tv review – HBO’s True Detective, episode 1.5

‘The Secret Fate Of All Lifewas fixed more on the present than last week’s ‘Who Goes There’, which meant we finally got a better look at the agenda of detectives Gilbough and Papania. The last ten minutes of the episode saw them making accusations at Rust and trying to get more out of Marty, maybe even bringing him to their side. We also learned that Cohle is still investigating the Yellow King case, or was at least spotted near a crime scene multiple times, looking on and maybe doing some follow-up work. None of it was a surprise and there was a lack of the characteristic True Detective touch, the material weaker than we’ve come to expect. This week’s disappointing conclusion to the present-day proceedings unfortunately wasn’t the only plot strand that felt lacking in an episode that, for True Detective‘s standards, was quite mediocre.

The start of ‘The Secret Fate Of All Life’ made quick work of Ledoux, the prime suspect we had been hearing about for a couple of episodes now. Rust and Marty got him cuffed, but upon discovering two children held in captivity Hart shot him in the head. I could see how this must’ve been very anticlimactic to some, but it made perfect sense in this character-driven show. Marty, a man who values the innocence of children above all, couldn’t handle the horrors he was confronted with and, in his mind, had to punish to man responsible and did so immediately. Cohle cleverly rigged the scene and the result was the two were being viewed as heroes, succesfully solving the Dora Lange case. After that True Detective elegantly skipped a few years (done so with a beautiful symbolic scene of Marty’s children playing and Audrey throwing their crown into the tree, also echoing the Dora Lange crime scene), but also rushed over the good times Hart and Cohle apparently had, diving straight into more cliched territory. Marty can’t handle Audrey who’s a troubled teen looking for attention through sex (sort of making sense of her drawings from ‘Seeing Things’, but a bit too on the nose) and there’s a clear divide in the household: Marty gets on with role model daughter Maisie, Maggie tries to earn the trust of Audrey. We also we’re reminded again that Cohle almost shacked up, but in the end didn’t, because, well, he’s Cohle. It wasn’t bad per se, but it felt cheap, hastily put together. There was an awful lot of telling, and a lack of showing this week, things which were previously balanced out quite well.

And then it was on with the case again: apparently Ledoux wasn’t the be-all/end-all (shocker!), but the man responsible for telling Cohle about it, even saying that the Yellow King is involved with some powerful people, died subsequently, by taking his own life (surprise!). We’re back to theorizing again about Tuttle, the task force and detectives Gilbough and Papania. Is it all one giant conspiracy? All of this feels too familiar, like too much of a let-down to the brilliance displayed by the previous episodes, but maybe (hopefully) True Detective has much more up its sleeve to still be able to surprise and shock us.

While this review’s quite negative, it is so coming off of what True Detective served up before. This means this episode wasn’t all-out bad by any means, but it felt strangely trite and unoriginal, words that didn’t fit episodes 1 to 4. The acting’s still outstanding, Hart and Cohle are still terrific characters with great lines, it all looks great and there’s a strong sense of atmosphere (shout-out to T Bone Burnett’s wonderfully put-together score which adds a lot of eerie flavor), but it didn’t have the True Detective oomph and it went downhill after the first fifteen minutes. 6/10

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