TRUE DETECTIVE Recap: “The Locked Room”

     January 26, 2014


True Detective continued its layered, multifaceted and novelistic storytelling this week in such a way that almost lends itself to wanting to stop here, and binge the entire season at the end.  The show’s languid pace is always offset by a fantastic cliffhanger, and none more terrifying or suggestive than in “The Locked Room.”  The worst part is, the show is on a break for a week before returning in two, so it will be just that much longer viewers will have that final vision burning in our own locked rooms, as Rust puts it.  Hit the jump for more.

true-detective-posterSince we’re only three episodes in to an eventual eight, the idea that Martin and Rust have put their finger on the killer this early lends itself to some doubt.  Martin alludes to a shoot out, which brings about some interesting possibilities.  But for now, the case seems to have a big break in the freakish form of Reggie Ladoux.

True Detective‘s real drive though is the development of its characters, and “The Locked Room” gave us plenty to go on there.  One of the best things about Martin, for instance, is how perceptive and eloquent he is when it comes to Rust’s personality.  In the present day, Martin is continually commenting about what Rust wants, or needs but can’t articulate.  In the past, he calls Rust out constantly on his diatribes, telling him he sounds panicked, and is fretting on existence.  But in his own life, Martin is unable to see or understand his own patterns or desires or emotions.  The way the two see each other so clearly, but are blind to themselves, strengthens them as a pair even if they don’t acknowledge it.

In “The Locked Room,” Rust’s philosophical rambles came close to a saturation point, but what keeps them interesting without swallowing everything up in their bleakness is Martin’s response to them.  When Rust turns his nose up at the congregation of the revival church, Martin asks if he can see Texas from atop his high horse.  The two get into a low-fi argument about the value of religion in society, but even though it has no effect on Rust (as seen by his matching attitude in this present), it does keep things balanced for viewers.  We, if anything, need Martin’s rebuttals against Rust’s constant stream of darkness

It would be too easy to make Martin a simple man and Rust a complicated one, but both mean are twisted up inside.  In this hour, we delved deeper into Martin’s both sad and occasionally droll love triangle.  His relationship with Maggie is deteriorating, but it looks like it has been for a long time.  She seems to find some small comfort in talking to Rust (the whole “don’t mow another man’s lawn” felt like a metaphor for a much stickier conversation), while Martin confronts a man Lisa has taken home from the bar.  Any of these scenarios could easily slide into cliche, but none do.  That’s what True Detective has proved from the start — it’s a familiar framework with somewhat familiar characters, but the strength of the filling (the acting, writing, directing) gives it fresh appeal.

true-detective-the-locked-room-mcconaughey-harrelson“The Locked Room” also took its time in introducing a number of new, strange characters.  We may not see any of them again, but it doesn’t matter — they help strengthen the show’s fabric and give authenticity to its sense of place.  Typical procedurals, that have to solve a crime in one episode, have supporting characters who barely can say “he went thataway!” before the camera cuts to something else.  Here, we meet a charismatic revivalist preacher, a castrated follower, and a surly fisherman.  Each helped point the way towards Ladoux in their own way, but they also were memorable and provided conversational fodder (and occasionally deep thought) from Rust and Martin.  One of the most beautiful pieces of dialogue came from Rust when discussing the fisherman, who seemed to have no emotion toward the thought of his long-dead granddaughter, yet kept a box of her things.  “Never bothering to ask himself why,” Rust comments.

True Detective also cultivates an unsettling atmosphere when it comes to situations that otherwise seem benign.  Martin and Maggie talk to Audrey about the super sexualized drawings she has been making at school, wondering to themselves where she got those images.  Later, when he and Maggie have sex after Martin admits he’s lost a sense of himself, there’s a weird suggestion now of, “where’s Audrey?”  Is she watching her parents?  Even when Martin had his affair with Lisa in last week’s episode, Rust seemed to know all about it the next day.  Sure, it was probably easy to read for someone like Rust, but it again suggested being watched.  And of course, in the present day timeline, Rust and Martin are telling their story to an internal police audience.

There are many levels of reflexivity and foreshadowing on the show, ones that will probably become even clearer as the season progresses.  For now, we have two weeks to think about the dream-like atmosphere of True Detective, and more horrifically (as Rust says), the monster at the end of it.

Episode Rating: A

Musings and Miscellanea:

true-detective-the-locked-room-michelle-monaghan— Poor Burt.  I mean … seriously.

— Rust has never been creeper than when he talked about the murder victims all having the same look of the sweet release of death on their faces in the end.

— Rust’s beer can art was quite good.  His dancing, though … is not.

— That final image of, presumably, Reggie with his meth lab gas mask on, walking around like Walter White in the desert, was made so much worse by it pausing on him before the credits.

— I had to laugh out loud when Martin asked Rust if a man can love two women at once, and Rust replying that he doesn’t believe man can really love at all.  Of course he doesn’t!

— “Not everyone wants to sit alone in a room beating off to murder manuals” – Martin.

— No surprise that Rust has synesthesia, but the way it was just tucked in was a nice character moment.  On broadcast, the show would have been built around that concept and probably called “The Number Blue” or something like that.

— Did anyone else notice that Maggie completely changed outfits three times in the course of one day?

— The way Martin and Maggie handled Audrey’s drawing situation was pretty perfect and cute.

— Very happy to see Shea Whigham in the role of the preacher.  Neat treat for Boardwalk Empire fans, too.

Programming Note: as noted before the jump, the show is off next week.  It returns February 9th.