From a formalist perspective that entire back half of this episode. Martin recounting the “good years” after they end the Ledoux case. Rust Cohle going on another existential monologue, once again hitting on how we are doomed to repeat all things that “time is a flat circle” in the present. The present day Detectives reveal their motives. All while jumping back and forth to the events of those “good years”. It pushes True Detective into a much higher category of art than it previously occupied.
After the warmth of nostalgia passes in “The Secrete Fate of All Life”, as Martin Hart once again confronts his failings as a father that warmth evaporates instantaneously. It was as if a switch had been flipped from on to off. Episode 5 ofTrue Detective doesn’t dwell on the lack created by nostalgias disappearance; it just replaces it with another well known feeling: dread.
“The Secrete Fate of All Life” was rich with sustained, horrifying, dread. Cohle’s monologue on the view of things from the fourth dimension may be filled with soul sucking angst but that moment passed. Multiple times this episode this episode could have easily turned from dread to melodramatic “What’s in the box?” sequences. That would have been a release however and that’s just a little too easy. Instead we are shown inside the box and made a voyeur by the final shot. Looking into the box isn’t the moment of catharsis for the viewer; all it does is push the dread into the next link in a chain that’s been made for nearly 20 years. Or from Rust’s perspective the chain has always been there and he has always been making it.
True Detective feels like it is informed tonally by the work of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos, of which I am not that well verse. In general the Cthulhu stories deal with a protagonist being marked by one of the Great Old Ones and is driven insane by the attempts to comprehend them. The creeping dread throughout this episode and series overall is magnified by the viewers attempt to comprehend what they portend. The finally dolly shot, pulling out from Cohle and revealing other versions of those devil catchers and that he is in his own devil catcher. That wasn’t Cohle slowly going insane trying to figure it out, the person slowly losing it is the viewer with the vague implications being made.
Also, all of this Yellow King stuff is tied to this Carcosa mythos used by author Robert W. Chambers in his book The Yellow King. That Is a subject I have no inclination for.
My father’s response to the above would be that all this is existentialism is hollow posturing by Cohle just trying to get a read on the present day detectives. He’s always been the occam's razor type. Which is why he read the final scene as Cohle enjoying a fellow craftsmen(read: killer) and that he has assumed the role of killer. Where as I read that as the opposite and that it’s Cohle beginning to make the Homeland big wall of crazy.
Having Cohle become the serial killer is just dumb. True Detectives is informed by pulp tradition, that doesn’t mean it’ has to make bad decisions. A cabal of rich politicians and upper crust types getting together in the woods to murder women and children is waaay more interesting (and just as dumb) than a typical hunter of monsters becoming a monster.
One of the constant discussion points for the series has been the reliability of how the past is shown. If showing the bald faced hypocrisy of Martin Hart wasn’t an indicator of an all seeing truth or perhaps an internal truth that the narrator is unable to truly hide. Hearing Hart and Cohle’s version of events in the siege of Ledoux’s cook house juxtaposed against “reality” of these events has me now trusting all of the past stuff we have seen as how it really happened. It isn’t entirely from the narrators point of view just framed by it. The juxtaposition makes for a bit of comedy as Hart and Cohle go on about how it was their own Vietnam when in reality they just sneak up on the place.
That middle 10-15 minutes after Cohle and Hart take down Reggie Ledoux were just the warmest almost overly earnest moments of happiness this series is likely to see. The entire sequence is framed by Martin Hart wondering if we are ever cognizant of the “good years” as they happen or that we can only realize them by their absence once you’ve developed “ass cancer”. Even as it becomes apparent that these warm and fuzzy moments are fleeting and being replaced by an encroaching dread. Hart’s “good years” are no free of doubt or strife but are instead kind of genericall idyllic. As he must deal with his now teenage daughters, one of whom has a punk(?) streak in her that he just doesn’t understand. That’s typical father daughter stuff according to the media, something Hart would probably consider to be good.
It is a episode within the episode that makes you appreciate series director Cary Fukunaga, cinematographer Adam Arkapaw(Top of the Lake), and the production desiners. They are able to create a warm nostaligic mood, making for a moment of quasi-catharsis, effortlessly after spending so much time in humid Fincher-esque territory while keeping the same mise en scene. They are this series strongest attributes and I hope most of them are around for whatever season 2 is. You may have come for the Woody Harrelson and Matthew Mcconaughey but you’ll stay for all that…and the fine acting.
Shit, this is only episode 5 of 8 and it feels like the show has been on forever (in the best way).
The Bits At The End
· I’m interested in seeing how I react to Hannibal season 2 now. That series has baroque style towards horror where as this is Southern Gothic, both of which just go with extened feelings of dread. See that’s why I don’t like horror, it effects me on that not “easy” but it feels like it’s easy level.
· This series being male dominated dosen’t really have time or the inclination to explore the female characters beyond reducing them down to objects (which is kind of annoying) but Michelle Monaghan’s look at Woody Harrelson after he calls his daughter the Captain of the Varsity Slut team is fantastic.