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See and don't see?

January 20, 2014 - Ray Eckenrode

Blogger’s note: So … we’ve got a “True Detective” end game theory even though it’s way too early to have a “True Detective” end game theory. What to do? Should we somehow turn out to be right, we don’t want to spoil the journey for the couple hundred folks who read this blog. And if we’re wrong, we don’t want to bend the narrative of the blog to fit our theory and take y’all on a wild goose chase. So, we’re going to have a little fun with this. We’ve written our thoughts down and placed them in a manila envelope along with the masthead of today’s newspaper (see Vine video, link at right). We’ve given that envelope to the accounting firm of Brown, Hanna & Associates (see photo at right) to hold in a safe place until either a) the series ends and we’re proven correct, or b) something happens that proves us incorrect, in which case, we’ll crack the envelope and tell you what we thought and why we did and how we went wrong. “Brown” is Erik Brown, the Mirror’s accounting manager, a more honest man you’ll never find. “Hanna” is our fiancé Amy “Have Dog Will Blog” Hanna, an impartial witness. She is impartial in this matter because a) she doesn’t have HBO and b) she’s too busy watching every episode of “Criminal Minds” for the 27th time to care about “True Detective.” So we’re going to stick with brief essay-type blogs on “True Detective” and try to keep our theorizing to ourself (singular plural object!). Enjoy the ride.

There’s a scene in the “True Detective” pilot where Matthew McConaughey’s Rustin Cohle tells Woody Harrelson’s Marty Hart that “it’s taken me this long to come to terms with my nature, I don’t imagine I’m going to change now for you.”
In the series’ splendid second episode, “Seeing Things” – a direct reference to the hallucinations (or are they?) Cohle suffers but an indirect nod to the myriad of clues we’re given about both the murder of Dora Lange and the hearts and minds of the detectives tracking her killer – we learn a lot more about the troubled nature of Cohle and get a real sense that Hart is a man who most definitely has not come to terms with his own nature.
We think it’s fairly clear now that the ritualistic murder that is the linchpin of the “True Detective” story is really a secondary part of the show and the real center is the character study of the two men who solved that murder. We’d imagine those two strands will become tangled into one thing as the show unfolds, but for now, getting to know Hart and Cohle seems much more important than getting to know whodunit.
In “Seeing Things,” we got an unflinching look at how Cohle became the bleak, troubled, hallucinating nihilist we meet in 1995. A measure of personal grief, a boatload of drugs and a professional identity crisis (part of which is still locked up sealed files in 2012) created the keen detective and battle-scarred man who showed up in Louisiana.
Despite the crucifix above his bed, Cohle told Hart in the pilot that he’s not a Christian, and while that might turn out to be true, Christianity again played a large part in this episode’s moral compass, with Cohle quoting Corinthians in explaining to the why he became a homicide investigator instead of taking a psychological disability full pension when it was offered:

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” 1 Corinthians 12-14

When Cohle says he just wanted to remain a part of the body, we have to wonder exactly what body he’s talking about. Policemen? The human race? Something more sinister?
It also became clearer in “Seeing Things” that 2012 detectives Gilbough and Papania are not just trying to get caught up on the 1995 murder, but investigating whether the 1995 detectives, specifically Cohle, have some connection to the new murder, maybe not exactly suspects yet, but suspected of something.
Cohle, of course, already is aware of that and has turned the interview into a proselytizing lesson on his views about the human nature of detective work.
If Hart realizes there’s an ulterior motive to the questioning, he hasn’t shown it, providing a standup act of his “big-dick” bravado for the detectives, much as we see him do with his colleagues in a bar in a 1995 flashback that leads to a drunken date where we learn that Hart is exactly the kind of guy who would show up at his mistress’s house with a bottle of wine and gift-wrapped handcuffs.
While the pilot was filled with subtle hints that Hart was not the aw-shucks good ol’ boy he pretends to be, “Seeing Things” left no doubt. Hart isn’t just a womanizer, he’s got a problem with women. From his run-in with the hillbilly bordello madam to his thinly veiled jealous interrogation of the mistress to his cut-to-the-bone fight with his wife, it becomes clear that Hart wants women to be what he wants, where he wants, when he wants, end of story. Cohle sees right through Hart’s Good Samaritan routine at the brothel and his “Is that a down payment?” dig is the episode’s moral center.
We got plenty of clues along the way about the murder of Dora Lane – her mother’s veiled assessment that she might have been molested, her trippy spiritual journal, and the church mural predicting (or re-creating?) her fate – but the real treat of “Seeing Things” was watching Hart and Cohle get to know each other … and realizing we might not know either of them.

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A burned-out church reveals a hidden clue to Hart and Cohle in "Seeing Things."


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