Is there any other show out there right now that sticks to your brain for hours after you finish watching it like True Detective does? That's a rhetorical question, duh, because those of us who've gotten invested in the series have already set up elaborate set evidence boards with strings spanning our living rooms as we spend more time trying to crack the murder of Dora Lang alongside our buddies Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle when we should be eating, showering, and going to the bathroom. But after "The Secret Fate of All Life," we're going to have to tear everything down, because everything we thought we knew may have been burned to the ground.
After "The Locked Room" put a face (or at least a gas mask) to the killer, one Mr. Reggie Ledoux, "The Secret Fate of All Life" blew everything up again so that any one of these faces in the rubble left behind could be the murderer. That includes Cohle and Hart, but while we're at it, let's also add present-day detectives Gilbough and Papania, Maggie Hart, Hart's kids Audrey and Maisie, and all the strippers from the previous episode to our list of suspects, because right now, we don't know anything. Normally, crashing into a wall like this would fall under red herring territory for a crime drama. I HATE red herrings in crime shows; it's one of the reasons I think the genre is usually awful and tired. But True Detective escapes the pit of time-wasting associated with most bad leads because this so-called red herring is a huge part of Hart and Cohle's story.
For the first time in the series (I believe), we definitively saw present-day Hart and Cohle give a false account of what transpired to Gilbough and Papania. You should have already been suspicious of what they were saying as perspective and recollection of events has been one of True Detective's big tricks up its sleeves, and knowing that these two have the capacity to lie makes everything that came before it suspect. There's also the question of whether we can believe everything we're shown in 1995. As Hart and Cohle descended on the Ledoux compound, what we saw didn't match up with what Hart and Cohle were saying. The implication here is that what we saw was what actually happened, and I think we can take that as fact. But is that the case for everything else we've seen before? Probably, but the seed of doubt has been planted.
The monster at the end of Cohle story–and now it's definitely a story–Reggie Ledoux, was guilty of a lot of things: the manufacture of LSD and meth, child kidnapping, one awesome noose neck tattoo, and from the looks of it, reeking of something awful. But we do not know if he killed Dora Lang. The episode would have us believe that he didn't. In 2002, Cohle is giving Guy Leonard Francis the business in an interrogation room, and Guy says he knows who Cohle is and that Dora's killer is still on the loose. "The Yellow King," he said, the same name mentioned by Dora's ex Charlie Lang and Dora's diary. It's all the evidence Cohle needs to realize this Guy knows something, and that Ledoux might not have been the killer. I say might, because we're trusting that a dude who killed two people on PCP knows what he's talking about.
Once we were told Dora Lang's killer was still at large, Detectives Gilbough and Papania pressed hard on their suspicion that Cohle was involved in the killings and "The Secret Fate of All Life" elevated to another level. They have eye-witness accounts that Cohle was snooping around their murder scene, they postulate that Cohle made the phone call from the payphone that would convince Guy to commit suicide because Guy had dirt on Cohle (Cohle asked all about Guy's family, so maybe he used their lives as a threat), and they tell Hart that all the evidence gathered in their 1995 investigation was Cohle's work and all the people they pinned murders on were Cohle's doing. And as we see the possibility of this sink into Hart's face, echoing in our mind are two things that Hart has repeated over and over again. That he believed Cohle had a tendency to bend the narrative to the story he saw fit to tell, and that the detective's curse was that the solutions were right under his nose but he was paying attention to the wrong clues. Whoa.
Television audiences today look for clues in even the smallest details, thinking they can anticipate the big twist before it's revealed. But I always took True Detective to be more of a straight shot than a series of surprises and shocks. It's fun to point the finger at Cohle, but I don't think he did it. I think he revisited the Dora Lang crime scene in 2002 to see what he missed. I think he went to the school in 2002 and came upon those Devil's Traps because he wanted to look there before and he didn't get to in Episode 3. I think he showed up at the 2012 crime scene five times because he thinks the killer is still on the loose and it's killing him that he escaped him. I think Cohle believes that if he catches this guy, he can get out of this trap of existing in the same life over and over again, that he'll spin off into the fourth dimension or take off in a UFO or whatever else he thinks is out there. Or he'll at least have a head start on this case in his next existence when he has to do it all over again.
And we also have to consider the cover up of the Reggie Ledoux situation and how that affects Hart's participation in Gilbough and Papania's investigation of Cohle. Hart and Cohle are bonded by what happened, with Hart more dependent on Cohle because it was Hart who shot Reggie and Cohle who masterminded the coverup. If Hart makes a misstep, he risks exposing his own dark past. Maybe that's exactly what Cohle needed. He needed leverage to keep Hart in his pocket because covering up the murder of Reggie Ledoux also meant covering up the fact that Cohle murdered all these girls! Ahhhh! So many tasty theories, so many intricate possibilities, so much mind fuckery. I LOVE it.
We'll find out exactly how much Hart knows and what he's willing to say when True Detective returns and Hart tells us what happened between when Cohle "got on the Lang killer to whenever they had their altercation (whatever that was about)." What was the altercation about? How deep into this is Cohle? Is the killer still on the loose? Will my head stay together in one piece? I hope not.
– I know I didn't talk much about Hart and Cohle capturing Reggie and finding those kids, but OH MY GOD that entire scene was incredible. Pillow-to-the-face tense and realistically scary. True Detective knows how to makes its terrors come alive and feel real.
– Killing Reggie instantly and watching his partner blow up on a grenade trip wire was a moment that made me wonder where the show would go from there. Turns out, even more interesting places.
– That's Lizzie from The Walking Dead playing grown up Maisie Hart! Hopefully she isn't naming all the corpses her daddy finds.
– If your daughter is drawing pictures of penises and boobies at a young age, she may end up Captain of the Varsity Slut Team by the time she's in high school.
– Cohle would also mention that the task force was eager to take over their case. Could they have known about the killer all along, and did they back off when Cohle and Hart pinned the murders on Ledoux? No one likes the panic that comes with a serial killer on the loose, so it's possible there were more killings and the task force is keeping them quiet.
– When is Weird Al Yankovic going to do a Huey Lewis/True Detective parody song called "Hart and Cohle"?
– "The story never changed in 17 years because it only went down one way."
– "This is a world where nothing is solved."