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‘True Detective’ Review: “Haunted Houses”

True Detective Haunted Houses
HBO

On tonight’s all-new episode of ‘True Detective,’ Rust spends his off-duty hours tracking leads to discover more about the mysteries behind the Yellow King and Carcosa, while Marty spends his off-hours backsliding and losing touch with his family. It’s not long before the past and present start to collide in an illuminating hour that takes us further into the darkness that lurks within everyone — yes, even Maggie. 

“A man’s game charges a man’s price,” Marty says to one of the young men who slept with his daughter last week. But Marty isn’t taking his own advice. It isn’t long before Marty finds himself in a local bar for a quick drink — just one drink — that leads him down a familiar rabbit hole with a young lady from T-Mobile (this is some very deranged product placement), who used to work in that trailer park brothel from a few episodes back. Like an addict, it just takes one hit and Marty’s back in the game, cheating on his wife with the former teen prostitute and becoming ever more careless with the evidence.

Meanwhile, Rust is chasing a trail that leads him back to Austin Farrar (Shea Whigham! Yay!), the former revival preacher who attended one of Reverend Tuttle’s private schools before they dissolved in the early ’90s due to some business over child abuse, which Farrar confirms with a story about some horrific photographs — as Rust discovers, a lot of that was kept internal and very quiet, which leads him to surmise that perhaps Tuttle is involved with Carcosa and the Yellow King is still at large. This would lend credence to the theory that Tuttle is using his connections with local law enforcement to keep the detectives off his trail, and if Rust is correct, that task force from earlier in the season was Tuttle’s doing as well.

We finally come to the year when Rust and Marty parted ways, and the reason why, which begins with the case of a woman named Charmaine, who had a few babies who died mysteriously of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Rust correctly deduces that she suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, killing her babies for the attention she’ll receive, and the casual nature with which Rust tells Charmaine to kill herself when she gets the chance is perhaps one of the most shocking moments of ‘True Detective’ yet — but here is a man who lost his own child and his wife, while he watches guys like Marty piss his family away, and women like Charmaine selfishly destroy her children, literally smothering the life out of them for the temporary sympathy she’ll receive. It’s easier to understand how Rust’s cynicism permeates his life and almost protectively encloses him, even to his own detriment.

And while Rust’s frustration continues to build and he’s suspended for misallocating the force’s time by harassing Tuttle against the chief’s wishes, Maggie discovers Marty’s been up to his old habits again — it’s not surprising to see her react by hitting up a bar and attempting to hook up with a stranger, and it’s not entirely shocking to see her show up at Rust’s door with a bottle of wine. You almost want her to have sex with Rust, not to hurt Marty, but because someone like Maggie deserves a moment of happiness, however temporary and selfish. But that’s not her motive — her motive is too heartbreaking. She’s there to have sex with Rust as an act of revenge, but also because she doesn’t have (or doesn’t know that she has) the courage or the strength to leave Marty for good, and this is the one unforgivable act that will force him out of her life. As a woman who has been under alpha male Marty Hart’s thumb for 17 years, this is the only way she knows how to take agency for herself. If that doesn’t make you sick to your stomach, I don’t know what will. It makes Rust sick enough to throw her out when he realizes how he’s been used, but I find it interesting the way Maggie’s re-oriented the tables here. When Marty grabs her by the throat, it’s just another desperate attempt to assert his alpha role in the house — it’s okay for him to stray and cheat and lie and oppress, but should one of his girls (his daughter, his wife) step outside the bounds of his perceive propriety, the iron fist is coming down.

Episode’s end finds Rust and Marty finally reuniting in present day, with Marty having left the police station, frustrated with Gilbough and Papania’s assertions that Rust has gone off the reservation — and everyone conveniently hiding Maggie and Rust’s little affair. It’s the one bit of seemingly trivial information that could probably help clear things up; funny how people will go to great lengths to hide their shame over something so small at the risk of implementing themselves in something much worse. Although the seeds of doubt have clearly been planted in Marty’s mind judging by the way he checks his gun, it’s still an exciting moment to see these two come face to face in present day.

The final shot shows us the back of Rust’s truck, with his tail light still busted out, all these years later, from where Marty hit it during their fight when Marty found out about Rust and Maggie — it’s something Rust could easily get fixed, but it just goes to show that there’s some damage you can’t ever let go of; it means too much.

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