True Detective: “Haunted Houses”

Fox covers episode 6 of True Detective

This weeks episode of True Detective tackles obsession in a whole new way. Rather than watch Rust obsess over scattershot clues in what is now a 7-year-old murder case we take charge of the new mystery that this series has presented us with. After the serious one-two punch that was the last two episodes we’re finally given a chance to slow down and try and figure all this shit out. Now I don’t know how other viewers are handling this show but I took the liberty of polishing off Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow between “The Secret Fate of all Life” and “Haunted Houses”. I found myself poring over every minute detail in the stories trying to connect them to True Detective in a million different ways. And what did I have when I was finished? An empty hand. 

And that just made me angrier. Did I miss something? I must have. I must just not be working hard enough to crack the code. The King in Yellow connection with this series has turned me into Rust Cohle. I’ve become completely obsessed with the smallest details of both works. And even in an episode like “Haunted Houses” which is probably this season’s slowest (or it just feels that way because it’s following two very serious acts) I still found myself staring a hole in my TV screen absolutely positive that there was something to be seen. Problem is in good mystery writing whether it’s film, television or good ole’ fashioned printed word the clues don’t mean anything until the author decides they do. And therein lies Nic Pizzolatto’s genius. Whether he meant for his viewers to take a walk to their library or dig through the basement of their closest used bookstore to find a copy (or download the free Kindle version) of The King in Yellow is irrelevant. Most viewers won’t but I did and I imagine all of us are experiencing something similar. The play-within-the-book is said to induce madness in anyone who even begins to read the second act because of the secrets of life that it divulges. Last week brought us into the second act of this season and I think with all the clues and questions that arose from it Pizzolatto is simulating the madness quite well. This week however tosses a brick wall right in front of all us obsessive’s speeding train of questions. Instead of answers (or even more clues to look into) we get some really plainly laid out melodrama. Marty is cheating again. Rust and Marty’s wife Maggie do some cheating of their own. It almost feels like a different show completely. Luckily for us, True Detective does melodrama better than most shows that do it as a day job. 

“Haunted Houses” is given the shit job of taking these characters and this story to a huge turning point. It ends Hart and Cohle’s partnership. It ends Marty’s marriage. It pushes everyone living in True Detective’s little universe off the edge of a cliff we’ve seen coming for six hours now. This episode is the breath before what I can only imagine is a deep plunge. So of course it features some of the toughest scenes to watch in the series’ run so far. Nic Pizzolatto is testing us. “Haunted Houses” is a gauntlet wherein this show’s sole writer is forcing us to come to terms with the fact that we love to watch murder and mayhem but never really know how to handle people who love each other behaving atrociously toward one another. It’s really been the only zone that’s been off limits so far this season and after this episode we’ve literally seen it all. And then just when I thought the episode would fade out with Rust and Marty staring at each other broken and bloodied in the Police Station parking lot after their little tussle we take a great leap forward into the real present that the series has been operating in. Rust tracks Marty down on a back road and implores him to buy him a beer so that a much needed discussion can take place. We’ve finally reached the timeline where the answers lay. And I can only hope they come soon. I don’t think I can keep searching so intently for clues. If blindness from sitting too close to the screen doesn’t get me, then anti-climactic disappointment surely will.

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