'True Detective': The Future is Behind You

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in True Detective Season 1 Episode 5

[This is a review of True Detective season 1, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]


Once Rust embarked down river, into the darkness with Ginger and his crew, it became readily apparent that True Detective itself was headed to an even more puzzling place than it had been before. The feeling became readily apparent in 'Who Goes There' when Rust and Marty's version of events began to deviate wildly from what detectives Papiana and Gilbough had been able to dig up about Rust's past. Needless to say, the "off book" events generated their own deliberately erroneous idea – Rust had gone to visit his ailing father while in the middle of a murder investigation – that not only gave the present day detectives reason to be suspicious of the man Rust was now, they also began to doubt the legend that'd been built up around him.

Of course that legend was at least partially Rust's own brainchild. After he and Marty track down Reggie Ledoux to a secluded house, and despite successfully apprehending their primary suspect in the ritualistic murder of Dora Lange, things go sideways in a familiar, vengeful cop sort of way that ends in a cover up of fairly epic proportions. The bigger reveal, though, is the reflexive way Rust responds to Marty's slaying of Reggie: by immediately going into cover-up mode, disposing of the only actual witness (though the question of what happened to Ginger still persists), and constructing an elaborate narrative about a heroic shootout to explain the deaths of Ledoux and Dewall.

It's all a clever bit of structure manipulation by Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Fukunaga that twists several different perspectives and time frames in such a precise manner that by the time 'The Secret Fate of All Life' gets to where it's going, the intent of True Detective's story swings not toward Papiana and Gilbough's investigation of Rust, but more towards what it is that Marty and Rust are still hiding. The deception and the way the two narratives have now diverged plays into the notion of the unreliable narrator that has been around from the beginning. At first, Rust's philosophical excursions read like the burned-out stoner version of SETI – constantly sending out signals to an audience that wasn't necessarily there, or terribly interested in the message. But now, with the contradictory story Marty and Rust are telling with such precision, those digressions have begun to read as a deliberate misdirection.

Woody Harrelson in True Detective Season 1 Episode 5

Marty and Rust have demonstrated a clear propensity for continued deception that calls certain portions of the narrative into question. And whatever it is Rust eventually uncovers – which is undoubtedly tied to the collection of Devil's Traps he found in the hurricane-ravaged school building – that leads to Papiana and Gilbough's questions regarding a period of time that's been unaccounted for will, with any luck, explain the reasoning behind any additional concealment.

'The Secret Fate of All Life' wraps up one lingering question (and admittedly superficial question) and then dutifully throws out several more. As the series delves deeper into the mysteries it's generated, it seems the question we now have to ask of a narrative that's essentially about truth-seeking, is whether or not the truth that is presented can or even should be trusted.


True Detective continues next Sunday with 'Haunted Houses' @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below:

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