Mason Cross, author of The Killing Season, reviews episode six of HBO’s top crime drama True Detective. WARNING – CONTAINS SPOILERS
After a couple of weeks where the central mystery behind the killings was developed further, Haunted Houses shifts focus to explore the reasons behind the breakdown of Cohle and Hart’s relationship in 2002. It won’t come as a surprise to those who’ve been paying attention that Hart’s wife Maggie ends up being the wedge that comes between them.
Fittingly, it’s Maggie who takes Cohle’s place in the present-day interview segments, and provides a worthy successor to Rust Cohle in the oblique and cagey/outright lying stakes. Like the other two leads, she seems like a changed person: more confident, less willing to take any crap. Interviewing her, Detectives Papania and Gilbough treat her with kid gloves. They tell her they’ve brought her in to get ‘her perspective’ on the relationship between her husband and their prime suspect. That’s what she provides, but as usual, it’s not necessarily the truth.
When Hart, after apparently behaving himself between 1995 and 2002, succumbs to the temptations of the now grown-up underage prostitute he met at the ‘hillbilly bunny ranch’ in episode two, Maggie finds the proof on his unguarded cell phone. Rather than confront him immediately, she decides to have revenge sex with his partner and then tell him about it. Predictably, Hart doesn’t take the news well. A brutal parking lot fistfight later, Cohle’s tail-light and their partnership are shattered.
‘You fucked each other up pretty good,’ their superior says, evaluating their wounds. ‘No shit,’ Hart replies, talking about much more than just the physical injuries.
In between the big emotional moments this week, we do get to see Cohle’s unauthorised investigation in 1995 make some progress, before coming up against a solid wall of authority. He interviews Joel Theriot, the preacher from episode three, about the derelict school from last week and discovers a link to a church programme called Wellspring, led by none other than Reverend Tuttle, of the anti-Christian task force.
After Cohle pays Tuttle a visit, he’s immediately suspended by the new major, a much less sympathetic boss than Major Quesada in 1995. Maybe Cohle will take a telling and stop looking into Wellspring and its links to the Dora Lange case. My guess is, probably not.
Tempers seem to have cooled somewhat by 2012, when Cohle stops Hart on the drive home from his interview with Papania and Gilbough and invites him for a beer. He thinks maybe they should talk, and even though they’ve done nothing but talk in these segments, this will be the first time they’ve spoken to each other in the framing sequences.
It’s interesting that Hart’s immediate instinct is to check his gun is loaded, and that we have no clue whether he intends to use it for offensive or defensive purposes. It’s a reminder that, while Rust Cohle seems to be the deep and mysterious one, we really have no greater idea of what Marty Hart is going to do next.
The final shot lingers for a minute or so on Cohle’s still broken tail-light, inviting us to wonder what happened in 2002 to stop Cohle’s life in its tracks so completely. We only have two more weeks to find out . . .