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‘True Detective’ 1.02 Recap: “In the End, It’s for the Good of the Family”

Episode 2 of TV’s best new series manages to give viewers a little more insight into the occult-like killing of Dora Lange, and a whole lot of additional information about Martin Hart and Rust Cohle, the two Louisiana detectives investigating the murder.

Entitled ‘Seeing Things’, Episode 2 begins with Martin and Rust notifying Dora’s mother about her daughter’s death. During the conversation, the mother reveals that Dora’s father is dead, but while he was alive, he refused to bathe her. Martin also notices a framed photograph of looks to be either members of the Klu Klux Klan on horseback or some other type of hooded religious group. The detectives then track down one of Dora’s friends, who tells them that Dora always seemed like she was high or “loopy,” but that she also recently found a church to attend.

During one of their drives in the car, Rust finally tells Martin about his failed marriage and that his daughter was killed in a “car accident.” Later in the episode, as part of Rust’s questioning by detectives in 2012, we learn a lot more about his background and what happened. His daughter was riding her tricycle and got hit by a car. She was in a coma for a while, but died not long afterward. The event destroyed Rust’s marriage to his wife, who we learn was named Claire. At that point, Rust asked to be transferred from the Robbery division to Narcotics, where he both developed an addiction and killed a junkie who was pumping his own daughter full of drugs. Instead of pressing charges against Rust, his division instead put him undercover, where he was responsible for killing three drug kingpins. The aftermath of his undercover work landed Rust in a psychiatric ward for four months. When he was given the option of retiring from the police with a psych pension, he instead asked for a transfer to the homicide division – which eventually led to him winding up in Louisiana working with Martin. We also learn that Rust’s drug addiction has resulted in hallucinations. He sees things from time to time, which explains why he thought he saw his daughter along the side of the road in the pilot episode.

Back in 1995, Martin goes to see his girlfriend, Lisa, who participates in some light bondage play – handcuffing Martin to her couch during their lovemaking session. Afterwards, Martin tells Lisa that he doesn’t want her going out because there’s a killer on the loose, but she tells Martin that she still needs to find a man who can provide a future for her, and that he can’t because he’s already married. When Martin returns to the precinct, Rust says that he can smell a woman on him. This ticks off Martin and we start to see a very dark side to him. He tells Rust never to talk about his wife like that, but Rust implies that he knows Martin is seeing someone else.

Rust learns that there’s a brothel out in the woods called the Bunny Ranch where Dora may have worked. Stopping at a garage, Rust and Martin question a pair of men about the place, but they deny knowing anything. Going back to the car, Rust tells Martin he needs to go back inside for a minute, and then attacks the two men, clocking one over the head with a toolbox. He gets the information he needs, and the detectives arrive at the Bunny Ranch, where they question both the owner and a young, underage friend of Dora’s. While the young friend gives Dora’s diary to Rust, Martin tells the owner how disgusted he is about underage girls working there. On his way out, he slips the young girl some money and urges her to find something else to do with her life.

During a visit with his in-laws, it becomes obvious that Martin’s marriage is even more strained than we were led to believe. Martin feels that his wife is a ballbuster and doesn’t give him the space he needs, and she feels that he’s closed up and doesn’t share things with her. In an even more disturbing scene, when Martin goes to get his two daughters for dinner, he notices that they’ve been playing out a murder scene with their dolls on the floor. Is this just because of what they’ve overheard about their father’s work… or have they seen something? We’re not provided any additional answers this week.

Back at the police station, a task force comes in to investigate two cats that were nailed to a local church’s door, and the three members of the task force ask for the files on the Dora Lange case to see if there might be a connection. Taking Rust and Martin into his office, Major Quesada tells the two detectives that they’re very close to being pulled off the case. Martin asks if Quesada can give them until the end of the month to find a suspect, and the Major agrees to give them two more weeks.

While the writings in Dora’s diary are mostly of a fantasy nature – talking about crowns and kings – the detectives also find a flyer stuck inside for a revival church. The evidence leads them to a burned-out church, where Rust uncovers some disturbing graffiti on one of the walls that looks like a girl with deer antlers on her head.

Much like the pilot, Episode 2 is more about the two lead characters than about the investigation they’re conducting. One of the more fascinating, almost subtle, changes this week is in the way both Rust and Martin are being interviewed in 2012. Last week, it was pretty clear that the 2012 detectives suspected Rust had something to do with the recent killing. This week, it seems as if they’re slowly switching their attention to Martin, who starts to show signs of being uncomfortable during his questioning. We also learn that at some point between 1995 and 2012, Maggie will introduce Rust to a woman named Lori, whom he almost marries but doesn’t. This implies that Maggie and Rust are going to become a lot closer at some point. (Once again, I’m going to suggest that they’ll probably have an affair, which will lead to Martin and Rust parting ways in 2002.)

Episode 2 manages to maintain the level of quality that we saw in the pilot, and there’s every indication that things will continue to be just as interesting and well-acted for the remainder of the run.

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