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True Detective Ep. 1.03 “The Locked Room” unusually haunting and compelling

True Detective Ep. 1.03 “The Locked Room” unusually haunting and compelling

True Detective The Locked Room

True Detective, Season 1: Episode 3 – “The Locked Room”
Written by Nick Pizzolatto
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Airs Sunday nights at 9 on HBO

Hart and Cohle finally uncover some solid leads and possible suspects in the investigation into Dora Lange’s murder. This week’s episode, the title of which refers to what Cohle dubs the human mind, introduces us to a number of strange, new characters. Here, we meet a charismatic revivalist preacher (played by Boardwalk Empire‘s Shea Whigham) – a castrated follower, who was sent to prison for fondling himself in front of little girls – and what we assume is the first sighting of Charlie Lange’s former cellmate Reggie Ledoux who, we learn, was once busted in connection to a meth and LSD lab.  One of these men could very well be responsible for Lang’e murder – but don’t hold your breath thinking about it. Chances are, none of them are the guilty party. 

True Detective’s premiere was HBO’s most watched series debut since 2010, and has garnered 7.7 million viewers to date on various platforms. This marks a very fast rise for Nick Pizzolatto who had only one TV credit prior, as a staff writer on AMC’s The Killing. But it isn’t just the writing that makes True Detective thoroughly engrossing; every edit, music cue, camera angle and every bit of dialogue contributes to the grand design. Director Cary Fukunaga manages the pace brilliantly, making the viewer feel as frustrated, paranoid and driven, as the film’s characters. Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (Top of The Lake, Animal Kingdom) concentrates on each scene and shot with meticulous care, and the brooding atmosphere is framed by an expertly crafted soundtrack selected by none other than T Bone Burnett, the Oscar-winning producer and musician. And with all these innovations, what is most interesting about True Detective is how old-fashioned it is. The pleasures of the show are those of a classic whodunit – a complex, plot-driven variety of the detective story in which the audience is given the opportunity to engage in the same process of deduction as the protagonist throughout the investigation of a crime. Except – True Detective plays on our expectations of a police procedural and a serial killer drama, by focusing on the crime story as little as possible.


Three episodes in, and Matthew McConaughey’s Rusy Cohle is turning out to be one of the most interesting characters on television right now. Not to take away from Woody Harrelson’s performance; each of them is a true, realized character study, and both men do wonderful work – but I could listen to Cohle’s hyper-intellectual, existentialist musings all day long. And this week Cohle is all the more interesting as he confesses that he has synesthesia, a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color.  Cohle’s shows his darker side more and more each week. In episode three, “The Locked Room,” we watch Rust stare down a collage of crime scene photos, and explain how the dead women all have the same look of the sweet relief of death in their eyes. Later Marty asks Rust if he thinks he’s a bad man, and Cohle responds, “The world needs bad men. We keep other bad men from the door.”

It would be too easy on the part of the Pizzalatto to make Martin the simple straight man and Rust the complicated, troubled one, so instead, both men are twisted up inside, and in wildly different ways. In this hour, we delve deeper into Martin’s troubled personal life. Marty thinks of himself as the ideal American husband, father, protector and provider, but we all know he’s living in denial. The more we see of Hart’s family life, the more Cohle’s monk-like solitude and personal philosophies, seems completely sane.  He believes he’s a protector to his wife, his two daughters, and even his mistress, but as it turns out, he’s actually the real danger to them. There is enough foreshadowing in these first three episodes (the image of the two girls fishing, the pink bicycle run over, the perverted child drawings), to see tragedy creeping in on Marty’s home life.

We’ve seen flashes of Hart’s temper before, but his rage, jealousy, insecurity, and lies is spiralling out of control. At one point Marty feels the need to remind him, and those around him, that he’s not crazy: “I’m not a psycho,” he says – because Marty must feel like he’s in control, and more importantly, he needs others to believe he is free from any wrong doing. Appearances are important to him, which is why he begins to quickly resent Rust, who serves as a funhouse mirror, distorting Marty’s all-American-good-boy facade.


The episode ends with Hart and Cohle racing down the highway. We know something big is about to happen since, in 2012, both Hart and Colhe solemnly allude to an unforgettable shoot out. What follows is the creepiest image of the series so far: a nightmarish meth dealer brandishing a machete and wearing nothing but white underwear and a gas mask, walking through the bayou in slow motion. We’re only halfway through the darkness, but True Detective is the rare serial-killer story in which the psychosis stems as much from the pursuers as the pursued. True Detective is like a great book that you can’t put down. The call them page turners because you keep reading and, in this case, you keep watching.

Other thoughts:

Don’t forget to listen to our True Detective podcast. New episodes are released every Monday night.

You have to love Rust’s art work made of cut up beer cans.

I really enjoyed the synthesizer music in the final shot and end credits. It sounded like something that came out of an early ‘80’s John Carpenter movie.

The lawnmower scene is darkly funny, and while Marty looks a fool, one can’t deny the sexual tension between Cohle and Maggie.

Programming Note: The show is off next week. It returns February 9th.

At one point in the episode, Martin alludes to a shoot out, so I’m pretty sure we can expect it on the next episode.

What do you reckon the average IQ of this group is? – Rust Cohle

Nobody here is gonna be splitting the atom. – Rust Cohle

For a guy who sees no point in existence, you sure fret about it an awful lot. – Martin Hart

People incapable of guilt usually do have a good time. – Rust Cohle

After a certain point, there’s a futility in responsibility. – Martin Hart

I like the symbolism in Marty’s car crushing the pink girl’s bike.

The world needs bad men. – Rust Cohle

“The Locked Room” features the best cinematography of the show so far.