Review: ‘True Detective’ – ‘The Locked Room’

01.26.14 5 years ago 160 Comments

A review of tonight’s “True Detective” coming up just as soon as I cut up this beer can…

“Do you ever wonder if you’re a bad man?” -Hart
“No, I don’t wonder, Marty. World needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.” -Cohle

It’s clear by now that the 2012 detectives are looking at Rust Cohle as more than just a source of information about their case. And while I expect the solution to be much more complicated than Cohle being a secret serial killer, you can understand – based on what little we know of events so far, and what we’ve seen of the man in two different time periods – why a pair of veteran cops might size the guy up and take him for a maniac.

But if there’s a dangerous half of the partnership this week, it’s Marty Hart.

We’ve seen hints of Hart’s temper before, but it hits full boil at several points in “The Locked Room.” He rages at the thought of crazy Rust Cohle talking to his wife – and, worse, mowing his lawn – but is ultimately not ready to throw down with his unstable partner, in front of his house and wife and kids. (There is also a sense that, even though Hart’s the bigger guy, he’s intimidated by Cohle.) And after he spots mistress Lisa out with another man – while he and Maggie are busy trying to fix Rust up on a double date – and she tells him that their affair has run its course, he completely loses it, bursts into her apartment, assaults her date and makes a violent spectacle of himself. He insists that he’s not a psycho, but his earlier line to Maggie about being “all fucked up” – which comes across at the time as a manipulation to get her to back off – rings much truer. Marty puts on a better front than Rust, but it’s not because Rust can’t control himself and Marty can. It’s that Marty cares about appearances, even as his actions continually put a lie to his words.

Late in the episode, as Hart and Cohle in 1995 get wind to the idea that Reginald Ledoux might be their killer, Cohle in 2012 lays another of his grand philosophical treatises on the younger cops – complete with beer can men as creepy props – talking about how life is all “a dream about being a person. And then like a lot of dreams, there’s a monster at the end of it.” And we close on a man, wandering around in a jock strap and a gas mask, covered in filth tattoos and casually swinging a machete as he walks.  Presumably, this is Reggie Ledoux, and perhaps he’s the monster of which Cohle speaks. But if so, he’s not the only one in the story.

Aside from being a great, and disturbing, showcase for Woody Harrelson (who is unfortunately getting lost in the understandable rush to praise Matthew McConaughey), the most significant element of “The Locked Room” is religion. We meet yet another preacher played by an actor from another HBO drama – this time it’s Shea Whigham from “Boardwalk Empire” – and the cops’ visit to his traveling church unsurprisingly leads to yet another Cohle/Hart argument about the fundamental tenets of society. What I enjoyed about this one was that Marty is slowly but surely figuring out how to fight with his partner on this level, even if he wouldn’t swing on him after the Curious Incident Of The Lawnmower In The Daytime. Originally, he just freaked out upon hearing any of Rust’s nihilist monologues; having spent a few weeks working this case and listening to it, he’s starting to push back. And even though Rust dismisses the idea of religion as fairy tales whose necessity proves man’s inherent awfulness, he’s also about to sound awfully convincing when he gets his church on in the interrogation room.

Keep in mind that unlike HBO’s two Sunday comedies (which are premiering their next new episodes on Saturday night), “True Detective” is taking next week off entirely. Episode 4 airs on February 9.

What did everybody else think?

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