After the Internet got itself in a King in Yellow and season 2 casting tizzy, perhaps it is best that “Haunted Houses” is decidedly less cosmic horror and more just normal terrible human beings being terrible. As someone dealing with some terrible allergies the fact that “Haunted Houses” is slower and more setup than pay off is appreciated. There are still moments of technical beauty they just don’t add up to a greater whole compared to past episodes have.
Maggie is brought into the interview room, giving “Haunted Houses” a narrator to juxtapose against. She isn’t particularly forthcoming with information new, useful, or otherwise. She claims no one told her why they broke up, and why would someone she’s the reason. It’s a lie of omission but just an example that no one tells you the whole truth, everyone has something to hide.
From the beginning three dates were made very important for this sordid tale: 1995 (the Dora Lang case), 2002 (the year Rust and Martin break up), and 2012 (the present). What happened in 2002 that not only caused a fissure between Rust and Martin, the final separation between Martin and Maggie, and drive Cohle away from the one job that he was good at? Unsurprisingly all of these things are connected. Undoubtedly forming a human pentagram of evil as this series continues to allow for possible layer upon layer symbolic interpretation.
The cause and fault of it are kind of the most boring aspects of it all. Martin is the inevitable cause of this destruction, beginning an affair with the girl he gave that hundred dollar bill to back in episode 2. Caught cheating once again, Maggie decides to show him how it feels. A move that would be Super Effective against a character like Martin Hart and his very staunch idea of masculinity and what is his. I’m never good at reading seduction scenes, is it all Maggies “fault”? How do you properly hand out the blame in that situation? Cohle just going at it right away doesn’t feel totally natural but perfectly reasonable given his “animal programming” attitude.
The strongest take away from that sequence is that finally a female character uses power over someone else. This series is completely from the male perspective which has led to the female characters being objectified or made to simply operate within the context of their man. Seeing Maggie finally use some of that against Martin is monumental, especially after the scene in which Martin’s new lover implores him to give her anal…ugg that scene.
Once Cohle recovers from his baser programming and realizes what he has done and been used, he gets within inches of Maggie’s face and screams for her to “Get out!” Normally such a moment of melodrama require a close up out. Instead Cary Fukunaga keeps the camera as a fly on the wall and has the characters pull out and away, making McConaughey seem all the more fearsome. The other nice technical beat in this episode was how the smoothly the camera became unhinged from the table when Maggie bluntly told Martin what had transpired. As soon as both stand up, inches from one another, the camera this time gets in nice and tight and tracks them as Martin and Maggie dance around the fact Martin has his hand around his wife’s throat. It’s a short and sweet moment of intensity.
Her comment about Martin never knowing himself is a nice retread of all the things that ail Martin Hart. Martin is a character that wants the typical family and all the objects and affection that goes with it, particularly from his daughters. Unable to get that from his kids, Hart inevitably finds younger women and gets that affection another way. At least that’s a better anserw than Martin Hart is a scum bag.
The assumption that Cohle has gone rogue and is investigating the possible conspiracy murder cult was correct. The moments of investigation are kind of banal in this story. They are a plot necessity but never provide the pay off and when all of them revolve around Cohle going on his crazy conspiracy theories and everyone around him (rightfully) calling him crazy, it gets a little repetitive and boring. His scene with the girl they rescued from LeDoux, ending in a fit of screams was a nice touch. Now that all that is out of the way however things should pick up.
“Haunted Houses” appears to put the flashbacks to rest with Rust and Martin both out of the interview room and meeting on the highway for the first time in a decade. By all indications, Martin still plans to carry out his threat of killing Cohle. A present day setting should finally allow us to see if the tone of the 90’s can be replicated. Everything is far brighter and cleaner compared to the grungy 90’s. The flashbacks looked like a world of encroaching evil, the present day looks like a Apple device.
2 more episodes.