True Detective: “After You’ve Gone” (Season 1, Episode 7) Recap/Analysis
Debts Soon Paid
Okay, it's official: neither Cohle nor Hart did it, are doing it, or...anything. Writer and showrunner Nic Pizzolatto promised we'd get closure on this matter in episode 7 and he essentially hammered a wisp-thin nail with a sledge to telegraph it. Not that it was heavy-handed: on the contrary, with Sunday's "After You've Gone," True Detective officially separated itself from the enthusiastic conjectures it helped generate while maintaining the tone we fell in love with in episode 1. Like our two detectives, we've had a table full of facts before us, and the ones that had the most weight are sifting to the top—no trickery or magic, thank you very much. And while we may miss having all that mystery dangling in the air, our recompense is the reunion of Hart and Cohle (heart and soul? Ah, anyway...) getting shit done one last time in 2012. Yes, this episode was basically a cop drama, but we've gone deep with these guys and it's damn satisfying to see them put the pieces together.
First, an aside: I keep coming back to the title True Detective, all it implies, and every moment through which it resonates during the show. The first implication when you start watching the show is that Rust Cohle is a—no, the "true detective." And while we as an audience initially ascribed a great deal of admiration and awe to the man, now we know that that mantle is a goddamn albatross for Cohle, if not by 2002, then without a doubt by 2012. In yet another meta-fictional sprinkling, Cohle pops the bubble of the embattled principled cop whose commendations are due once the case is solved. Hell, even if you don't get a raise or a handshake from the chief, you should at least get to go home smug and assured that you did the right thing, no? Well, no. Cohle has come to represent the very real painful burden of seeing truth in this life (quite literally in this episode, telling Hart that he watched that entire video he found at Tuttle's, detailing ritual abuse of which Hart could only stomach a minute or two, in the chance that he could ID any participants). The toll that Cohle's brand of dedication takes, the things one sacrifices, the glory and sheen that one loses when one follows their principles into the ground rather than play ball and look the other way from time to time—if Cohle's character is to be believed, that kind of devotion is not chosen.
It's so heartbreaking to see the way life has just drained Cohle and Hart (maybe filled is more appropriate for the bellied Hart) into the schlubs they've become in 2012 that one can't help but pump a little fist in the air when Cohle affirms he's got a whiff of a clue about Tuttle and Hart wants in. Again, it's such a cop show story beat but TD earns it here, clearing the smoke on (most of) the Carcosa/Yellow King fancifulness and revealing some actual real-life men who've at least sexually abused a handful of kids through Tuttle's Wellspring schools program. The two big reveals in this episode:
1) 1) Cohle's storage unit simply holds some evidence that he doesn't want any untrustworthy eyes to see, and he has plenty of reason to believe that there's more than a few out there. Why's he been poking around, turning up at crime scenes and such? Because he's a true damn detective, and without a badge, he can't really make a case for staying enmeshed in this stuff.
2) 2) The Lawnmower Man is our big, scarred spaghetti monster, too well-bearded to reveal his scars when Hart and Cohle crossed his path in '95, and not one of Papania and Gilbrough's known suspects (though, boy, do they look dumb cutting him off mid-rant at the end of this episode...knowing what we know, of course).
Not only is the Lawnmower Man a potential Carcosan henchman but...he's a Tuttle! Or rather, he's a Childress, which is sort of the same thing on account of the philandering of Sam Tuttle, as that poor old housekeeper confirmed (there was our weekly dose of weird as drawn out by the patented Cohle thousand-yard stare). That information of course leads them to tease out the first real wrinkle in Cohle's until-now-hypothetical cover-up (the "sprawl") via Steve Geraci, bullshitting with a capital "b" on a golf course with Hart about what became of Marie Fontenot.
So now that two civilians (Hart and Cohle) have apprehended a sheriff (Geraci) based on a now-fairly-substantial hunch, episode 8 (this season's last! *tear*) is set to hit the ground running. Now that the notion of a conspiracy of very powerful men is nearly a foregone conclusion, the question is no longer "Whodunit?" but "What are you gonna do about it?" We know Cohle will die for this if he has to, no question, but where will perennial fence-sitter Hart fall at the eleventh hour? That may be the most interesting question left for True Detective to answer.
Then there's the matter of Hart's daughter, Audrey. She sounds spoken for, based on Maggie's assuring anecdote that she'd graduated from teen dysfunction to meds (and the arts!). However, I'm not convinced that we've seen the last of her, or that she won't have a meaningful involvement in the outcome of the case, if only because of the deeply disturbing inferences based on the five man/one woman doll tableau she once (re?)created. But, hey: I'm prepared for that to be a good old-fashioned red herring. All right? All right, all right.
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