True Detective Season 1, Episode 6: All of us, animals

The first season is nearing an end, but the darkness only seems to be growing deeper and thicker for detectives Rust and Cohle.

If a singular theme has emerged in the first installment of True Detective, it is that no one is perfect. We are all angry, we are all flawed, and we are all fundamentally irrational. Even in doing what we believe is right and good for one person (or ourselves), we often hurt someone else (or ourselves) in the process. There is no savior, no true hero - only true life, with all of its horrors. The sins we commit against one another are made less intolerable only by comparison to the shocking offenses of murderers and pedophiles.

The saga of Rust’s obsession with the Dora Lange murder continues in this episode, when he begins digging up missing persons cases and discovering remote connections to the 1995 murder. A discussion with one grieving father draws Rust’s eye back to the ministries of Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle. After interviewing former reverend Joel Theriot, whose revival he visited during the original investigation, Rust begins to suspect the involvement of Tuttle’s Wellspring education program. It is unclear what the involvement might be, but when Rust visits Tuttle to ask questions, Tuttle seems skittish.

Rust’s defining quality - in 1995, 2002 and 2012 alike - is his cynical aloofness, caused most visibly by his tendency to lose himself in his work. In fact, when one considers the offenses committed among the show’s primary characters (violence, cheating, abuse, rape), it is only Rust who has a relatively clean record - at least from what we the audience have witnessed. The man under the microscope of the entire show is the only one who hasn’t committed some terrible atrocity against a loved one or stranger. 

Still, he has referred to himself as a “bad man” who keeps “other bad men from the door.” He did beat that mechanic for information that one time, and he likely did some terrible things while he was under cover, but as far as we’ve seen - and as Maggie so vehemently maintains - he isn’t a bad guy. He’s just serious.

On the contrary, Rust’s violence has been largely psychological: he is a master interrogator and manipulator. However, when he becomes separated from his work, we witness the worst act of irrational physical violence he has committed yet.

Maggie, who has learned that Marty is cheating on her again, visits Rust’s apartment and forces herself on him. The sex they have is animalistic, violent and detached. There is no romance or longing in their encounter. This is not the long-awaited, meant-to-be “connection” we thought it might be, way back when Rust sat at Maggie’s table and opened up to her about his loss of a child. This scene, more than any other so far (with the exception of, maybe, Reggie Ledoux’s death scene), epitomizes the show’s tagline: “man is the cruelest animal.” Rust violently takes Maggie. Afterwards, Maggie openly admits that she is only using Rust (in all his pain and disaffection) to make Marty angry and force him to leave. Animals, the both of them.

I believe that in the next, penultimate episode of the first season, we will finally discover whatever secrets still shadow our understanding of Rustin Cohle. Perhaps Pizzolatto will leave these revelations for the finale, but I have a feeling their realization will be such a shock that their explanation and resolution will take some time to fully unravel. 

What was Rust up to these last ten years? How does the Lake Charles murder connect to the 1995 Dora Lange murder? Who is the giant with the scars? Why is Marty Hart such an angry man? We may or may not get answers to all of these questions, but remember: this is an anthology, and the end of the season is the end of the story. There will be no cliffhangers. The answers are on the horizon, and the next two episodes are sure to be a sheer deluge of shocks and epiphanies.

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