create that change within them.

“Haunted Houses” continued to illustrate aspects of revenge, denial and calculated badness that grows and twists like a vine around each character.  Rust’s obsession with the open-ended nature of the major crime, and the continued existence of The Yellow King, makes him manic in his quest for justice.  We already saw, with the undercover op and shoot-out, and then the other shoot-out and cover-up, just how far Rust is willing to go in pursuit of the case.  The “bad things” Rust might have been up to in the lost years could include harassing Billy Lee Tuttle, about whom we learned a lot more in this hour.  In a short scene where Rust interrogates a woman who murdered her children, he tells her to kill herself.  The detectives mention that Tuttle committed suicide after two break-ins.  Has Rust been whispering suggestions to other depraved individuals?

The crime story evolved in the expected way this week: a connection to the forgotten people of the bayou, a string of “church schools” protected by private status and tax exemption, child pornography and a powerful hush up.  These are the things we expect from a crime drama, and truth be told, their revelation was a little disappointing for just how expected it was.  On the other hand, where True Detective has distinguished itself has been in its focus on the emotional lives — and deterioration — of its main characters, which hit hard again this week.

true-detective-woody-harrelson-matthew-mcconaugheyMaggie found her own connection to darkness by pointedly seducing Rust because she knew that would hurt Martin the most.  Her trip to the bar on a mission to cheat reminded me of Betty Draper on Mad Men, the long-suffering wife of a philanderer who decided to get in on the apparent fun.  But whereas Betty got what she went for with a stranger, Maggie backed off, and hatched a new plan, one with even deeper implications for Martin.  The two of them behaved badly, but Maggie doubled-down when she involved Rust.  Though he was already on the outs with the department and Martin, this sealed his fate.  Again, the revelation that the falling out between Martin and Rust being Maggie was not a surprise; that groundwork has been laid since the beginning, with all of that “mowing another man’s lawn” business.  But it was how it happened, again, that set it apart. It wasn’t a glittering, passionate love affair.  It was a straight out quick fuck from behind, born from a desire to hurt.  It made it ugly and dirty and different.

Though Martin is a dope (which Rust blatantly calls him out on), Rust still needs him and that connection to reality.  And it’s true that Rust could count on Martin as an ally (to a point).  It was such a triumphant moment, even given all of the animosity and history, when the two connected after their respective interrogations.  It’s clear that Martin is still holding on to part of the emotion from that past, but his desire to not throw Rust under the bus to the investigators meant something.  The case is not closed, and their work is not done.

Again, the open-ended nature of the crime is what still keeps Rust and Martin connected.  We may not get an answer to what happens beyond it, but given that their narrative — from 1995 to the present day — as been defined by it, it seems to suggest there might be something that comes of the final episodes that feels like resolution.  Though “Haunted Houses” played more by the rules than the last two episodes, it still had plenty to offer when it comes to both laying the groundwork for the reunification of Rust and Martin, but also regarding how that living darkness invades, exposes, and corrupts.

Episode Rating: A-

true-detective-matthew-mcconaughey-woody-harrelsonMusings and Miscellanea:

– A nice callback in the episode from when Martin took his rings and jacket off to beat the tar out of the boys who had sex with Audrey, to after he knew Rust had had sex with Maggie.

– The idea of this scar-faced giant is still terrifying, and poor catatonic Kelly’s response to remembering his face completely horrific.

– “Haunted Houses” was very reflexive this week, re-introducing the revivalist preacher as well as the underaged prostitute (now T-Mobile employee) Martin had saved long ago.  It proves once again that nothing extraneous is introduced on the show.  With only eight episodes to tell such an involved story, how could it?

– Martin’s bag of tampons made me laugh.  Another reflexive moment, when the Major called him a “human tampon” later on.

– Poor Rust.  He’s been too busy to fix that broken taillight on his car for the last 10 years!

– Martin: “Getting laid was good for you.” Rust: “Goddamn you, you moron.”

– “Marty never really knew himself, so he didn’t know what he wanted” – Maggie, about Martin.

– Martin is such a dumbass though, for real.

– Per usual … is it next Sunday yet?!




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  • Jamesy

    This felt like the most “by the books” episode yet, and because of that I was slightly disappointed. It was kinda inevitable that it would go the way it did but every episode so far had been so different in the way it dealt with the story and characters, I really hope this doesn’t trail of towards the end and loose steam and that they just did this to “get it out of it’s system” so to speak and now that it’s dealt with they can move on and tie everything together. I just felt like it had started to fall under the same category as every detective show, although the way they dealt with it still had that True Detective magic. Having three characters from the past show up in the same episode, I dunno it just felt kinda forced if that’s the correct word, as if it was rushed in. I understand they only have 8 episodes to tell the story but because of that they should use the characters and time more wisely. And what happened to Kevin Dunn’s character? I am looking for a response to this because I have SO MANY questions!

    • Tritium3H

      I guess I just assumed he had been promoted or taken a new assignment, at sometime between 1995 and 2002.

      I was generally happy with the episode…especially because I predicted a Maggie / Rust fling would be he cause of the 2002 fall-out.
      Then again, I was pretty sure that the preacher (Shea Whigham) was involved somehow. However, it looks like he is in the clear.

      It looks as though Marty will be getting back onboard Team Cohle…and together they will finally solve he case (or exact some frontier justice).

  • derek

    Good episode! I really want to know what Cole and martin are going to talk about. I also wonder how the show can do a second season with more storyline being that they are kind of flashing all the way forward to the present time.

    • Hodorlorean

      Not seen the preview or anything but I guess the first half of the episode we will see Rust telling Marty what he’s been up to and seeing that in flashback. Season 2 will be an all new story and characters though, so this story will end after 8 episodes.

      • derek

        what do you mean “New Characters”?

      • Loughy

        New actors. All new story line/characters next season.

  • Loughy

    This may mean nothing, but did you guys notice that during the police station parking lot fight, Marty was thrown into Rust’s truck and broke the left taillight. In the closing second of the episode, the camera stayed on that same taillight, presumably never fixed over that 10 year (I believe that’s the right time frame) span while they hadn’t spoken.

    • 80sRobot

      Yes. It was intentionally meant to be symbolic for the reasons you stated: their relationship having been broken and not fixed over the last 10 years. Further extrapolating from this, we could infer it means that Marty has not been continuing to work with Rust in secret on the case over the last 10 years.

  • ervin

    one of the best things that happened to television in years!

  • ervin

    one of the best things that happened to television in years!

    • ChelFCsea

      The best that has ever happened, ever.

  • ChelFCsea

    Sure, the episode may not have had as much spark as the first five, but it was still great. As always it made me think a lot. I just watched the preview for the next episode and I can’t wait a week, it’s too long! At the end of the preview there was a scene in Cohle’s room, with him and Marty looking at the evidence that Cohle has found after their fallout, and Marty seemed destroyed. I wonder if he saw a picture of his daughters, naked and sleeping, just like the pictures the preacher told Cohle about. Where did Marty’s kids go to school when they were younger?

    A lot of questions to be answered in the last two episodes for sure.

    • Hodorlorean

      I loved the preview for next week… I wish I hadn’t watched it though. Just got me more excited dagnamit. So what does Rust show Marty on the TV? That’s the question, will this be our first shot of the ‘man with the scars’? Marty’s daughter being involved?

    • Jamesy

      I think Maggies father is somehow involved, he seemed to have a dislike to Marty and came across as a guy who’s important and who knows people in high places. He could have left out photos or such and that’s where Marty’s daughters got the idea for the “crime scene” with the barbies and the drawings…did anyone else notice the spiral drawing on the wall in the episode where Marty tells Cohle “I like mowing my lawn” I definitely think at least one of the daughters was involved in what went on.

  • mark

    dull dull dull show. all hype. Oh has good lighting, a full 20 minute tracking shot.. SO? its tedious

    • Hodorlorean

      Hugs dude! But one question, if you think it’s tedious etc and have done for a few episodes now why keep watching? I gave up on the walking dead like 4 episodes into the first season. Didn’t keep watching it just cos others liked it. I found the characters quite tedious and just boring. (have heard good things about the later seasons though).

      • http://www.facebook.com/sangbaran Sam

        whats your favorite show? just out of curiosity :)

    • Nick

      If you think this show is dull OR tedious than you really are not the target audience. ADD and ADHD are not accommodated by these writers.

      • derek

        I have ADHD and I LOVE it!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sangbaran Sam

      whats your favorite show? just out of curiosity!

    • edshrinker

      So dull and tedious you HAD to read the review and make a comment. Huh.

    • Bo

      I agree. Careful though, Mark. Folks on this site can’t handle anyone not liking this show. Look, the show is interesting enough to take a look at. It has some good stuff, but it also has a lot of dull and shallow stuff. Why not watch it and intelligently notice both aspects? Like the broken tail light. Okay. Got it. But they had to stay on it and on it and on it while he drove away as if they just can’t trust the audience to be smart enough to have noticed it right away. That’s what I find dull and shallow about it. Not trusting their audience enough without making it way too obvious and hitting us over the head with it. I don’t know, maybe the audience isn’t smart enough. Pity, as I thought that was pretty good…at first…then got tired of the lingering point making…hey, enough already with the broken light shot!

      • Nick

        I think most of those scenes, like the tail light shot are subtle. What is the reason to cut out on that shot earlier? To purposely be more subtle? This show nails subtlety and it’s the majority of it takes place in the depths of each character, not the objects within frame. I think this show dumbs nothing down and the audience is rewarded weekly

      • Bo

        Okay, Nick. But the tail light shot is subtle? You jest, I hope. It was a close up shot! That ain’t subtle, man! It’s telling the viewer, hey look at this tail light because it’s a close shot and you can’t look at anything else but the tail light. That’s not subtle. In film language a close shot is not subtle and not meant to be. You cut away from it because you trust that you’ve made you point. But, hey…it’s cool. I kinda liked it was still broken. I got it. Then holding on it with the camera mounted on the back of the truck so we had to keep seeing the broken tail light as the truck drives down the road? That ain’t subtle, it’s over kill. For me it wasn’t needed and destroyed the symbolic intention. It started me thinking…umm…what kind of guy wouldn’t fix his tail light? Not a really smart cop who sees things others do not. Not a smart guy who would know he’d probably get many tickets for a broken tail light. Then it turned it from being a nice little touch into a stupid guy who doesn’t have the good sense to fix his tail light. But hey, that’s just me. I’m glad you like the show though.

      • Nick

        I think it is subtle. If the purpose of the shot is to say “looky here, he still ain’t fixed it” than sure it’s right in your face. Obviously people notice is right away, but I’m not thinking about tickets and what not. I’m wondering if he’s even used the thing much since 2002. I’m wondering if that fall out meant more to him than he knows, it’s clearly a souveneer of sorts and I’m also thinking (though he’s clearly not the murderer) how much souveners like that remind me of serial killers. It’s the old “one stupid mistake helped us catch him” kinda thing. I’m also thinking about Marty following him and knowing he will see it and know what it’s from. And besides it was a nice looking shot, so 5 seconds of him pulling away doesn’t exactly feel like it was jammed down my throat.

      • Nick

        I think it is subtle. If the purpose of the shot is to say “looky here, he still ain’t fixed it” than sure it’s right in your face. Obviously people notice is right away, but I’m not thinking about tickets and what not. I’m wondering if he’s even used the thing much since 2002. I’m wondering if that fall out meant more to him than he knows, it’s clearly a souveneer of sorts and I’m also thinking (though he’s clearly not the murderer) how much souveners like that remind me of serial killers. It’s the old “one stupid mistake helped us catch him” kinda thing. I’m also thinking about Marty following him and knowing he will see it and know what it’s from. And besides it was a nice looking shot, so 5 seconds of him pulling away doesn’t exactly feel like it was jammed down my throat.

      • Nick

        I think it is subtle. If the purpose of the shot is to say “looky here, he still ain’t fixed it” than sure it’s right in your face. Obviously people notice is right away, but I’m not thinking about tickets and what not. I’m wondering if he’s even used the thing much since 2002. I’m wondering if that fall out meant more to him than he knows, it’s clearly a souveneer of sorts and I’m also thinking (though he’s clearly not the murderer) how much souveners like that remind me of serial killers. It’s the old “one stupid mistake helped us catch him” kinda thing. I’m also thinking about Marty following him and knowing he will see it and know what it’s from. And besides it was a nice looking shot, so 5 seconds of him pulling away doesn’t exactly feel like it was jammed down my throat.

    • steve manchester england

      Have you got a pulse?

  • Clay

    Great show, but I think the real mystery at its heart is how Woody Harrelson keeps landing these tens.

    • bidi

      not that he’s an ugly dude, but my friends and i ask that same question every week

    • Dan Ketchum

      The woman from this episode, though we saw her when she was younger, she felt like a supernatural demon tempting him.

    • Hey…HEY!

      Woody’s got all the good weed, man. That’s why he and McConaughey get along so well. Alright, alright, alright.

    • Trubeliever

      He’s a cop….
      for many women that is the attraction.
      There’s an old saying:
      “Want to feel secure all night?
      Take a cop to bed.”

  • Carcosa

    Do we know for a fact that Tuttle committed suicide? I know they said he died as a result of “mixed medications” but that could imply homicide or suicide.

    Also, I’ve been on board with Rust for almost the entire series, but for the first time thought he sounded like a raving lunatic in the scene in the Major’s office where Marty suggests there was no logic in what he was saying. It struck a chord precisely because what Rust was suggesting sounded almost too ridiculous to be true.

    To me, at least, this brought up a theory I hadn’t thought of which is that Rust has pieced together a massive cult conspiracy that simply doesn’t exist. We already know he thinks too much and has a tendency for “seeing things”. I’m sure other people have thought of this before, but this was the first time it occurred to me.

    • 80sRobot

      We don’t know for a fact yet if Tuttle killed himself or if someone made it appear he did. But another angle: he could have been “convinced” to kill himself, like what the guy Rust tried to interview about the Yellow King did.

      Also interesting: Rust advised the young woman who had murdered her babies to kill herself.

    • derek

      In my opinion, Marty doesn’t believe in Cohles logic because Marty doesn’t know jack. And he especially says this because they aren’t getting along and Marty doesn’t want to lose his job over it.

      • 80sRobot

        And Marty had his own personal issues going on (scoring hot young pussy) to care.

      • derek

        If i was marty, i would be stealing handcuffs from the storage room at the police station so i could tie all these hot bitche$ up in a secret warehouse of my choosing. lol

    • Roderick McKie

      That’s way too obvious. So would the notion be that real life is the equivalent of the second act of ‘The King in Yellow’ that drives people insane. It’s quite clear to me that Rust has been back under deep-cover, and that the bust-up with Marty and leaving the job was staged by the two of them. It explains why Marty would maintain his partner was talking “gibberish”. That is quite separate from what went on between the three characters, that was simply “real life” within the fiction, intruding, but ultimately not getting in the way of the job. After all, we know just how far this pair will go to get their man. That’s why Rust hasn’t been “off the grid”, but has been spotted all over the place, he’s been out there attracting the Yellow King and it’s quite clear that both Marty and Rust suspect police involvement at some level. Two people from the photo of the five crowned “kings” on horseback have been eliminated, there are three still to go. If this is completely wrong I’ll maintain I was drunk when I wrote it.

  • 80sRobot

    Regarding the overall mystery: It looks to me like someone in charge has been trying to silence people connected to the overall conspiracy by ordering them to suicide (Tuttle could have been “advised” to kill himself in 2010). Rust “advising” the young woman who killed her babies to kill herself alluded to this tactic, but it was a red herring in pointing the finger at Rust.

    • 80sRobot

      The list of suspects is narrowing down. I am really believing Marty’s father-in-law is behind this in some major way. It would fit thematically (“You are in Carcosa now. He sees you.”). Yet I wonder if he’s the actual Yellow King. Or if we will ever be shown who (or what) the Yellow King is.

      In fact, I wonder if Pizzolatto’s intent is that while each season will be its own standalone story with different lead characters/actors, perhaps the unifying theme throughout all the seasons and cases will connect to the Yellow King/Carcosa. This could be an urban legend that forever haunts the various investigators (who could also include crime reporters and private investigators) throughout the True Detective universe. It would, of course, also nurture a fervent fanbase for the series to discuss and debate theories about this legend.

      The idea of a conspiracy of powerful people who kidnap women and or children for perverted means (sex cult, Satanism, etc.) has always been a powerful one in real-life American crime lore, but has never been definitively proven. Perhaps Pizzolatto’s idea is for this series to address this persistent legend/fear that haunts our psyche, and he’s using the Yellow King/Carcosa literary legend as the narrative theme to frame it around.

      • Jamesy

        That’s what I was thinking also when I read an article that Pizzolatto mentioned further seasons could centre around a rookie cop or journalist. That would be pretty great if the Yellow King was the big bad so to speak. But if they go that route I hope it doesn’t end up getting lost in it’s own story, which could easily happen.

      • 80sRobot

        Yeah the Yellow King mythos could easily become lost and confusing throughout the seasons of True Detective. Because there is the possibility that the whole Yellow King/Carcosa stuff within the show’s universe is just a meme that fringe people adopt, make their own, and add to for their own purpose, whether for truly evil crimes (kidnapping, rape or murder) or minor stuff like vandalizing burned out churches. Just like how in the real world, the Yellow King/Carcosa mythos has been appropriated and added to in literature (and by Pizzolatto for TD).

        There could be no actual grand conspiracy and Rust’s quest will go nowhere, except into madness for himself. Someone *is* killing women, but this person may not be connected to the Dora Lange case at all, and is just riding on the Yellow King/Carcosa meme-train because it’s “cool”.

        In other words, perhaps Pizzolatto’s ultimate goal is to show how various investigators over the decades descend into madness when they keep pursuing the false mythos of the Yellow King/Carcosa. And we the fans will too if we look too hard. :)

  • 80sRobot

    I wonder if HBO will hold off on Episode 7 next Sunday, because that’s Oscar night, and most eyeballs will be watching that. Also, Matthew McConaughey is up for Best Actor, which he will probably win. HBO would likely use that to promote the last two episodes to drive up viewership.

  • Colin Christian

    Star Trek,X-Files,Battlestar Galactica and True Detective. Best shows ever.

    • doctor_robot

      you’re forgetting “alf”.

  • Colin Christian

    Star Trek,X-Files,Battlestar Galactica and True Detective. Best shows ever.

  • Colin Christian

    Star Trek,X-Files,Battlestar Galactica and True Detective. Best shows ever.

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