The penultimate episode of ‘True Detective’ this season presents such an onslaught of case information that I’m not sure I was able to keep up with it all. What I do know is that Rust Cohle and Martin Hart set their differences aside and dive back into the case. Before the credits role, we finally get a glimpse of the real killer – and it’s someone we’ve seen before.
This episode picks up right where the last one ended, with Marty having accepted Rust’s offer to meet for a drink. Talking over a few beers, Rust details what he’s been working on over the last several years and indicates that he needs Marty’s help to continue. He wants to show Marty the evidence that he’s collected so far. Hart is reluctant to join with Rust again and gets up to leave, but changes his mind when Rust insists that Marty has a debt owed. Marty agrees to see what evidence Rust has.
Rust takes Martin to a storage shed that he’s turned into his investigation headquarters. The walls are filled with pictures, maps and theories, and the room is loaded with various pieces of evidence. Rust shows Marty a map of all the child disappearances dating back to the late 1980s and how they match up with locations of the various schools that Tuttle Ministries operated. He also notes that they all seem to have occurred along a certain stretch of Louisiana bayou, but he hasn’t yet figured out why. Rust is convinced that the man they’re looking for has scars on the lower part of his face.
Martin still isn’t convinced that Rust is onto anything solid, until Rust shows him the final pieces of evidence he’s obtained: pictures of young girls being posed with deer antlers on their heads and in other ritualistic costumes, and a graphic videotape of a girl being taken into the woods and sacrificed. The video both enrages Marty and convinces him that Rust has uncovered the truth of what really happened back in 1995. He agrees to help Cohle, and the two transfer all the evidence to Marty’s office. (Now that he’s no longer part of the police force, he’s been making a living as a private investigator.)
Rust makes his money by tending bar, and the episode takes a few minutes to catch up with what kind of lives these two men are leading in 2012. Neither has a steady girlfriend. While Rust isn’t even bothering to try to find one, Marty dates casually, finding his romance through online dating sites, but spending most of his evenings in front of the television with a TV dinner. We also learn that Rust had nothing to do with the death of Rev. Tuttle in 2010, although Cohle did break into two of Tuttle’s residences, where he found a lot of the evidence he has gathered – including the photos and videotape.
To further investigate his leads, Rust needs Martin’s help getting access to case files. Marty goes down to the station and tells the current chief that he’s started writing a true crime novel about the 1995 case and asks if he can get access to the files. After buttering him up with a gift of alcohol, the chief agrees. Unfortunately, the older files aren’t on the police computer, but rather still stored haphazardly in boxes in one of the station’s rooms.
The detectives’ investigation leads them to a former employee of Sam Tuttle, the Reverend’s father. When Rust shows her photographs of the oddly designed branches and “devil’s traps” we’ve seen in prior episodes, the elderly woman repeats the phrase “Carcosa – death is not the end” over and over again. The woman also tells them about a young boy with scars who was part of the Childress family, but also part of the Tuttle family, implying that he was offspring from one of the Tuttle’s daughters.
Further investigation points in the direction of the detectives’ former co-worker Steve Geraci, who’s now a sheriff, but you may remember him butting heads with Rust way back in the pilot episode. Back in the day, Geraci handled the report of one of the missing girls while he worked for a sheriff who was a member of the Childress family. So, it appears that not only the Tuttles but the Childresses are wrapped up in this mystery, with an offspring of both families being the prime suspect. Marty meets Geraci for a round of golf, after which he decides that his former colleague is lying to him. Towards the end of the episode, Marty takes Geraci fishing on his boat (to get the sheriff out of his legal jurisdiction), where Rust holds him at gunpoint. I suspect that our two leads have some serious questions for him.
This week’s episode ends with the other two detectives who interviewed Rust and Marty in 2012 coming upon a man riding a lawnmower to ask him for directions. Viewers will suddenly realize that they’ve seen this man before. He last appeared cutting the grass of one of the abandoned Tuttle schools back in Episode 3. This time, however, he’s clean-shaven, and we can see that his lower face and chin are filled with scars.
We now know who the killer is… but will Martin and Rust be able to bring him to justice, or will this story end with a darker twist? Since each season of ‘True Detective’ is a standalone story, there’s no guarantee that either or both of our leads will survive.
This week’s episode is loaded with case information – so much that I’ll probably need to rewatch it a few more times just to tie together all the plot threads. I think we can pretty much establish that – despite evidence that pointed to both Rust and Marty during various points of the series – neither of the lead characters is involved in these murders. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t see a few more surprises in the finale.