True Detective “The Secret Fate Of All Life” Review (1×05)

17 Feb

True-Detective-The-Secret-Fate-of-All-LifeIs there no ceiling this show can’t reach?

After last week’s thrilling, intense final sequence, I didn’t expect the show to match that quality immediately following it. Well, here I am, impressed by the way this week’s episode manages to completely subvert our expectations and transition into a new phase of the show, with both poise and ease.

Let’s start with Rust’s theory on life, which is a theme that encompasses the episode and smooths over whatever bumpy edges the transitions would have brought. He believes that time is a flat circle, that we keep reliving the same aspects over and over again because we’re caught in a circuitous way of life. They can’t change who they are and what they’ve done because at that moment, they’re doing it all over again.

We do have a choice, but what this show is conveying is the impact obsession can have on us, to the point where we’re telling lies, where we might not feel like we have a choice anymore, where two fundamentally different people are finishing each others’ sentences and putting up a facade and getting lost in the lies. The show always goes back to the concept of storytelling, how stories both given and received trap them in a perpetual state of uncertainty (even though they insist on otherwise). So, Rust goes to his speeches and Marty goes to his appearances, both of them dealing in different ways, but also with a dark connection that makes them basically complete each other. They both constantly place everything in an “it’s not me” zone because everything they’re doing isn’t really them, isn’t really the result of a choice anymore.

Even the way their interviews are shot suggest who they’ve become. They’re both in the same room, but with different backgrounds, tying back into that theme of everything being a flat circle. Marty’s background, for example, is a window, brightly lit, just as he’d like us to see his life, even 17 years later. Rust? He’s sunk into himself, which is a feeling the background adds to. It’s just some beautiful visual touches here.

Speaking of, the scene where Rust and Marty close in on Ledoux is just as–okay…very, very close–intense and well-directed as last week’s final sequence, and man, the juxtaposition of the stories they’re telling the detectives and what’s actually happening on screen is beautifully handled; it once again conveys how the lies are bringing the two together. Also, Harrelson doesn’t get enough credit for his work here. The way he handles Marty overcome with rage after seeing the two kids, then marching up to Ledoux and shooting him in the head, is a thing of beauty. He’s the kind of person who’ll feel an overwhelming amount of emotion that he can’t quite get his whole hand around, but he’ll act on it.

Of course, the big reveal of this episode is all revolving around Rust Cohle. No, I do not believe for once second that he’s the killer, but the show does an excellent job of portraying him as a monster of sorts; in fact, the image of him spraying the forest with bullets is eerily similar in tone to the “monster” at the end of the third episode. When you add this on to last week’s development with the bikers, you have a Rust Cohle who seems deeper and darker than ever.

Yet, he isn’t truly a monster. He’s obsessive. He can be a dick; he can be annoying. He’s not a serial killer. When the camera pulls away from him in the abandoned school, it’s an image of a man trapped in his own pattern, the True Detective who’s been pursuing this case all along, the person just trying to somehow transcend life.



-Lots of circular imagery in this one, which adds to the theme. In fact, I’m admiring how Pizzolatto and Fukunaga can throw in all these touches and hammer this theme over our heads without it feeling overstuffed.

-“Do you know the good years when you’re in them, or do you just wait for them until you get ass cancer and realize that the good years came and went?” Also, “Captain of the Varsity Slut Squad”.

-It’s clear that Rust is being investigated because he’s actually been looking into the murder himself, and there might be some kind of cop conspiracy involved. I again stress that I don’t believe he’s the killer, and there’s an air of curiosity about him at the end.

-To add one more event onto the theme: Marty and Maggie might be back together, but some things are permanent; his daughter grows up in a poor environment.

-Goodbye, Reggie Ledoux.

-I would’ve perhaps liked to see Rust actually navigating a relationship. That would be interesting.

-The final song is “Eli”, by Bosnian Rainbows. Man, these music choices are perfect.

-Check out this fantastic article that ties “The King In Yellow” to True Detective.

Photo credit: HBO, True Detective

5 Responses to “True Detective “The Secret Fate Of All Life” Review (1×05)”

  1. JustMeMike February 17, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Some wonderful thoughts in this post PB. Thanks. But I will take you back to something you wrote:

    “-It’s clear that Rust is being investigated because he’s actually been looking into the murder himself, and there might be some kind of cop conspiracy involved. I again stress that I don’t believe he’s the killer, and there’s an air of curiosity about him at the end.”

    I agree that the 2012 cops are strongly considering Rust as the killer. I think two or three times they’ve asked Marty if he thought that Rust had been pushing/pulling their investigation in certain directions all along.

    1) But how could Rust know that Marty would execute Ledeux on the spot?
    2) In last night’s episode, when Rust goes back to that school – he had the short hair from 1995 so how do you know that he’s been investigating the (new) case now?
    3) I think he’s spraying the bullets around because their story was that they were shot at from a distance as they approached – which was problematic because why would Ledeux, or any one stand where Rust stood, in essence, to fight off intruders.? All the shell casings would be in one spot, and that spot offered no protection or cover.

    Like you I wonder where we will end up with regard to Marty’s oldest daughter, and what happens with Rust and the woman he is involved with?

    • Katie15 February 17, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

      It’s pretty clear to me that Rust has just been obsessing over the case for the past ten years.The hair is strange, I’m not sure…was that last scene in 2002 or 2012?. I don’t think he’s THE killer. I could see that what he found while digging deeper into the case drove him mad and turned him into A killer possibly. If Rust was THE killer, and he was smart enough to manipulate the case, don’t you think he would be smart enough to act like less of a weirdo?

      I think the story was riddled with holes and people at the time didn’t really investigate the stories. No one would really stand there you’re right.

    • Katie15 February 17, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

      Also one thing I think the 2012 detectives got right: I think Rust killed Reverend Tuttle. But Rust isn’t the one everyone’s looking for.

      I go back to Charlie Lang mentioning a group of killers when mentioning Ledoux, I think it’s them personally.

  2. riverdaughter February 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    One of the rules of good mystery novels is that the author has to introduce the killer early in the book. Saving him/her til the end isn’t sincere. It leads the audience on and makes the clues meaningless.
    So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and propose that we have seen the murderer already, probably in episode 2 or 3. Remember the Seeing Things episode? Remember Marty at the lake not really paying attention to his daughters in the boat? Remember the creepy Barbie sex scene?
    How about when Audrey drew those creepy pictures in the notebook? That kid has seen things that no little kid should know about. How about the naked guy with the bag over his head? And who was she talking about when she said the girl was an orphan?
    Is Audrey adopted? Who’s kid is she really? What was Marty talking about when he said responsibility could only take you so far and past that it’s futile?
    What is Maggie’s background? She seems to come from a well off family. Who is her family? Why does her mother call her a ball buster?
    That’s not to say that Maggie has anything to do with this but there are a lot of things we have seen but haven’t been paying attention to.
    In 2012, Marty is no longer married and it’s not because of Lisa. Something happened between him and Maggie and Audrey. Is Marty the culprit? I don’t think so but maybe Marty finally started to pay attention.

    • Katie15 February 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      Wonder if Marty joining the Promise Keepers is a clue.

      You’re so right on (“there are a lot of things we have seen but haven’t been paying attention to.”), there are so many details that you pick up on rewatch and I just think the Pizzolatto’s already revealed the killer. So many questions and references and I think it’ll all come together at the end.

      If we’re looking for a killer who was connected to more than one of the victims, was connected to Ledoux, and also has a connection to “big people,” the likeliest candidate is the tent revival preacher. He went to Tuttle’s bible college, Dora Lange was involved with his ministry for a brief time, Ledoux was also hanging around that scene briefly, and Rianne Olivier attended a school run by Tuttle’s ministry before running off with Ledoux. That preacher might also be in a position to lure in hard-luck girls and then hand them off to Ledoux (or a new accomplice, after Ledoux’s death)–if his ministry helps out runaways, drug addicts, etc., it might be relatively common for girls and young women to show up, hang around for a while, and then disappear without explanation.

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