‘True Detective': There’s No Such Thing as Forgiveness

Published 1 year ago by

Tory Kittles Michael Potts and Michelle Monaghan in True Detective Season 1 Episode 6 True Detective: Theres No Such Thing as Forgiveness

[This is a review of True Detective season 1, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]

In recent weeks, True Detective has become the Internet’s favorite new puzzle, inspiring viewers to pick through every piece of every scene, to fixate on anything yellow or with antlers (or both). But the fervor surrounding the mystery at the heart of the show has only become more extensive since the correlation between Nic Pizzolatto’s story and ‘The King in Yellow’ gave fans reasons to start concocting speculative theories on who (or what) is the Yellow King, what all the devil’s traps and circular constructs ultimately mean, and whether or not Marty and Rust circa 2012 are somehow involved in the case Detectives Papiana and Gilbough have been investigating.

True Detective creates that kind of response in its increasingly devoted viewership partly because of the way the series is constructed. Pizzolatto’s scripting twists, turns, and gyrates more than the washing machine Marty conspicuously dumps his dirty laundry in before Maggie knows he’s home. The show gives the audience cause to scour every scene for ‘Easter eggs’ and hidden meaning until their eyes burn, but holds out on confirming any of the speculation until it’s absolutely necessary. That’s certainly true of the larger mystery propelling these characters and fueling their obsessions, but it’s also true of the smaller, perhaps more obvious ones defining their characters.

As an episode, ‘Haunted Houses’ doesn’t pack the narrative wallop that ‘Who Goes There‘ or last week’s superlative ‘The Secret Fate of All Life,’ but this is primarily because the purpose of the episode is to take a step back, slip into Marty’s shoes for a little while and watch while he gives in to some old habits and ultimately detonates his marriage. When Marty stomps around his family’s living room, swilling beer in his recliner, waiting for a plate of re-heated pasta before announcing he’s fine with his daughters’ aversion toward him, he personifies the “crude men who thought they were clever” that Maggie mentions she’s spent too many good years trying to deal with. But in a sense, she’s also talking about Rust, who requires as little prodding to have sex with her as Marty did Beth (Lili Simmons), the former prostitute he handed some cash to in episode two that prompted Rust to ask: “Is that a down payment?”

Matthew McConaughey in True Detective Season 1 Episode 6 True Detective: Theres No Such Thing as Forgiveness

There’s a stream of obsessiveness in the episode that’s in keeping with some of the philosophizing going on in the last two weeks. In 2002, the Heart/Cohle partnership comes to a brutal end after Marty falls back into his old ways with the woman Rust all but predicted he would and Maggie responds in kind. Meanwhile, Rust’s paying a visit to former preacher Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham) and Reverend Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders), obsessing over the possibility the latter is somehow involved in the murders and abuses he’s not supposed to be investigating anymore.

Jump forward to 2012 and Rust’s taillight is like his relationship with Marty: still broken. It’s also a lingering reminder that Rust, Marty, and Maggie are, and forever will be, connected, a fact that’s demonstrated in the seemingly coordinated lies they all tell Papiana and Gilbough, despite the apparent acrimonious distance between them. As the camera lingers on that shot of Rust’s broken taillight it becomes clear: time may heal some wounds, but there’re others that can only be fixed through decisive action.


True Detective continues next Sunday with ‘After You’ve Gone’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below:

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  1. Hm. Time to place myself squarely in the minority here (based on all the reviews I have read today):

    It was the second narrative misstep in my opinion. First being the focus of the investigation falling squarely onto Cohle in the last episode and now, after all that has happened, the reason for the fall out between the two detectives. All season we have been watching a (brilliant) character study where two men have aligned their own compulsions towards channels they chose to exploit in order to seek resolution as validation. So, for after all that to arrive at a soap opera level of plot twist as the reasoning behind their fall out simply feels cheap to me.

    But, a lot of it has done so and did so in this episode. I almost expected a “You’re too close to this case, dammit!” line from the boss of Cohle as his characterisation seemed to be to just shout very loudly. The real problem about all this though is the character of Maggie Hart…

    Now, watching the recent season of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ led me to believe that the first scene the writers came up with when plotting it out was of Nucky and Eli. Then the nephew was invented as the reason to interrupt that particular scene. It was by far the worst acted scene in the entire series. For me then, this is the Maggie Hart role in ‘True Detective’. Conceived for that one scene alone. Again, just a little cheap for me.

    My final grip is about the structure now. What perspective are we seeing all this from? There was not a clear shift from a story being told to one not being told but witnessed so, what is Maggie relaying? Two minutes of her followed by ten minutes of things she could not know anything about. The detectives? No, because they would not be privy to what Cohle was up to when alone.

    Sorry for the long post. I almost hate myself for ranting against it because for four and half episodes it gripped me in a manner not experienced since, you know, that Meth dude. I hope for a final two episodes then that bring me back fully.

    • The shows narration feel during the interviews just was a pacing device to me, the show has always been shown from the omniscient point. Even while Cohle and Hart were telling their story the audience was seeing things as they happened, while it was clear they (mainly Hart) was omitting details and they both outright lied about everything that happened after they went of book.

      The cheating angle with Maggie was built up from the initial episodes and it also showed she really was not the shrinking violet critics made her out to be. She proved to be as damaged as both male leads, and what she did was done with purposeful malice. Odds are Cohle and Hart would have come to blows about something sooner or later anyway due to the obsession Rust had with actually re-opening the murder case.

    • I disagree.
      The scene between Rust and Maggie has nothing to do with soap opera, it fits perfectly with a very important underlying theme you can observe since the first episodes (i have to check) which is “women” or more precisely “men/women relationships”. Almost every character in this show express deep truths about his life in tiny bits of dialogue, and you can notice than women in this show always talk about men, love, sex, desire, (extreme) exploitation : Maggie, Marty’s mistress, the various whores who cross the detectives path, also pretty central to mention the (mainly) female victims of the cult… add to that the sexual rebellion of the teen daughter and finally the salvaged ex-teen prostitute turned daddy’s dream s***
      Marty is the regular good guy but with men’s needs, these urges can force people to do stupid or ugly things, Rust is obviously more versed in the spiritual realm. Maggie certainly noticed that and was kind of attracted to Rust in some way. So Marty got to screw real bad with that girl, i understand him and i would smirk too at the little devil if i went the same path. Maggie is disgusted when she discovers it (even she don’t know the true extent of it) so I was not shocked to see her “snap” (everybody snaps in this show) with a retribution with a greek tragedy flavor. I found that all very fitting and genuinely dramatic.

      • I have seen Marty as being the more manipulative and out of control individual from early on. When Marty said Rust was obsessive he was immediately called out about his own obsessive behavior, but not when it came to the job. Rust appears to be a borderline psychotic burn-out on the surface, but Marty is the more violent and unpredictable of the two. You just have to look at how Marty went after that guy who hooked up with his side-piece, beat those two guys who they found with his daughter (which seems understandable on it’s face), and shot Reggie while he was cuffed (ending the investigation, but possibly leaving the real killer(s) at large).

        The brief encounter with Maggie and Rust was the last straw with the two detectives, but the tension between them due to their working relationship was going to come to a head eventually. Maggie went to Rust because she could not bring her self to hook up with some stranger and she felt close enough to Rust to justify it her mind that it was not the same as cheating with some stranger. She also knew deep down that it would hurt Marty much, much more because despite everything those two seem to be the only friend the other has.

        • Marty is the more impulsive of the two I agree, he’s the archetypal animal as “alpha male” (which fails miserably here), a very socialized animal but still… It would be good if the arc of Marty tells us something about the reasons for the various forms of anger/explosions he shows.

          Psychotic sure Rust is tripping hard ! And he’s doing it for a long time, went to Hades/Hell deep undercover narc mission and came back with a disillusioned enlightenment. Despite his bad environment (as Marty’s says “after a certain age men shouldn’t live like that”) Rust displays an incredible sense of purpose, focus and dedication. His theories and attitudes sounds crazy to people around him but we know he’s right, we root for him, he’s the white-darkish knight, a true hero, a true detective. I guess both are, you can’t have a bigger picture without the two.

  2. And Lili Simmons from Banshee… what a treat :)

  3. It was inevitable that the series would have something physical taking place between Rust and Maggie, although I don’t know if it was truly necessary for her to go to that point to finally break it off with Marty; maybe one or two more lawn mows would have done the trick. Anyway, two more episodes left and all of us glued to the set since the premiere can hardly wait to finally see how it all ends up. I really thought that Tuttle and the Reverend were behind it all, but now I’m not so sure. I’m also dying to get a look at “the Giant,” whomever he is, as he sounds like one scary bad dude. Some on the internet say he could be that “green eared spaghetti monster” that was mentioned early in the series, and this could be the lawnmower man Rust had a conversation with at the end of episode three; if he’s wearing those green ear protectors many lawnmower men wear to drown out the sound, that could explain the little girl’s description re the “green ears.”

  4. I’m guessing since Rust quit this is why he was seen at that crime scene the detectives asked him about in 2012 , he is still obsessing over the case and wants too solve it, maybe he needs Marty’s help thus him asking too talk at the end of the episode.

  5. killer is the dude with the scars on his face (or maybe a mask), he was mentioned in an earlier episode when there was a sketch from a girl that said she ran away from a monster in the woods, i think. I remember the sketch being pretty freaky. I’m pretty sure Rust’s been working the case all this time, his personality during the interview was just a front.

  6. Banshee & True Detective best thing on TV in ages shame its nearly finished :(

  7. The sex scene between Coyle and Hart’s wife: one minute they are humping and the next he’s yelling at her to get the F out of his apartment. In between there is some mumbled hushed dialogue. Did anyone actually understand what was said there? Would a 5.1 sound system help? (I have an inexpensive sound bar.) I can’t imagine any dialogue that brief that could plausible explain explain such a sudden shift from intimacy to hostility.

    • Joe, there’s a clear explanation for the sudden shift. Maggie was there for one thing and one thing only. If it had lasted 30 seconds or three hours. So when the deed was done, she takes up her panties and then, has to tell Rust why — telling him she’s sorry, that this was the only way, she wanted to do it with someone but couldn’t, and this was the only way that would hurt Marty. Rust, now understanding exactly what happens, blows his stack. Makes sense to me!

      • That makes a lot of sense. I guess the director’s cut would show her striking out in her attempt to pick up the man in the bar. But to explain that failure would have required a lot more secondary character development than the story would support. Anyway I really could not hear or understand the dialogue in that particular part of the scene.

        • I think the dialogue you missed is her telling him that “she almost did it with a stranger at the bar first, but couldn’t” so thats why they dont need to show her striking out at the bar, she says it.

          • Now that you mention it, that was my original impression too. Then when I replayed it over and over, I couldn’t actually make out distinct words to support that. Still it’s the best explanation. However, your word choices point up a problem: “couldn’t do it” vs. “striking out.” I’d go with “couldn’t do it” since I can’t really see her striking out. So she could do it with Cohle because there was a personal connection or was it that she knew it would hurt her husband more than by doing it with a complete stranger? As this plays out in the two remaining episodes perhaps we will find out.
            Another aspect of the scene that was noteworthy was Cohle’s verbal outburst when she told him. I think that is the first time he has lost it in contrast to his partner. What I find most unusual about Cohle is how he has wound up at least two of his interrogations including the one in this episode: he’s very good at eliciting a confession from a reluctant perp, then violating the trust or rapport that was just established. (and he does it in a particularly nasty way here, telling her she should kill herself). So he betrayed his partner by screwing his wife, how might he betray Hart again? I think it is in the nature of an undercover agent to be two-faced and duplicitous.

  8. Your criticisms have some validity. I don’t see the investigation’s focus on Cohle as a plot misstep though. It’s a device to double down on the pressure (from the audience’s perspective) to see the case solved and the true killer brought to justice. In other words solving the case will end the killings and disappearances and exonerate (if that’s the right word; perhaps ” lift the cloud of suspicion from” is better) Cohle.
    I assume the second plot mistep you refer to is the infidelity scene between Cohle and Hart’s wife. That was telegraphed to us a long time ago in the first or second episode. Other than that there really wasn’t any substantive conflict between the two men, just a clashing of personalities. Beyond that it’s always been clear that Cohle is the alpha male of the two: he brought a depth of profession expertise to the job that Hart doesn’t have. Also while Hart is cheating on his wife Cohle has a drive or compulsion to solve the case. Hart is the light weight here and it’s not really plausible for Cohle to pull him over to the side of the road to see if he wants to go for a beer. The only motive he could have for doing so is to enlist his help in finding the killer.

  9. Above should have been a reply to Ajeno, the first post here.