Hello, 2002 Louisiana. It’s nice to finally get to know you. This episode of True Detective opens with a flashback to the fateful year, with a gradually balding Marty Hart getting ready to beat the s**t out of the two 18-year-olds who slept with his high school aged daughter. And beat the s**t out of him he does. Clearly, Marty has not changed much since 1995. Think back on what he did when Lisa, the first woman we saw him cheat on his wife with, took home another man. He beat down her door and threatened the man with violence. He’s “protecting his manhood” by way of tearing down the men who take what he sees as his women.
We follow Marty to The Fox and Hound pub, carrying tampons he bought presumably for his wife and daughters. Enter Beth (Lili Simmons), and our memories are stretched to the second episode when Marty and Rust Cohle visited the whorehouse that housed underaged girls. In 2002, Beth is legal and smoking hot to boot. And what does Marty do? He buys her drinks, goes to her house, and returns to his adulterous form.
While Marty is sleeping with a younger version of his wife, Rust continues his investigation into the Dora Lange case. Rust finds more cases of missing children along the coast, cases that weren’t seen as criminal. He pays a visit to the old revival tent preacher, Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham), and finds out the man quit the trade because he stumbled across child pornography in the church’s possession. When Joel brought up the photos to local religious institution kingpin Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders), he sidestepped the issue and tried to blame the photos on the preacher.
Rust visits Kelly Rita (December Ensminger), the young woman he and Marty rescued from Reggie LeDoux’s drug compound when she was just a girl. She comes out of her catatonic state to scream about the face of the man who held her captive. Again in this episode we see a juxtaposition between the two detectives. On the one hand, Marty is sleeping with the girl who was a child prostitute — does anyone remember how disgusted he was by the child prostitution ring? On the other, the child Rust visits is weak and fragile, without the benefits of Beth’s veneer of strength. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t both equally vulnerable and equally in need of some serious therapy.
Back to 2012: the present detectives bring in Maggie, now divorced from Marty. This is the first time we see the story from her perspective. In 2002, she finds a nearly naked photo of Beth in her husband’s phone, and reacts quite interestingly. She calmly goes downstairs, watches her children with a look of pride as their obvious dislike of their father is apparent, and remains calm with him. The detectives ask her about Rust, and all she has are positive things to say about him.
Rust visits the famous Tuttle. He beats around the bush through their interview; at the end of their chat, Rust admits he’s working on a case about dead children and women, but earns no information. They part ways congenially, and it’s not until Rust returns to the station and is suspended without pay that we hear how unhappy Tuttle was about the interview.
We’ve now followed Maggie to a bar where she orders the same drink as Beth — a dirty vodka martini — and approach a younger man. But the next time we see Maggie, she’s at Rust’s front door, bottle of wine in hand. She lets herself in and says she knows Marty is cheating again, and asks Rust if he knew as well. He denies it, but we can’t imagine that the master sleuth Rust really had no idea.
And then what we’ve been anticipating this entire season finally happens. But it isn’t some deep love affair between the two. Maggie seduces Rust, but the sex is almost impossible to watch. We know why, Rust knows why, and she admits why. Marty will never forgive her for sleeping with his partner. She needed this way out.
The show ends the way it began, with Marty fighting for his honor. He and Rust really go at it outside the station house, the fight ending with Rust quitting the job and terminating his partnership with Marty.
One last time, we return to 2012. Marty has finally walked out of the interview. If Rust is what the detectives are insinuating him to be, a cold-hearted killer, the newly stoic Marty won’t hear any of it, and won’t help them in their quest for the truth.
Sex, lies, fights, betrayal. We are finally seeing True Detective take form. We watch as everything begins to make sense, while there is still so much to learn. This episode closes with 2012 Marty driving away from the station house and a truck honking wildly behind him. He pulls to the side of the road and waits for his old partner Rust to approach the car, asking him to follow him to the bar for a long overdue conversation.
Dammit, this is going to be the longest week ever.