Last week’s episode finished with the now-famous bravura six-minute tracking shot which was, from a technical point of view, astoundingly impressive, even if it perhaps amounted to not very much in terms of the narrative. The first third of this episode, on the other hand, doesn’t push the technical envelope, but is a terrific piece of storytelling. Rust and Cohle have tracked Ledoux to his countryside retreat-cum-meth cookhouse, and in the present-day timeline are giving an account of coming under fire from Ledoux. This is complicated by the introduction of yet another timeline in which they give the same story to what looks like some sort of investigative committee.
There’s a disconnect, however, between these accounts and what actually happened, as we see in flashback. Any veteran of watching cop shows knows that when there’s an agreed but misleading version of events there’s a cover-up under way, and so it turns out: Hart searches château Ledoux and is so horrified by what he sees that he immediately shoots Ledoux in cold blood. Still, omelette/eggs: the killing of Dora Lange has been solved, another potential victim rescued, and Hart and Cohle are out of the doux-doux and fêted as heroes. Job done, and what ensues are good times: Hart puts his marriage back together, and Cohle finds something approaching love with one of Maggie’s friends, while gaining a reputation as some sort of Perp Whisperer, the go-to-guy when you want a confession.
It can’t last, of course, and the first signs that we’re heading back towards the dark side come in 2002 when Audrey, one of Hart’s daughters and by now a teenager, starts acting rebelliously, eventually being found in a car with two older boys. Hart wonders whether she’s going to be “captain of varsity slut team”, thus providing another possible role for females to play in True Detective: victim, wife, mistress, ho, teenage slut, etc. (In fairness it should be noted that Cohle’s lover during “the good years” is a doctor, even if she doesn’t actually get any dialogue.) Cohle, meantime, is extracting a confession to a double homicide from a meth-head who suddenly starts babbling about the Yellow King, and claiming that Dora’s real killer is still out there. Before he can be questioned properly about this, though, he kills himself.
But what we then see raises the possibility that Cohle has been involved more deeply in the killings than he (or the show) have thus far let on: in 2012, he’s been seen repeatedly attending at the scene of a murder, and refuses to let the cops search his shed; and we leave him in 2002, holding one of those twig sculptures slightly above head-height, illuminated by a shaft of light from a window, in what looks like a sort of parody of a Catholic Mass.
True Detective, of course, fancies itself as being much more than a whodunit. I don’t have a problem with that, in itself; there’s nothing wrong with ambitious TV. It does mean that the show’s higher aims manifest themselves in a number of ways: there’s Cohle’s tedious philosophising, for example, becoming more irritating every week; the show inhabits a world populated by people who talk like characters from pulpy crime novels (“I don’t like your face. It makes me wanna do things to it”); and there’s ferocious attention to detail, such as the creepy “Do You Know Who Killed Me?” billboard. If you can take all of that – and the show’s attitude to women, of course – it remains one of 2014’s best new shows. But I can quite see why the mix might be too rich for some. It might yet prove indigestible for me, although this was another strong episode.