True Detective episode 7 review: After You've Gone

Review Michael Noble 4 Mar 2014 - 13:57

The penultimate episode of the series takes us deeper into the horror of the Yellow King...

This review contains spoilers.

1.7 Haunted Houses

The name True Detective has its origin in those pulpy thrillers written quickly by writers who were paid by the word and sold cheaply to readers who read little else. They focused on the grislier aspects of crime; the hideous apocalypses of rape, torture and murder. In pursuit, they set men who were dedicated detectives but dysfunctional people; men who solved the crime while leaving a trail of empty whisky bottles and broken relationships in their wake. Sound familiar? They were of a piece with the true crime, non-fictional variety that Marty Hart bullshits about writing in this week’s episode. They too focused on the horror of crime and the doggedness of the chase.

After You’ve Gone, the penultimate episode of the series, had all three elements. Horror, proper detective work and a pair of broken men joining it all up. It was a relatively quiet instalment, no doubt saving some of the urgent buzz for next week’s finale, but it provided a reminder of everything that made the show stand out.

It’s become ever more clear, and never more so than now, that True Detective is interested in far more than simply the case of Dora Lange, or even the wider Yellow King mystery. The entire environment, while sun dappled and beautiful, is soaked with lies, murder and corruption. The effect that this has on the inhabitants is obvious, even they try to disguise it. Cohle’s pattern of destruction is well documented, but his partner? Hart may claim to be doing okay for himself, but it’s all front. His evenings are spent cruising dating websites and eating disgusting ready meals (a neat contrast with his comfortable home-cooked pasta dinner last week). He’s grown a horrible paunch, casting doubt on his claim that he hardly drinks anymore.  It’s been two years since he’s seen his ex-wife and, by implication, his daughters too. Audrey’s doing all right, but she will refuse to take her medication. Damn, Marty.

The emptiness of their personal lives means that there’s very little left for them other than the case, which means more of the actual detective work that the show (and its protagonists) does so well. Cohle’s obsessive interest has yielded some excellent, if stomach-churning, leads, but he needs help to follow them. We know that he takes the measure of every person he meets and it’s no surprise that he knows precisely how to get Hart on his side. That sense of righteous rage that we’ve witnessed over the preceding six episodes was the motor, the appalling snuff video of Marie Fontenot the igniting spark. Rust saw the whole thing; he had to, lest there be any further clues there. Marty managed a few minutes before turning away in incensed horror, the viewer, thankfully, saw even less, the shot of Hart’s appalled face being enough to carry the atrocity into our imaginations. The trick was repeated with the scene of the baby in the microwave; a crime terrible enough that it proved the catalyst for Hart’s leaving of the force, at least in his account of it.

It’s difficult to imagine what the rest of the trail of the Yellow King will do to him. Or to us. The ripples of the bizarre cult have been steadily expanding as more of their activities have become known. There are shades of The Wicker Man in the carnivalesque use of animal masks and in the extent and power of the central set of beliefs. It’s a family thing, a locality thing. It’s the acrid lifeblood of the entire region and it doesn’t do to pick at the scabs. There was a marked contrast, for instance, between the down-on-their-luck situations of Cohle and Hart and the comfortable, expansive lifestyle of Sheriff Steve Geraci, at ease on a sunny golf course, driving a Maserati and sipping an early morning beer on his boat. I guess that’s what you get for usefully not asking questions and conveniently looking the other way. If there’s any remaining doubt about how powerful people can get away with appalling crimes for so long, just compare the largesse of the gravy train with the self-destructive obsession it takes to bring it to a halt.

There was a contrast too, in the approach taken by Gilbough and Papania with that taken by Hart and Cohle. The newer detectives have a touch of the thoroughness (the lengthy questioning sessions are testament to that), but rather less of the dogged instinct of their predecessors. Or, it seems, their willingness to cross boundaries. In this, the first episode to be almost entirely set in the present, Hart and Cohle are fully on the outside of the wall I described last week. They pursue the case extra-legally, with a mini-bribe here, a lie there. A little breaking and entering perhaps and, towards the end, taking a Sheriff at gunpoint. They’re well on their way along the trail of the Yellow King, but it’s far from clear what they plan to do when they get there, or how they plan to explain their path. It may not have occurred even to them. All they know is that they must follow this to the end; there’s no one else who can.

Read Michael's review of the previous episode, Haunted Houses here

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Brilliant review. The show has set a new benchmark in TV. The use of one writer, one director and one cinematographer makes it... well, more cinematic! It is surely all downhill from here. TV has peaked. DoG... you got me into this show long before it aired in the UK. What is on the horizon in terms of quality TV? I need something to fill the impending void in my life!

After You's Gone was just so good. I can't remember ever feeling so tense for a whole hour. And the pay up was totally worth it! So glad they decided to reveal the killer at the end of the penultimate episode and not the finale. That leaves a whole episode for Marty and Rust to wrap things up. And really glad they didn't go for some cheap twist revelation at the end. Definitely looking forward to the finale. Will be awesome I'm sure. Oh and er...emmy for McConaughey. Would be a crime itself if he didn't get one. Sure he already has an Oscar (wasn't that amazing?) but he should absolutely win an Emmy this year as well. Rust is the best detective character I've seen in a long time and McConaughey is just mesmerizing. You can't avert your eyes. You just can't. Every scene he's not in I'm waiting for him to return to the screen. Woody Harrelson's performance I think is also just brilliant but I'm thinking McConaghey stands a better chance since his character's a bit more eccentric and therefor a bit more memorable.

Not part of DoG but what I'm looking forward to is first of all the return of Game of Thrones (yay Game of Thrones!) Broadchurch (the best show of 2013 hands down) The Fall and Utopia. Also the final seasons of True Blood and Boardwalk Empire and the premiere of The Strain (Del Toro + vampires) Penny Dreadful(from the writer of Skyfall) and the The Leftovers (HBO + Damon Lindelof)

Apparently they were both originally set to play the other's part. Bet it was a quick decision to swap. They both deserve an Emmy... as does the prop department for Harrelson's paunch.

The Fall, Utopia, Broadchurch.... couldn't agree more. I salute you Starbuck!

I rarely re-watch TV Shows, but I cannot wait to pick the blu-ray set up and re-gorge on it. The most assured first season of a TV show that I can remember. My only concern is that a season 2 with different actors cannot possibly live up to season ones acting masterclass.

Hadn't heard of The Strain. Sounds really interesting. Thanks Starbuck. I've been experiencing varying degrees of enjoyment from The Walking Dead... but the last few episodes have been terrible with characters doing stupid things. Last episode was awful... can't believe DoG rated it so highly. Thanks again for the heads up.

Valid point about Season 2... unless it will be a standard set forth by this series for casting only a-list actors. Interesting concept.

AMC has a couple of interesting new shows out over the next few weeks and months; Halt and Catch Fire, which is set in the early 80s tech industry and Turn, which is an espionage drama set during the American Revolutionary War.

If you're jonesing for more tales of dysfunctional cops, you could do a lot worse than check out Line of Duty (reviewed elsewhere on DoG). It's halfway through its run on BBC1 and is brutal, shocking and very smartly written.

Thanks for reading!


I thought they were on Marty's boat.

Can anyone tell me what they were hoping to find out from the sheriff? I know it was some evidence they think he buried, but I got lost one that.

In article , M.Noble say's - "There was a marked contrast, for instance, between the
down-on-their-luck situations of Cohle and Hart and the comfortable,
expansive lifestyle of Sheriff Steve Gerci" .... same can be said for Maggie ...... hmmmm

If you're enjoying the downtrodden detective vibe you should check out Terriers. Great one off series that deserved more.

By the way, I've never drank alcohol in my life and I've got a paunch too. Just the ready meals alone will do that to you!

best series ever ....have heard all about the theories of who's the killer is in different forums....let me tell you...all the clues are in 1st just have to luk @ the minor details.....n...remember the show shows the evolving nature of both the detectives from 95 to '12....n their attitude towards women.....n definitely maggies family is part of the ending...which 1 dats upto u to guess???one of them is gonna die i.e.marty or rust...but i think nic is really gonna end this in style... best show ever...

Thanks Mike. I will have a watch of Line of Duty. I saw it reviewed but have been away and forgot about it. Time to make amends! True Detective is so amazing though... I can't see anything coming close until True Detective 2!

Last years Hannibal came out of the trap faster than a race horse on Meth!
If your not into it, give a second chance it delivers and then some. But yes, I whole heartily agree this is a most assured first season. I also have fears for season two, but look at American Horror Story. Once I had gotten over the weird set up and same actors/different charactures and it not being season one, season two really grew into it's own...Hopefully TD's can do the same but better.

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