1.2: Seeing Things
I should comment on T Bone Burnett’s fantastic music for the series. And, yet again, HBO has come up with a wonderfully evocative of opening title sequence.
At the end of the previous episode the detectives happened across a totem of twigs (“devil nets”) in a child’s play house, like the one found near the body of Dora Lange. The unsettling signposts pointing towards an occult world are littered through the plot, be it the strange headaches of Mrs Kelly (Tess Harper) that border on the possessed or the “green-eared spaghetti monster” that reportedly chased a child through some woods.
Then there are Rust’s synesthetic hallucinations, borne of his extensive four-year period under-the-influence undercover. We hear about “The Yellow King” and “Carcosa” from Dora’s diary; this aspect seems like classically oblique obfuscation on Pizzolatto’s part. Although, as Jeff Jensen notes, the roots of these references are easy to find. (Of course, Jensen’s elaborate analyses of Lost were nearly as responsible for it instilling a sense of over-expectation about what its genius minds were up to as Damon Lindelof himself.)
What are the chances of coming across a ream of clues so impenetrable they ferment ideas in the audience’s mind but provide no more headway than a random reference to a spaghetti monster. It couldn’t possibly be a coherent text, or all the dots would be joined. As such, it might be seen sympathetically as a consciously pulpy device from Pizzolato. It’s certainly the stuff of cliché. The argued reason that her narrative is so fractured? A convenient case of dosing on the part of her benefactors.
This episode continues to be preoccupied by the darkness within Rust. As he says to his interviewers, “Of course I’m dangerous. I’m police. I can do terrible things to people, with impunity”. The turns of phrase Pizzolatto gives Rust are particularly appealing, but it’s the evidence that he isn’t just a lot of talk and a badge that is most arresting; he doesn’t merely live the life of the mind. Rust threatens to remove Marty’s hands when the latter reacts badly to a reprimand over his philandering, and you know he could do it. Later he goes ape shit on some reluctant interview suspects in a garage while, amusingly, Marty is sat in the car sniffing his hands for the tell-tale smell of his illicit activities from the previous night.
Marty’s bruised personal life, as it comes under Rust’s withering gaze, is also in the spotlight throughout this instalment. If Rust presence is mostly reconfirming what the opener established (“When you reach a certain age you know who you are”; the job didn’t do this to him, he suited the job), the fragility of Marty’s on-the-face-of-it more wholesome family life is laid bare. He struggles to keep this aspect as a sacred ideal while he maintains his double existence. Rust is dismissive of Marty’s choices; it is an act of “hubris to force a life into this thresher” of a world. To an extent this sounds like the teenage gloom of a Cure fan, but Pizzolatto is keen to emphasise that nowhere and no one is incorruptible. This is seen most excessively in his elder daughter’s staging of a gang rape with Barbie and (a number of) Kens. Marty has the occasional moment in response to Rust (“Well, you’re a smart ass with your mouth shut”) but he finds himself mostly out of his depth. And Harrelson’s great at wearing that exasperation on his face.
There’s a rising indication that the questioning 2012 tecs want to pin something on Rus. And the suggestion that, with all this talk of danger, and evidence of instability, he may be revealed as a force of unknown depths and darkness. For the time being, though, Marty is backing his ex-partner. Confirming, in 2012, that Cohle didn’t want to give the case to the task force, Marty adds that neither did he. And, as vindication, we are shown the proof of Rust’s insights; a rundown church with a mural of antlered woman on the wall. Rust has just explained his hallucinatory weaknesses, and we have absorbed his vision of a flock of birds CGI-ing its way through the sky, but his final conjecture seems more like a statement of fact than a stretch of the imagination; “There were other times, I thought I was mainlining the secret truth of the universe”.