1.3: The Locked Room
Rust’s anti-religious spleen is given full vent when they visit the preacher who formerly led a flock at the burn out church, Joel Theriot (Boardwalk Empire’s Shea Whigham). “What do you think the average IQ of this group is, huh?” Rust asks Marty’s, who’s had just about enough of his bile. “If the common good’s got to make up fairy tales, it’s not good for anyone” Rust continues. But Marty swings the odd salvo back; “For a guy who sees no point in existence, you sure do fret about it a lot”. Even if he has no chance of winning the match (“At least I’m not racing to a red light”, Rust rejoinders).
Their interview with Joel doesn’t divine anything particular suspicious about the preacher, and serves to cross castrated disciple Burt (seen in the opening titles) off the list of possible suspects. But there is a new clue to keep the increasingly under pressure (from brass) duo focussed; a man tall man with shiny skin around the jaw.
The simmering tensions between the two are building to a head. Marty’s extra-marital dishonesty is clearly peeving Rust (“People incapable of guilt usually have a good time”), while the former considers Rust’s great failing is his inability to admit doubt. Discovering Rust round at his house in a vest, having mowed the lawn and accepted an iced tea from Maggie, Marty is livid. One wonders if Rust is purposefully pricking at him, attempting to make him see sense, or he actually has an interest in Maggie (she clearly has an interest in him, but he won’t be her confidante). The third option, that it is entirely innocent, is out of the question for one so considered about his actions. Harrelson’s particularly good when embodying the contrasts between his statements in 2012 and the reality of the past, but it has to be said Pizzolatto does lay on the reveals of the lie a bit thick at times. Come episode five, such counterpoints will be at the heart of the detective’s version of the case but here it sometimes strays into the smug territory.
Rust advises, “The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door” and we have to admit that for all his faults we’d rather have him on our side than the baffled Marty. The double date scene is another strong one following the opener’s dinner at the Harts, in which the social milieu of the partners is never seen to be straightforward. Marty builds up the momentum to topple his life over the brink as he becomes jealous of Lisa carrying on with another guy. He shows up at her house and makes a scene, while his other self is sagely describing how “People give you rules. Rules describe the shape of things”.
Rust in 2012 tells us that he’s never been in a room for more than ten minutes without knowing if a suspected perp did it or not, which would have been a sure indication of whether these two were under any illusion if indeed they got the wrong guy. Except that… well, that’s episode five. Rust and Marty investigate an old school started by Tuttle (him again), “Light of Way”, which was attended by an old case considered to be an accidental drowning. It turns out she was the ex-wife of Charlie Lange, who in turn shared a cell with one drug dealer and sex offender Reggie Ledoux, with whom she ran off. The manner in which McConaughey, with all but a flourish, announces “And finally, we arrive at Reginald Ledoux” has the air of one who knows he has a rattling good yarn to spin. So too, his probing of his interviewers (“You ever been in a gunfight?”) sets up something big in store along with further morbid thoughts (“They welcomed it” concludes Rust of the ends met by murder victims as, in the last instance, they saw how easy it was to let go).
The final shot is thunderously uneasy; outside a remote ramshackle farm, a gas-masked meth-maker in his underwear, machete in hand, walks by in slow motion. Combined with the industrial twitchiness of the soundtrack, it’s a visual as potent as the arrival of Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre.