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Recap: 'True Detective' Season 1, Episode 3 Goes Into 'The Locked Room'

by Kevin Jagernauth
January 26, 2014 10:00 PM
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True Detective

While there is a case that needs investigating in "True Detective," the show's richest pleasures have been found in the characters. And in particular, writer Nic Pizzolatto is curious about what makes men tick—what allows them to survive unspeakable horror and what they require to keep a handle on this side of sanity, in a profession that continually brings them face to face with things that defy all logic and humanity. In this week's "The Locked Room," it's those intangible values and qualities that are explored, exposing who we become when those structures are stripped away, and how fragile they can be in the first place.

"I think Rust needed a family. Boundaries are good," Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) tells the detectives played by Michael Potts and Tory Kittles. Indeed, for Martin himself, he's fashioned a life that keeps everything in balance, as he explains: "I keep things even, separate." He's got his job, a young sexual plaything in Lisa (Alexandra Daddario) and waiting at home, the normalcy of family providing stability. But having rules for yourself doesn't necessarily mean that others will understand or adhere to them, as Martin quickly finds out.

True Detective

Meanwhile, Martin accuses Rust of having myopia, an obsession for the work that's unhealthy, and he's not wrong. The only thing Rust knows how to do with his insomnia is keep investigating, spending nights going over old case files, looking at pictures of dead bodies, sitting in his living in a lawn chair, looking at a wall pinned with paperwork and photographs. And again, as Martin tells the current timeline cops, having no sense of limits can leave you adrift. "If working his theories, if his job was his idea of himself, then fine. The rest of us had families, people in our lives, good things. People give you rules. Rules describe the shape of things."

But while Martin has people in his life who are good to him, he's not good to them. His wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) can sense Martin pulling away, perhaps not surprising given, that she's not so much his life partner any more, as someone slotted into a box for his convenience, allowing him to keep it together. But the distance from his wife pales compared to that with his daughters, who are again showing disturbing signs of dealing with some kind of trauma. In "Seeing Things," we caught a glimpse of their dolls posed in the tableau of a crime scene, and this time around, it's the eldest daughter, in trouble at school for crude drawings of men and women having sex. But as Martin and Maggie team up to talk to their daughter, his eyes can't help but drift to the TV in the background to watch the game, even as his child cries in his arms. "I'm all fucked up," he later admits to Maggie.

True Detective

However, Maggie just doesn't know how fucked up he is. Out at a local country bar, where Maggie has also set up Rust with a friend of hers, Martin spots Lisa...with another man. And it's not so much the man he's concerned about, as the threat it holds to his carefully calibrated life. Casually confronting Lisa, out of eye and earshot of Maggie, she simply tells him that their relationship has run its course, and moreover, he's married, and she's not interested in that kind of commitment anyway. But this situation boils beneath the surface of Martin, and after everyone has split for the night, he races drunkenly to Lisa's house, breaks down the door, and beats the man who is spending the night. If this is Martin when he's lost one part of his support system, how far will he go when it all comes apart?

As for Rust, you can't argue with the results. Even though he's consumed by work, the case he's building for a serial killer gets stronger and stronger. A visit to the revivalist church (picking up on a thread from the end of the second episode) leads them to start tracking down someone only referred to as "The Tall Man." (Oh, and once again, here's Shea Whigham showing up in support playing a preacher and destroying it; someone please give this guy a leading role.) And his late nights spent pouring over years worth of case files gives them their biggest break yet: the name of a man who skipped parole, was involved in meth dealing (all the victims had drugs in their system) and was convicted of sex crimes. He's the perfect candidate for the killer... but they'll have find him first...

True Detective

"True Detective" is about the men we are and the framework that defines us. Rust lives without boundaries, without giving a shit for any sense of decorum. It's what puts him at odds with his boss (Kevin Dunn) as well as continually with his partner. When Rust decides to stop by Martin's, mow his lawn and then come inside and talk with Maggie, he has no idea, and more likely, simply doesn't care about the kind of message that could send in a small town. As for Martin, he needs the civility of family life, the escape of no strings sex and the discipline of the job, because without it, he's not quite certain who he is. But it does leave him with one doubt: is he a bad man? Rust has the answer: "The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door."

And right now that bad man is Reggie Ledoux. They need to find him before he strikes next, once again reminding the world that their dreams of a better life and the people they want to be can be shattered so easily. As Rust grimly posits. " a lot of dreams, there's a monster at the end of it." And certainly, the absolutely chilling final shot of "The Locked Room," with Reggie walking outside in an undisclosed location, wearing nothing but underwear, a gas mask, and clutching a cleaver, is one that will haunt you for the next couple weeks, until "True Detective" comes back after the Super Bowl. [B+]

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  • justlook | February 10, 2014 12:14 AMReply

    Tonights episode was off the chain. I loved it I was not expecting this much action. Please bring it again for next weeks episode 5. Do not cancel this show.

  • Jenny | February 9, 2014 9:02 PMReply

    Also Woody As Always Is Phenom In His Acting,Both Of Them Have Adapted These chAracters So well! Its Definitely A RespectablE, Intellectual, And Complex Show...Gets Your Mind Thinking ...The Murder Investigation Is Really Just Background To A Philosophical Mind f****

  • Jenny | February 9, 2014 8:53 PMReply

    Mathew's Character Is Very Provacative...His Philosophical Views Are Shocking And intriguing...I Want To Know Who Came Up With His Diolgue Because Its Freaking Awesome...Finally Hearing Another Point Of View On So-called Humanity...Its Thought Provoking And Damn Right Mind Blowing If U Really Listen...I Cant Wait To Hear More And Would Love To Know Who Wrote His dialogue

  • SA | February 11, 2014 6:04 AM

    His 'philosophical' soliloquies are the weakest part of the show in my opinion. Show, not tell; is the hallmark of a well-written script. You'd have to be pretty sheltered to find those particular dialogues 'deep' in any way. That said, I find the show interesting when it's being subtle. More subtlety and less proselytizing would be a great improvement.

  • Lisa | February 5, 2014 3:44 PMReply

    This series is boring! The dialog is not reminiscent to the Louisiana culture, its out of place. Its too slow moving and focused on the detectives more than the murder. Its surprising and shocking that two outstanding actors couldn't pull this off. Not a good choice for Woody or Matthew. You two are phenomenal actors BUT this was not a good pick for either of you. Lousy series.......Lost interest after the third episode.

  • Stan | February 7, 2014 12:05 PM

    Fail...on many account the greatest being as of this date there have only been 3 episodes.

  • Stan | January 30, 2014 11:30 AMReply

    It's the best TV I've seen in a while. It would not surprise me if the director was a Sergio Leone fan. Obviously some won't get it but this is the type work than stands the test of time.

  • HappyB | March 18, 2014 8:14 AM

    It shouldn't take 3 hours for a TV series to become interesting. This has been so dreadfully dull - I have suffered through those first 3 episodes and it is literally nothing more than the screenwriter describing how pointless life is. There's nothing new or poetic. It's just Rustin lamenting life... for 3 hours. When we finally got to the guy in the gas mask, I wasn't shocked or excited, more like "god I hope something happens next week."

  • henry | January 29, 2014 3:07 AMReply

    tv always does it's thing-attention grabber at the end of an episode.some t and a,teaser for next show..........
    my personal gets a week off to re-edit the show(superbowl).
    a tad slow so far but good character developement.this could get wonky if re-edit for the mass that wants action.
    my spoiler?
    one guy(guilty of something) gets tagged.wrong.
    malfeasance and guilt will compel the truth.....
    one because he has to and one because he wants to.
    get old(er) and you will know the feeling.
    by the bye....season 2 already announced....don't think woody's role is worth another go....who says rust can't be back?

  • Roberta Liford | January 28, 2014 8:38 PMReply

    I'm glad you noticed Shea Whigham as the Preacher in Ep. 3, but I wonder why he isn't mentioned anywhere in the cast list, including IMBD. ( I couldn't comment there because they want you're credit card number and/or your cell phone #!! What?? )

    I'm trying to think of why he wasn't listed, but can't come up with anything. Anyone have a clue?

  • Patrick | January 28, 2014 11:07 AMReply

    Excellent show. It really goes beyond your typical detective series. It shows the tribes and tribulations behind the characters rarely seen in other d-shows. I did not care too much about Matthew McConaughey as an actor, specially in his roles as a pretty boy. But boy, the guy can act. He is so much better portraying a dark character...

  • RachelKati | January 28, 2014 4:08 AMReply

    It's interesting that the comments are either saying it's boring or its not for people on attention span. I have the attention span of a retarded fruit fly with ADHD and I Love this show. I'm not a fan of either actor but have just gotten access to HBO I was curious. What some would call boring, I call atmospheric. I'm a former goth girl from Hollywood. I don't do rural but the music is perfect and is almost a character. The writer and director have made Woody Harrelson seem intelligent. The depth of the characters is great. Martin is the poster child for the great American hypocrite bug only someone as damaged as Russ can see that.

  • Suavemente | January 28, 2014 1:04 AMReply

    Did anyone notice the bird trap at the end when the tall man is walking with a machete, it's in the field , kind of blurry.. there only 8 episode,, i don't get why some say it's boring.. it character developement and interaction between to viewpoint in life philosphy as it applies to their craft, personal life and their own interaction,, not so much in the gruesomeness of the killings or killers psyche.. this aint Hannibal

  • TS | January 28, 2014 1:03 AMReply

    This show is definitely not going to be for everybody, but that's what's great about it. No compromise, it commits to the complexity of the characters, decides not to cater to those with short attention spans. I like plot-driven, but I like this as well. Riveting.

  • Honna | January 28, 2014 12:49 AMReply

    Boring...not..they hit it dead on for a homicide detectives mo and dark side..alcohol..control issues..compulsive..painful life..rules they play by are skewed to bring their own brand of justice I find it very interesting and intense give me more!

  • Vic | January 27, 2014 10:04 PMReply

    When Martin's wife called McCoughney looking for her husband, he told her to go to sleep, I could have sworn he said "Woody will be home soon", not Martin. Did anyone else catch that? Lol

  • Vlad | January 27, 2014 9:56 PMReply

    Anyone ever see Woody in KINGPIN? "YOU NEVER MOW ANOTHER MANS LAWN".

    That can't be an accident.

  • james | January 27, 2014 9:19 PMReply

    Some of the standard relationship drama is a little boring but otherwise excellent.

  • patty | January 27, 2014 6:39 PMReply

    I could not wait for this series to come out, but the wait was more exciting then the actual series. boring, boring, boring, What a shame two great actors. This is a disapointment.

  • Congrats | January 27, 2014 10:16 PM

    Congrats on being critically unable to distinguish between the good and the bad of an art form you presume to partake in. Your friends are laughing at you.

    You probably went into work raving about Low Winter Sun until everyone started looking at you funny.

  • Craig | January 27, 2014 9:51 PM

    It's called character and plot development. Some lost on the ADHD generation where there is a new camera angle every 3 seconds.

  • Sebastian | January 27, 2014 9:04 PM

    The show is not the problem why it is boring, your brain is the problem.

  • Benedict | January 27, 2014 6:28 PMReply

    Loving the show so far. Feels like it's all boiling up but I still like the subdued spontaneity of it all. Completely absorbing television...not as addictive and indulgent as something like House Of Cards but still as rich and spot-on with the dialogue as that show. It'll be interesting how the anthology format works out - my hunch is that the two detectives interviewing them in the future will be the leads in the next season and will be based in another city? Could be the case but either way it'll be both refreshing and frustrating to lost the two impeccable leads of this season (not to mention the excellent supporting cast). Really intrigued what will roll out over the next 5 episodes.

  • RachelKati | January 28, 2014 4:14 AM

    I've been curious about. House of Cards since it started. However, as mentioned above I have a very low AND attention span. However I absolutely adore. True Detective. Do you think I can watch it? My idea of horribly boring is the Good Wife. It kills me. B

  • a marrow | January 27, 2014 10:08 PM

    this show is on the far side of boring.. maybe the most intellectually stimulating endeavor ever broadcast... I love it.. but why are they in the room with the two "detectives" obivously there was another murder... one of them did it...m guess is it's not Rust.....

  • hayes | January 27, 2014 4:59 PMReply

    That final shot was one of the most unnerving things I've seen.

  • lee | January 27, 2014 5:43 AMReply

    cut the crap...
    does Alexandra get naked again in episode 3 ??

  • CutcrapperAppreciator | February 1, 2014 5:06 PM

    Thanks ASFAN. I clicked the link and CTRL+F her name just to get the questioned answered. I'm now dedicating my time saved by thanking you.

  • ASFan | January 27, 2014 9:36 PM

    Nope. Last week's singular appearance is enough to satiate your nudity appetite for years to come.

  • John | January 27, 2014 6:12 PM

    That's funny right there.

  • spassky | January 27, 2014 4:25 AMReply

    This recap is well written, but the author has gotten a lot of details wrong. They're kind of inconsequential so I'm not going to list them out here, but why would you include if you don't remember those details accurately?

  • Carl | January 27, 2014 1:38 AMReply

    This show is just amazing. I've found myself rewatching it, the narration of both men from the future to the past, guessing as to how things will unfold. This is great television.

  • Steve La Fabria | January 27, 2014 1:14 AMReply

    The show is painfully slow, lost and uninteresting. The acting is pretty decent but the writing is going no where.

  • Cliff in Texas | February 9, 2014 7:48 PM

    About the writing, I'm wondering how much is actually written out and how much is ad lib especially the dialog between Rust and Marty. These are clearly great actors but the tempo of the repartee seems almost too spontaneous to be wholly scripted.

  • SA | January 28, 2014 12:55 AM

    Must admit, I am still trying to decide whether this will be obvious and pretentious or subtle and engrossing - but I'm still watching, so I guess that says something. The reference to the King in Yellow made me think the writers might know what they're doing. Rust's soliloquies are oftentimes an example of telling rather than showing, which comes across more as a first year film student boasting of how 'deep' they are, instead of a well-written character speaking for themselves.

  • Vash | January 27, 2014 6:44 PM

    Did you even listen to any of Rust's soliloquies?

  • Benedict | January 27, 2014 6:39 PM

    If it were an 8 hour film would that suit you better? The series format lets the characterisation build up and for people to actually have conversations that aren't necessarily adding to the momentum but do wonders for atmosphere and completely ground the drama. Anyone could've made a genre series with generic character formula and conventional series structure, but what's the point in doing what's gone before?

    Also this isn't Malick...getting tired of hearing the half-baked comparisons - you could see it as a compliment seeing as he's one of the highest profile filmmakers to explore a different way to create films, but it's a bit of a bare sentiment. He isn't the first filmmaker to ever place emphasis on scenic photography (in his earlier films), naturalistic settings and a muted palette (actually his last couple of films were pretty colourful) and he won't be the last. I don't remember him making anything close to this series...I've been more reminded of recent Herzog or certain Fincher films but overall it's definitely a unique work.

  • bwaters | January 27, 2014 3:11 AM

    I thought I would think this, based on all the pretentious, full Malick trailers, but the actual show is gripping as hell.

  • Stark | January 27, 2014 1:40 AM

    It's a pity that you actually think this.

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