What’s so interesting about True Detective‘s penultimate episode “After You’ve Gone” is — in terms of the case — not what it revealed, but what it held back. Often, the penultimate hour is when the real shit goes down (so to speak), and the finale is the aftermath and conclusion. This seems like it should be particularly true since Marty and Rust’s stories end next week, and don’t have a second season to work things out further. It’s an unsettling feeling that they’re so close, but not close enough, and the idea that the show could end without overt resolution on the case is a little maddening. But “After You’ve Gone” did contain a number of resolutions that, though subtle, have set up the finale beautifully. Hit the jump for more.
I think everyone can agree at this point that True Detective is the Ballad of Marty and Rust. The show is, after all, a 17-year look at the course of their relationship. We never really see the years that they spent apart. Even though their relationship is tied in completely with The Yellow King case, Rust’s years investigating without Marty are only alluded to and not seen. They have to be together, because the case is inside them. Rust compels Marty, who now runs a private investigator / security business, to continue working the case with him because it was owed. If Marty hadn’t hauled off and killed Reggie Ledoux, they might have been able to get the truth out of him. If Rust hadn’t slept with Maggie, they might have been able to keep working the case. They need to finish this.
Ultimately, Marty is man with a sense of justice. The possibilities of either Marty or Rust being the perpetrators of the crimes ends early in this episode definitively. Both of these men proved in this hour that they are both “true detectives.” They internalized the case (and other cases, as we see Marty’s reason for leaving the force was one too many a microwaved babies), they’ve lived it for almost two decades, and in that moment, they decide to see it to the end no matter the personal cost. Besides, what else do they have going on? Marty is eating TV dinners alone night after night, and Rust is dumping his beer bottles in the trash can on his way to work as a bartender. They’re both alone and seemingly washed up. “It’s like you’ve been alone too long.” This case gives them meaning.
When Marty visits Maggie to find out what she told the detectives, he thanks her for raising their kids up so well, and looks around at their flourishing life without him. She asks if he’s saying goodbye — is he? It feels very much like the two men are going on a suicide mission. The other part of that is so interesting is that Errol, the lawnmower guy, is revealed to be the Scarred Spaghetti Monster. I had to look up how Rust could have missed this the first time, and it was because Rust originally saw him with a beard, hiding the scars. But internet theories about his green headphones being the “green ears” that the traumatized girl remembered all seem to match up and be clear here.
But finding Errol isn’t the end-game. It’s discovering and proving and prosecuting (or killing) the five men who practiced some supremely fucked up and Satanic version of Courir de Mardi Gras, where they rape and murder women and children (and tape it, which was incredibly sickening). The fact that there are five of them was confirmed in the video tape, but also alluded to with Rust’s five beer can men, the five hooded figures in a picture with Dora Lang at her mother’s house, and most disturbingly, the five clothed figures standing over a naked woman that Audrey set up with her Barbies.
That last fact may hold an important key. We know for sure now that no character introduced into the world of True Detective is there by chance — even Rust and Marty’s old annoying co-worker turns out to be a Sheriff they need to talk to, and possibly one of the five (or he knows who they are). The detectives who did the interviewing also led us, if not Rust and Marty, to Errol, and so what is the deal with Audrey and her dolls? One theory suggests that Maggie’s wealthy father could be one of the five, and Audrey was either abused or witnessed this abuse herself. And that would bring the case as close to home as you could possibly get.
“After You’ve Gone” also changed things up regarding the case in that, for once, we know something that Rust and Marty don’t. Up until this point, viewers have experienced almost every reveal with them, or had it explained to us. But in this hour, after Rust catches Marty up on his conspiracy theories, we end up one step ahead of them. This doesn’t portend well. They don’t know about Errol. or who the five men are, and we only have one hour for them to find out?
The ultimate twist of True Detective may be the cosmically depressing truth that sometimes there is no justice. The case was a focal point in many ways of the episode, but it also really spent most of its hour healing the time and pain between Rust and Marty, and allowing them to finish what they had started 17 years ago. Rust’s desire to work outside of the system (though using Marty’s connections within it to grab some necessary files to help them), and his dogged desire to finish this case seems to be the crux of this series. Rust obtaining the child pornography and the video means nothing in a court of law, as it was illegally obtained. Holding the Sheriff at gunpoint isn’t going to stand, and neither is pulling down five probably very wealthy men who enjoy the dark arts. But Rust, and ultimately Marty, don’t care. By whatever means necessary, they will end this cycle of violence. Or die trying.
There’s one last damning suggestion, though. Writer Nick Pizzolatto has spoken in interviews about how much he loved a forever-old episode of Unsolved Mysteries that Matthew McConaughey starred in. It focused on the death of a Dorothy Lang … McConaughey’s character drove a red truck. There are a number of parallels in True Detective to that episode. But at the end, McConaughey’s character dies, and the killer goes free. Is this Pizzolatto righting that wrong, or showing us that time is a flat circle, and all of this has happened before? “Just be careful what you get good at.”
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I loved the conversation between Marty and Rust when they talked about what could have been. Rust as a painter or a historian? It was such a good exchange, as were all of their “catch-ups.” Say what you will, there is a bond between them.
— “Father Time has his way with us all. I’d say you must have pissed him off” – Marty.
— “If you were drowning, I’d throw you a fucking barbell” – Marty, still not happy with Rust.
— “My life was one ever expanding fuck up … I was aware I might have lost my mind” – Rust.
— Marty did some actual police work this week, and not gonna lie, as much as I enjoy the emotional exchanges, I do still really love the procedural aspect of the crime solving: the interviews, the discussion of theories. This episode had that in spades.
— Did anyone else have this line of thinking regarding that horrible snuff video? “What’s on here … wait, I can’t see it! … I can’t see … hang on, I don’t think I want to see … what’s the … ok I, nope, NOPE. I DON’T WANT TO SEE THIS!!”
— “What do you call a black man who flies a plane? A pilot, you racist!” – Marty.
— The only thing that didn’t fit in this hour was Maggie finding Rust and trying to ask him about Marty. I’m glad he told her off, but it just seemed very weird that she would go there, and even that she would care. Or was she trying to reclaim a part of her past, too?
— I really have no clue how this is going to end, and it scares me!
— “You know Carcosa?? Death is not the end.” — Dolores. Foreshadowing?