True Detective Season 1 Episode 5 Review: The Secret Fate of All Life

True Detective’s new episode, “The Secret Fate of All Life,” amps up the suspense and darkens the shadows.

This True Detective review contains spoilers.

True Detective Season 1 Episode 5

You’d think that after last week’s climactic what-the-fuck race through the underworld ending that True Detective would start its dénouement. But no, these true detectives have jumped out of the fire and into a quicksand that just might pull them down to hell itself.

The drive-through one-camera shooting of Rust Cohle’s undercover robbery was only a pit stop on the way to the big shootout in the woods. The gun fight in the trees is not quite what we’ve been led to believe and it’s certainly not what the true detectives tell the new detectives. It’s explosive, sure. It’s a virtual cosmic flare-up. It’s a flare-up on the inside that’s not an implosion. There was an evil in those woods. Marty found it and somebody had to pay and fuck the consequences and the evidence and all the depositions in the world.

The shootout in the woods brings Rust Cohle and Marty Harte home as conquering heroes. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey have their own acting telepathy after years of on and off collaboration. They have each other’s backs as their characters flail in unchartered territory. McConaughey’s implosions fuel Harrelson’s explosions. Fire needs oxygen and Cohle blows all sorts of smoke up Harte’s ass.

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Cohle has a dark shadow on his soul. The acid that drips from his eyes is corrosive. There have been hints that Cohle may be a Yellow King among the black stars that dot the prison institutions. The way Cohle is aloof from the human race. Superior. He has said that cops can do terrible things to people with impunity. Cohle’s sense of entitled impunity is spiraling out of control. In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. This is a god among men. A bad man who keeps other bad men from the door. But shit, even the bikers know he’s got a Yellow streak of damned divinity.

When Rust tells Det. Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts) and Detective Shinn (Eric Price)  that he and Marty were spotted, the camera shows them passing the Devil Traps. It looks like those traps are part of the wooded security system. An early warning intruder alert that’s wired right into the brain of Reggie Ledoux. It looks like the detectives are the devils caught in the trap. Watch Matthew McConaughey as he makes his beer can dolls. He’s teasing. He’s pleasing. He’s pissing in the face of the interviewing detectives. The beer-can dolls might as well be Devil Traps. When the new detectives don’t see it, he crushes a can in one attention grabbing smash.

Director Cary Fukunaga and writer Nic Pizzolatto continue to throw all the hints at you and let you digest them before they fill you in. When they show Marty’s daughters fighting over a princess tiara, you’re thinking about devil worshippers that sacrifice kids. Something wicked this way comes. You know it. But they give you just enough time for your imagination to run wild with endless horrific possibilities before they switch it with what is moving the story forward. It’s the same kind of fun whiplash you get at bumper car rides.

further reading: True Detective Season 3 Review

Once Fukunaga and Pizzolatto set up that there’s a cover-up, everything can be taken as subterfuge. Who killed Dora Lange? Well, the killer was found, right? And killed on the spot. Once we question that we question everything. The bad men who protect us from bad men might be worse than anything we’d let near the door. Or the family picnic. When Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) gives Marty a second chance. She’s re-evaluating him through the eyes of the wounded warrior. But Woody Harrelson just may be feeding her a line. Yes he’s changed. He’s gotten worse.

How does Ledeoux know what’s in Cohle’s soul? He’s been dabbling with that devil worship a little too long and can see the demons. There is magick in the woods. But who’s been doing the conjuring? When it comes out that Cohle has been at the crime scenes, he could still be looking at evidence, right? He’s just collecting those twig figures for trial, isn’t he? That’s why he’s wearing the gloves, not to contaminate the crime scene. But from all we’ve learned, Cohle could be the contaminant. Here’s where Fukunaga and Pizzolatto excel, yet again. Just as we think he’s gone bad, they pull back the details and make you doubt it again. Reverse whiplash.

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Marie Fontaneau could be anybody’s victim now. The new detectives are looking to pin at least one murder on Cohle. He is, after all, at the very least a fellow traveler. But all the criminals seem to think there are big people involved. Important people. I have a feeling Cohle will find a new suspect. I think their hands will be dirty, but their fingernails will be clean.

Time is a flat circle. Everything we do or have ever done, we will do again. Those kids they found in the forest, Cohle thinks they’re going to relive that nightmare over and over on some kind of mystical loop. Me? I’m going to watch the episode again. You wanna see something? Get a warrant.

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



4.5 out of 5