True Detective, Season 1, Episode 8: “Form and Void”
Written by Nic Pizzolatto
Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on HBO
Seventeen years after the discovery of Dora Lang’s body, Rust and Marty dove into the case once again in last week’s episode. While it was clear that the now-dead Reggie Ledoux was guilty in some way, the presence of another body drove home the point that he was not the only guilty party, and perhaps not even the most important member. The show’s season finale picks up on this investigation as the two close in on the true source of the dead bodies, in a tense episode that puts the focus on who Rust Cohle and Marty Hart really are.
The similarities between Errol Childress and Rust Cohle that are presented this week offer a very intriguing look into the psyche of the ex-detective. In many ways, Childress and Rust choose to decorate their residences in the same manner; seemingly messy, but with a place for everything. Similarities can also be seen in the cross Rust chooses to hang over his bed, and the manner in which Childress chooses to arrange his father’s corpse, as well as the ease with which both men slip into disguises. The way Errol puts on a British accent, and the way Rust slipped into his old role of a biker outlaw to find Reggie Ledoux only serves to reinforce that, and Childress’ words to Rust about taking off his mask make are chilling in that context, as if Errol looked at Cohle and saw a reflection of himself.
This is not a case of the two of them being kindred spirits, however. As Rust’s final discussion with Marty reveals, much of the way Rust behaves is a front he himself puts on, a barrier that prevents him from feeling the pain of losing his daughter. Childress, on the other hand, very clearly establishes this week that this is his true visage. Whatever the reasoning for his personality may be, Carcosa is a place where he is truly comfortable, which cannot be said for Rust. When Rust digs inside, at the core of his being, is the love he has felt from his family, and the light that comes with it. The same can definitely not be said for Childress. Arguably, it took a look into someone who is truly the way Rust purports himself to be for Rust to break through his own darkness, but it’s clear that if their positions were reversed, Rust would not have become a pedophile and serial killer. He is not that kind of person, no matter what appearances and his behaviour may suggest. In the end, Rust is trying to fight the good fight, trying to keep the dark from overwhelming the light.
The change in Marty over the course of the season has also made for a compelling watch. In some ways, the story of True Detective’s first season has been about Marty and his change. Starting out as a man less interested in his job than in himself, not concerned with his family’s well-being, and outright hostile to Rust, the difference between 1995 Marty and 2012 Marty is stark in this episode. Perhaps the best example is in the fact that Marty follows Rust in this case to the bitter end. The Marty we met in 1995 was very self-serving; he would rather watch basketball than talk to his children, he justified his cheating as beneficial to everyone, and he took out his anger on Rust, as well as Lisa’s date, for perceived slights. It’s very believable that 1995 Marty would not have followed Rust’s theories with the level of fervor that 2012 Marty does, particularly as it puts Marty’s life at risk. However, Marty’s ultimate shift to doing the right thing, evidence of which was also seen last week in his interaction with Maggie and the way he spoke about his daughters, made him more of a detective in 2012 than he ever was when he was employed with the police force. His willingness to have a conversation with Rust when driving, something he emphatically refused to do during their early interactions, only serves to reinforce that, particularly as it involves the two of them reconciling their differences.
While it may be argued that it’s the presence of the molestation tape that brings Marty around to the importance of the case, his actions suggest otherwise. It certainly played a factor, but 2012 Marty goes above and beyond in trying to solve this case, from the usage of his own office to approaching Papania for help before confronting Childress. Marty begins the season as a detective of questionable calibre and dedication; he ends the season with no doubt about being one of the good guys, and willing to defend the world against the forces of evil.
Overall, this is a great finish to what has been an excellent first season of the show. The performances all around have been top notch, and that holds true this week as well for the central duo of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, both of whom deliver affecting performances in the episode’s final scene. Glenn Fleshler and Ann Dowd are similarly superb in their supporting turns this week, leaving their impression on the show despite their limited screentime. The Carcosa sequence remains tense and thrilling throughout, and once again serves to highlight the excellent work director Cary Fukunaga and DP Adam Arkapaw have done over the course of the season. Credit for the show’s quality goes equally to the two of them as it goes to the performers. The final look at all the crime scenes involved in the case as a whole is haunting, despite the clear steps taken towards closure with the death of Errol. With writer and show creator Nic Pizzolatto as the only person staying onboard for Season 2, nothing is known about what to expect when the show returns. However, if this first season is any indication, it’s guaranteed to be worth watching.
– Deepayan Sengupta