"You know the detective's lament: The solution was right under my nose, but I was paying attention to the wrong clues." -- Marty Hart
Well, so much for those concerns about "True Detective" being too slow.
Almost out of nowhere, a show that for three weeks had centered on two men talking (and talking and talking) erupted with one of the most intense action sequences in the history of series television.
"Who Goes There," the story of Rust Cohle's return to undercover work, this time in pursuit of suspected serial killer Reggie Ledoux, echoed both "Apocalypse Now" and "Training Day" and ended with an epic, heart-pounding six-minute tracking shot that reminded us there's another auteur at work on the show, director Cary Joji Fukunaga. The performances of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson have been so mesmerizing, and the writing of creator Nic Pizzolatto (who cameo'd in the episode as the strip club bartender) so lauded that it's been easy to overlook Fukunaga's stunning visuals. No more, though. Think about the logistics of putting together that scene. One camera. One take. Hundred of actors (and hundreds of F bombs). Acres of land. It's mind boggling.
But was the adrenaline-pumping conclusion of the episode a way to distract us from the huge plot details revealed in the first scene, as Hart and Cohle interview Charlie Lange in prison a second time? Lange told the detective that his former cellmate once bragged about being involved in procuring women and children as victims of human sacrifice for a "bunch of rich men who worship the devil out in the woods" of southern Louisiana. "There's lots of good killin' down south," Lange quotes Ledoux as saying. Not too bright to begin with and still unable to fully grasp the horror, Lange asks the pair if they think maybe he played a part in his wife's death when he showed nude photos of her to Ledoux. "Yeah, probably" is Cohle's cold and classic reply.
Taking this new information from Lange and pairing it up with the references we've already heard about a gunfight and "those kids" in the woods, it's not too hard to guess where the story arc of "True Detective" is heading in the next couple episodes. And given the plethora of Tuttle Ministries references along the way and the flat-out creepiness of Rev. Tuttle, it might not be too hard to speculate on exactly who those Satan-worshipping rich men might be. In fact, after "Who Goes There" everything seems to be coming together neatly on "True Detective." Maybe too neatly. Which leaves us wondering, of course, what have we missed that was right under our noses?
Keep in mind that the action we saw in the second half of the episode appears to still be a secret that Hart and Cohle have kept from their superiors. Cohle gave 2012 detecives Gilbough and Papania the "visiting his sick father" line and Hart corroborated that. We also moved closer to Cohle being officially identified as a suspect in the 2012r murder case, something that's been coming since the first moments of the premiere.
In the first 30 minutes of "Who Goes There," we saw how the Harts' marriage started to come unglued, although, like Cohle, we think there's a good possibility the pair will be back together in a few months' time, if only because we've already gotten some pretty strong hints they're going to split up for good in 2002. The discord gave Cohle a chance to philosophize on the ultimate failure of monogamy, pushing Maggie away in the process, only to draw her back a bit by playing white knight at the hospital by defusing her husband's building rage.
Unless we missed it (and given the density of these episodes that's very possible), we have a fairly large hole in our narrative. The last we saw Hart and Cohle in Episode 3 they were heading to Ledoux's last known address. And we know they eventually got there based on Cohle's description of it being "like a scene from Vietnam." And we know Ledoux (or someone) was there, wearing a gas mark and wielding a machete. What we don't know is what happened when they arrived that left Hart and Cohle still seeking Ledoux at the start of Episode 4.
There were some other great visuals in the episode. The twin images of the door peepholes, first in Lange's holding cell then in the back room at the biker bar, provided a strong distinction between Hart's portion of the episode and Cohle's. Also, we got an extended listen to Miss Lucinda Williams' "Are You Alright" in a montage where Cohle swapped out the cocaine in the evidence room.