[This is a review of True Detective season 1, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
As True Detective inches closer to next week’s intriguingly titled season finale, ‘Form and Void,’ the series has to answer several questions pertinent to its own mystery without leaning too far into the climax that there’s nothing left to go out on. Of course, if the rampant Internet speculation is any indication, the sudden but not entirely unexpected rise of the Cthulhu should serve as the pinnacle to all the literary Easter eggs, existential dreariness, and quasi-philosophical underpinnings that’ve been snaked their way through these initial seven chapters of HBO’s highly-rated cop drama.
While the appearance of a fictional cosmic deity would convincingly announce True Detective as anything other than a police drama about obsession and change – or, rather the dilemma of remaining a fixed individual in a world that is constantly shifting, transforming, and, most troublingly, changing the rules – the likelihood of that happening is (thankfully) looking slim to nil, as Rust and Marty close in on the answers to the questions they initially went looking for back in 1995.
For all it has going on, and all the questions it leaves open before the finale, ‘After You’ve Gone’ tells the audience two persuasive, and perhaps unexpected things, 1) Despite their differences as detectives – and the fact that they’ve never much liked one another – Rust and Marty make a fine team, and 2) Carcosa, in this instance, may or may not be something tangible, but when it’s brought up to a somewhat senile old woman with ties to the Tuttle family, the topic drives her into near-hysterics, uttering Cohle-isms like “him who eats time” and “death is not the end.” Questions of the woman having lost her sanity versus the devastating neurological effects of time keep things on a hypothetical bent (Carcosa included), but it’s still enough to generate a chilling reminder of what’s left for the former detectives to uncover. The woman’s reaction may simply be senility, but along with her former proximity to the Tuttles, her rational difficulty could be read as a warning to the investigators to take heed and avoid coming down with a similar madness – the kind caused by having seen too much.
Of course, it’s the “death is not the end” line, which fills Rust with all sorts of existential dread. As the episode rolls along, it becomes more and more clear that this mission he’s dragged Marty back into will almost certainly be his (and his partner’s) last. Pizzolatto sets “the end” up by having Marty pay Maggie a visit that quickly summarizes the utter completeness of their separation that’s later punctuated by Maggie asking her former husband, “Did you come here to say goodbye?”
With that question hanging over the proceedings, ‘After You’ve Gone’ essentially serves as an enormous info dump, bringing the audience up to date on how Cohle dropped off the grid for nearly a decade, and how he came to possess damning evidence of what Billy Lee Tuttle was involved in. It is the kind of info dump that not only sets up the finale, but it also helps confirm the audiences’ preconceptions about the protagonists of True Detective, in that it appears to substantiate the notion that Rust and Marty are who they say they are: Detectives with the misfortune landing a life-altering case that, on the face of it, proves the oft heard notion that whatever they have done or will do, they will do over and over again.
And speaking of faces, it seems the man with the facial scars was within Rust’s grasp back at the school he was called away from near the end of ‘The Locked Room’; the same school he later re-investigated and found was full of devil’s traps and imagery tied to the murders he’s been revisiting for almost two decades. If time really is a flat circle, then there just might be some familiar surprises in store for Rust and Marty come next week’s finale.
True Detective will conclude season 1 next Sunday with ‘Form and Void’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below: