True Detective Season 1 Episode 2 Review: Seeing Things

Even True Detectives can start Seeing Things when they’re caught in a devil’s trap.

This True Detective review contains spoilers.

True Detective Season 1 Episode 2

True Detective gets mired in police procedural in the “Seeing Things” episode, but it’s their mess, not the viewers. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are at odds with each other and the department, which wants to replace them with a special task force. The Lange murder has become something of a big deal in their parish and all eyes are on the two detectives. Rust Cohle is at odds with the chief, Major Ken Quesada (Kevin Dunn). He’s running out of ways to say “shut the fuck up” to Cohle.  Rust hasn’t got the right attitude to get along with the god-fearing climate and church-going public.

further reading: True Detective Season 3 Review

Churches, it’s the south so there’s got to be churches. The dead girl, Dora Lange, was finally starting to clean up her act, according to her mother, who the detectives interview at the very beginning of the episode. Dora Lang had found a new church. When she was watching the news on TV, Dora’s mother had prayed for the victim’s family, only to find she’d been praying for herself.

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Of course I’m dangerous. I’m police. I can so terrible things to people. With impunity.

Rust Cohle is maddening in his introversion. In a rare moment of conversation in the partners’ car, Martin Hart, whose mother was the Donna Reed type, making lunches and telling stories, asks his partner if his parents are alive. Cohle answers “maybe.” The things he chooses to say or not say is more than alien to Martin, he sees a kind of passive aggression that’s probably there. Harte probably saw enough of that from his own father, who came from a time when men didn’t air their bullshit in public.

Rust Cohle knows who he is and there’s a kind of victory in that. While he was on the force he was too critical of the people in his circle. Now that he’s off the force, he lives out in the country behind a bar. He works four nights a week and the rest of the time he drinks. Usually, he knows enough to drink alone, but he’s being interviewed by Det. Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts)  and Detective Shinn (Eric Price) about the old case and they were nice enough to bring him a six pack of Lone Star. The detectives are trying to figure out Cohle’s process. It is an intricate process. He converses with friends of the victim and with the “Devil’s Trap” he found on the crime scene. He still doesn’t know what it was, some kid’s art class project for school or something, but it talks to him.

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Rust has been reading Lange’s diary. It reads like fantasy, he says, and he ought to know fantasy. Cohle has been battling hallucinations since a stint undercover in an HITDA, a high-intensity drug trafficking area, left him with neural damage and chemical flashbacks. He spent four months of 1993 in Lubbock, Texas, at the North Shore Psychiatric Hospital. Which is kind of funny, a psych ward being in Lubbock, Texas. Part of it was dealing with his daughter’s death in a car accident and part of it was his job. He dove into that job after his daughter died. He emptied a nine millimeter into a crankhead who injected his infant daughter, trying to “purify” her. Cohle’s files are still sealed. Other cops still think he used to be a Fed.

Old men die and the world keeps spinning

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Marty’s been letting off some steam and some self-loathing issues with the lady from the courthouse. She knows her way around handcuffs and police lingo. Marty wants to have his cake and eat it, because what good is cake if you can’t munch. Rust sniffs it out, putting even more distance between the partners. This doesn’t affect their work. Yet at least. It is affecting Marty’s home life. He can’t really see eye-to-eye with Maggie Hart (Michelle Monaghan) or her dad. Arguments creep out of nowhere.

Marty gives props to Rust’s instincts. Marty’s nose might have gotten bent out of shape on account of Rust’s nose, but that nose can catch a whiff of weakness in seconds, no matter what’s gone up it. Marty can smell that the sheriff is getting kickbacks from the local bunny ranch in the woods. There’s always a bunny ranch in the woods. Marty sniffs out that the girl they’re interviewing at the rustic cathouse is underage. He’s got a problem with that. A big problem with it. He doesn’t like it and he doesn’t like the way the madam of the shack makes excuses for it. Marty’s a dad of girls after all. And his girls are already getting affected by his work, putting their dolls in what looks like a rape scenario while they’re playing. Marty gives the young almost-but-not-quite-woman some money and tells her to find other work.

At the end, Marty learns that the new detectives, the ones handling it now, in 2014, not the task force investigating animal mutilations, are onto something new. Once again, there is no fluff or bullshit on HBO’s True Detective. Even Rust Cohle’s flashbacks are handled realistically. He can tell what’s real and what’s not. Whether it’s from the drug residue, political circle jerks or satanic scrawlings on abandoned chuches, it sometimes feels like he’s mainlining the secret truths of the universe.

“Seeing Things” was directed by Cary Fukunaga and written by Nic Pizzolatto.  And yes, that was Lili Simmons (Rebecca) from Cinemax’s Banshee.

Keep up with True Detective Season 3 news and reviews here.


5 out of 5