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True Detective, Ep. 1.06 “Haunted Houses” – If you think you know where the story is going, think again

True Detective, Ep. 1.06 “Haunted Houses” – If you think you know where the story is going, think again


True Detective, Season 1, Episode 6: “The Secret Fate of All Life”
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on HBO

With just two episodes left in the first season, “Haunted Houses” is the most straightforward instalment in the series so far. This sixth episode is the one that most resembles a typical cop show, complete with with a hard-nosed police sergeant drilling his two detectives and demanding that Cohle hand over his gun and badge, and a hot tempered officer (Marty) beating two prisoners who were caught sleeping with his daughter. We find out exactly why Hart and Cohle had a falling out in 2002, and exactly why Marty’s marriage finally fell apart. “Haunted Houses” is the weakest of the bunch but don’t’ worry, next week is a vast improvement.

As Simon Howell pointed out in last week’s episode of our True Detective podcast, the most fun you can have in watching a series like True Detective, is reading the numerous crackpot theories desperately trying to make sense of the many easter eggs, meta-commentary, philosophical discussions and literary references laid out throughout each episode. As noted in last week’s review, True Detective is a story about the art of storytelling, told from several unreliable narrators. I’ve already discussed the references to The King in Yellow, dating back to my second review. What Robert W. Chamber’s did with his collection of short stories, was give the reader just barely enough information to make heads or tails as to what it is all about, holding back such important information like what exactly about it makes the reader go mad. If understanding the writing of Chambers leads to better understanding of Nic Pizzolatto’s cryptic writing, than viewers should prepare for the possibility that True Detective may never reveal several of its bigger mysteries. This could go over well for some viewers, but those looking for closure may find themselves frustrated. Only time will tell, but TV has a terrible track record with mysteries, dating back to the ending of Lost; the decision to reveal who killed Laura Palmer on Twin Peaks; and solving the murder of J.R. on Dallas (to name just a few).

And once again, I have to mention this fantastic piece featured over at about the Jeff Davis 8, an ongoing investigation about the killings of eight women whose bodies were discovered around the swamps and canals of Southern Louisiana. Their killings have gained national notoriety, often portrayed as the work of a serial killer. But police documents obtained by WWL-TV suggest a very different – and potentially more sinister – theory: that police somehow were involved. HBO’s new crime drama is very much true to life, sharing many details as the real life case – a case that most likely inspired Pizzolatto since he tweeted about it recently. A wide range of circumstances have furled the rumours that police have blood on their hands.

“Everywhere I looked, demons of the future [were] on the battlegrounds of one’s emotional plane.”
― David Bowie

True Detective Haunted Houses

The title of the episode indicates that by the end of the show, there is a significant element of real world horror lurking deep in the shadows of this brooding series. “Haunted Houses” is all about these characters facing their personal demons. It’s essentially an hour of filling in the blanks, but unfortunately almost everything we learn is something we already suspected. “Haunted Houses” is also the end of the second act that allows viewers to understand the detective’s frustrations, showing their lives, however tortured, outside the case. The storytelling strategy is unique and its point-of-view mutable.

The star this week is no doubt, Michelle Monaghan. It certainly helps she is awarded more screen time than in previous episodes. Here, the actress gets the chance to show the many layers of her character. Maggie’s no nonsense attitude defines her in a consistent way throughout the story. “In a former life I used to exhaust myself navigating crude men who thought they were clever. So ask your questions or I’m leaving,” she tells Detectives Papania and Gilbough, not showing any vulnerability while speaking with an icy tone. Maggie is the most emotionally mature in terms of knowing herself and her husband Marty. She gravitates toward Cohle in a sequence less erotic than downright disturbing. This is no love affair. It’s dirty, ugly, quick and hurtful. Special mention of T-Bone Burnett’s score which certainly enhances the haunting mood. Maggie is testing herself and trying desperately to find a way to drive Hart away. She knows she can’t fall back into a trap of forgiveness. Her decision to visit Cohle is almost self-sacrificial. She uses Cohle because she knows it will destroy Marty, and it is something he’ll never recover from. Again, the revelation is not a surprise since the groundwork has been laid since the start – remember the lawnmower scene?


Haunted Houses True Detective

We finally meet (albeit briefly) the former Governor Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders) in one of the episode’s more frightening scenes. Cohle seems convinced that there is a possible connection between Tuttle’s church schools protected by private status and tax exemption, and the murders he’s investigating – something he further suspects when interrogating a hung-over, former Minister, Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham) who tells Cohle he abandoned his calling to lead the devout when he realized that the men in charge were involved in a child prostitution ring. Meanwhile, Cohle also tries to get a response from Kelly, one of the two girls Rust and Marty rescued from Ledoux’s place in a catatonic state back in ’95. She tells him about the men in masks, but when asked about the man with the scars, Kelly snaps into a state of shock and terror (a scene reminiscent of Twin Peaks).

“Haunted Houses” is dark, brooding, and dirty. Dirtiness pervades in nearly every scene. Behind every door, in every corner, there is something foul and de trop. Characters order dirty martini’s, engage in dirty sex, and get down and dirty in a parking lot brawl. True Detective is an unrelenting examination of evil, and an evil that may or may not be festering inside every one of us. When securing a confession from a prisoner accused of murdering her three children, Cohle whispers in her ear, “Prison is hard on people who harm children. If I were you, I’d kill myself.” There is no forgiveness to be found anywhere in this show. True Detective revels in darkness.

– Ricky D


Other Thoughts:

“You know, buddy, without me, there is no you.” -Cohle

What’s with all the tampon jokes?

Reverend Theriot is drinking from a John Deere mug!

The last thing we see in the episode is the brake light that shatters during Marty and Cohle’s fight. It clearly symbolizes their fallout, and also, how Cohle hasn’t moved on.