With the new Season of True Detective hitting HBO at the end of January, we’re taking a look back at the series thus far. Today we continue with Season 1, Episode 2, “Seeing Things.”
In the first episode we get to meet Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin “Marty” Hart (Woody Harrelson). Two detectives for the Louisiana State Police Criminal Investigations Division. In 1995 they begin working on the case revolving around the murder of Dora Lange. She was found naked, posed to kneel at the base of a tree, with a crown of antlers on her head. In 2012 the former detectives are now being interviewed by current detectives Papania (Tory Kittles) and Gilbough (Michael Potts) looking back at the case after another body was found matching similar details to Dora Lange. The question that lingers now, “How could it be him, if we already caught him in ‘95. How indeed detectives?”
The majority of this episode is spent informing us on who Rust and Marty are. We learn that Rust was married and had a daughter that was hit by a car when she was 2. Her death tore apart his marriage and him and his wife got divorced. After his daughter’s death he began working drug busts, would get into dangerous situations with it every single night. He kept going and eventually killed a crystal meth addict who had injected his own baby with the drug. His superiors sent him undercover and he was used as a liaison for any and every department that needed a mole in the drug world. Eventually he ended up killing drug cartel members, and was sent to a psych ward for a few months to help get him out. He was offered a retirement package but decided to transfer to homicide and was placed in Louisiana. Rust still deals with synesthesia and flashbacks from his drug use during his undercover years.
Marty talks a bit about an affair he had on his wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) with a young clerk at the courthouse named Lisa (Alexandria Daddario). He explains that for him it was a way of washing off the job. A filter between his work life and his home life with his family. It’s clear that he’s not proud of what he did, but he understands why it happened.
There’s not much involving the investigation in this episode, and most of the scenes in ’95 reflect the backstories revealed for Rust and Marty. With the two of them arguing when Rust suspects Marty of cheating, after he had spent a night with Lisa. They notify Dora’s mother of her passing, and go to a bunny ranch where Dora worked as a prostitute. There they find a diary where she had made notes about “the yellow king.” Marty also yells at the madame of the property for having underage girls there. The diary contains a flier for a church, but when they find it, the chapel has been burnt down with only a few walls remaining. It seems like a dead end at first, until Rust finds a painting on one wall of a woman with Antlers. Similar to what Dora looked like when they found her.
“Yeah, back then, the visions, yeah most of the time I was convinced… Shit… I’d lost it. But there were other times… I thought I was mainlining the secret truth of the universe.”
The biggest highlight continues to be the performances of Harrelson and McConaughey. There’s a scene in 2012, when McConaughey is explaining the death of his daughter, that is incredibly intense and heartbreaking. He explains that he feels as though his daughter saved him somehow from the guilt of being a parent. That this world is too dark and disturbing to bring children into. It’s a very controlled performance by McConaughey and one that shows the depths of his talent. At the same time Harrelson’s quiet reflection as Marty thinks back to his past is incredibly underrated. We see that he’s just as tortured by the demons of his past as Rust is, but somehow it’s even more internal than what Rust’s feelings are. While Rust can wax poetic on the intricacies of the world and life, to help express his deeper feelings, Marty simply keeps it all in and tries to rationalize it without breaking.
The first season of True Detective is currently available on HBO Now, HBO Go, and HBO on Demand. Check back with us tomorrow when we dive into the third episode of True Detective Season 1, “The Locked Room.”