‘True Detective’ 1.03 Recap: “The World Needs Bad Men”

As detectives Martin Hart and Rust Cohle get closer to catching their killer, Martin’s home life begins to unravel on him in the latest episode of ‘True Detective’, which continues to be the best-acted, most interesting television series HBO (or any other network) has aired for a long time.

After leaving the burned-out church where they found a drawing of a girl with antlers painted on one of its remaining walls, Martin and Rust head off to question the former pastor of the church (played by Shea Whigham from ‘Boardwalk Empire‘), who now conducts sermons out of a tent. Witnessing his latest sermon leads to one of the best (and most fascinating) conversations between the two detectives so far in the series. Rust contemplates both the intelligence and moral fiber of a group of people who need to be promised an eternal reward just to do the right thing. Martin counters by questioning how people would act if they didn’t have a higher power to put their faith in, to which Rust replies, “The same as they do now, but out in the open.”

Rust questions the minister. While a mentally disabled congregation member looks like a suspect, Rust quickly determines he couldn’t have committed the crime. Meanwhile, while talking to a pair of females, Martin learns that Dora was frequently seen talking to a tall man who had shiny skin around his lips. Martin suspects that these may be burn marks.

Back at the Hart household, Martin and his wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) talk to their older daughter about upsetting pictures she was caught drawing at school. When they ask her why she did it, the girl claims that her female classmates put her up to it. Later, we see that the drawings in question are stick figures of a man and woman having sex. Does this tie in with the naked dolls Martin found posed in his daughters’ room in last week’s episode? Once again, I wonder if Martin’s daughters have seen something connected to the murder.

Maggie tries to set up one of her friends with Rust, and the four of them go on a double date at a local country-western bar. Rust makes conversation, but seems detached from the events around him. Meanwhile, Martin notices that his girlfriend, Lisa, is there with another man. Making an excuse to go to the bar, he confronts her, and Lisa tells Martin that it’s over between them. Later that night, a drunk Martin goes to Lisa’s house, breaks down the door and threatens her new boyfriend. After slamming him into a closet door, Martin’s common sense gets the better of him, and he leaves without further incident.

While Martin is out, Maggie calls Rust to ask if her husband is having an affair. Rust tells Maggie that he hasn’t heard anything and assures her that Martin will be home soon. Later in the episode, Martin returns home to find Rust drinking iced tea and talking with Maggie in the kitchen. Rust has stopped by to return a lawn mower he’s borrowed, and has cut Martin’s grass while he was there. Escorting Rust back out to his truck, an upset Martin tells him that he doesn’t want him to mow his lawn ever again. I have the feeling that he’s not talking about the grass.

Rust’s research leads him to another dead girl who was believed drowned, but also had lacerations on her stomach and the same symbol drawn on her back that they found on Dora’s body. The dead girl was also high on the same drugs found in Dora’s system. Martin joins him to question the dead girl’s grandfather, who tells the detectives that the girl attended a Christian school that was part of Tuttle Ministries. He also mentions a man named Reggie Ledoux that the girl ran off with.

Heading to the school in question, Rust questions a groundskeeper there, but the man can’t provide any additional information. However, while waiting for Rust in the car, Martin gets a call on the police radio that connects Reggie Ledoux with Dora’s ex-husband, Charlie. Now having evidence against Reggie and a location where he is, the two detectives race off to find him.

Back in the interrogation room in 2012, Rust tells the questioning detectives about how, in their final moments, the dead girls learned to let go when they realized all they were made up of was part of the same dream. “And like a lot of dreams,” Rust adds, “there’s a monster at the end.” The final shot of the episode reveals a house in the middle of nowhere, with a man wearing a gas mask walking outside. Have we finally seen the killer?

Aside from the obvious progress made in the investigation, I really enjoyed the additional character development in the episode. Martin’s marriage continues fall apart, and the questions that this entry poses about organized religion, life and death are among the best I’ve ever seen addressed on a television series. The only downside is that, due to next Sunday’s Super Bowl, HBO won’t air the next episode until February 9th.


  1. One of the things I find refreshing about this show is that I can’t recall any other police procedural where the two partners have just outright hated each other so much. They’re not best friends. They’re not sympatico at all. They can’t stand being in each other’s company. This really puts to lie the cliche of police partners being brothers for life.

  2. Paul A

    Was it ever explained why Rust needed to borrow the mower in the first place? I thought we had seen he was living in a studio apartment…hence no lawn to mow. Did I miss something? It just had me thinking is all…

    • I don’t think they explained why, and you make a good point – although it’s possible that part of Rust’s rent agreement is that he take care of his front lawn (or am I just trying to make an excuse for the show?). 🙂

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