TRUE DETECTIVE Recap: “Seeing Things”

     January 19, 2014


Another haunting, lyrical hour of True Detective this week, where we learned a little more about the unfortunately departed Dorie, but also dug deeper into Rust and Martin’s lives.  It’s incredible the amount of storytelling that True Detective has already done in these two short hours.  The strangeness of the ritualistic crime is overshadowed by the strangeness of Rust himself.  He ruefully delivers facts about his life, but fills them in with starts and stops, especially when the facts turn painful.  Like Martin, it’s easy to both be repelled by and deeply engrossed in Rust as a person, and “Seeing Things” added even more layers to his complicated appeal.  Hit the jump for more.

true-detective-matthew-mcconaugheyOnce again, series creator Nick Pizzolatto perfectly captures the languid tones of coastal Louisiana, and the desperate lives of those living in the margins.  The combination of Pizzolatto’s writing and Cary Joji Fukunaga‘s direction throughout this short series shows a shared vision, which is already clearly manifested in this second hour.

True Detective isn’t episodic in a traditional sense — it plays out like a novel.  Every chapter moves the narrative along, but it takes its time and meanders, and doesn’t care to explain itself or set up particular scenarios just to reach a certain plot point by a certain moment.  Instead, it juxtaposes scenes like that idyllic early-morning setting with Martin and his wife being awoken by darling children in the filtered sunlight — in a house full of joy — with the later, desperate, scenes of his cheating, his arguments, and his self-loathing.  Viewers are left to draw conclusions.  Martin is no saint, but do you buy his justifications?  Does it ultimately matter?

True Detective is rich in character moments like this, and like when the two men visited Dora’s mother.  A small detail like her headaches and the state of her ragged fingers being thanks to so many years at a dry cleaners speaks not just about her life, but the life of people like her.  Martin offers a young prostitute money to get out of that life at “the bunny ranch,” but the moment isn’t lingered on with any sentimentality, as Rust immediately comments that the money is a down payment.  “Is shitting on any moment of decency part of your job?” Martin accuses him.  But Rust, in the present day, acknowledges his critical nature, and why it makes people unhappy to be around him.  “When you get to a certain age, you know who you are,” he says with a weary expression and blank eyes.

Details about the death of Rust’s daughter Sophia, the dissolution of his marriage, and his twisted life undercover all came tumbling out of him in this hour in a way that acknowledged their importance, but didn’t dwell on them.  He obviously carries these experiences with him in a way that heavily burdens him, so much so that he hallucinates while on the job.  But the show wisely does not take the majority of its run to tease and reveal these stories.  They’re part of the fabric of Rust’s character, but they are not the focus of this story.

true-detective-woody-harrelson-matthew-mcconaugheyThat focus can be easy to forget sometimes, with the wandering path both Martin and Rust take in the present day of explaining it.  But so far each episode has ended with a nice, case-related cliff hanger, which propels our desire to see that central murder mystery solved (or at least, further explored).  Last week we had the creepy devil trap that was found mysteriously in the shed, and this week it was the burned-out church with the drawing of the antlers.  Each clue raises so many more questions, but like Martin, we want to put our trust in Rust, for good reason.  “Rust had a sharp an eye for weakness as I’ve ever seen,” Marty says, and we see it play out a number of times in “Seeing Things.”

Ultimately, True Detective continues to be brilliant in its mood, pace and atmosphere, which is dour but not without hope.  At one point, Rust goes on one of his considerations of metaphysical factors, discussing “the hubris it takes to yank a soul out of non-existence.”  But his darkness is redeemed by his dogged desire to find those who posses the hubris to extinguish those souls back into non-existence.

Episode Rating: A

Musings and Miscellanea:

— Let’s go ahead and talk about Alexandra Daddario‘s boobs, because they’re real, and they’re spectacular.

true-detective-woody-harrelson— Martin, who seemed like a decent guy in the first episode, showed himself to be kind of a jerk this week.  He has a belief in the justification of his cheating actions, but the show subverted his belief (that he’s doing what he does to save his family and keep his kids away from his work) when he saw his girls set up a crime scene with their Barbies.

— Fans of Banshee may recognize that underaged prostitute as Lili Simmons, who plays Rebecca on that series.

— I think I forgot to mention this last week, but the physical transformation embodied by the leads between the two time frames is astounding.  Truly astounding.

— “I’m police. I can do terrible things to people with impunity” – Rust.

— The hallucinations, like with the starlings forming the spiral, were nicely done.  I particularly liked the visual simulation of drunk driving, and the sky changing overhead.

— The show’s soundtrack is really phenomenal.

— Nice to see the inclusion of the task force and the office politics, which helps ground Rust and Martin’s investigation with the reality of the drudgery of police work.