‘True Detective’ Season 1 Episode 2 Recap: “Seeing Things”

By January 20, 2014
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As promised, I have returned to discuss the latest episode of HBO’s new series “True Detective.” Here’s last week’s recap, in case you want to revisit the events that led up to this point. If you have yet to see this episode and wish to avoid spoilers, please turn away now. I can’t be held responsible for what transpires below.

In episode 2, “Seeing Things,” the slow burn continues as we begin to learn more about our two heroes. And while we are still on the trip with both Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle through both 2012 and 1995, the key to this episode is subtext. The action that unfolds within this episode takes place in the family dynamics of both Cohle and Hart. This episode is about the survival of that family unit and thus, how the death of such a concept can carve the paths we find both of these characters on.

After looking pensively at the Blair Witch-style bird trap made of twigs we were introduced to in episode one (pictured above), both Hart and Cohle soon end up at the house of murder victim’s Dora Lange’s mother. Through the conversation that transpires, it’s clear that the mother didn’t part kindly with her daughter, saying, “She’s always been in some kind of trouble.” But the common thread they come across is the mention of the church Lange was attending. Almost immediately, mom is struck with a storm of a headache and crouches over in agony. Her nails are gross and discolored and she blames this on her 20 years in the dry cleaning business.

Back in the car, Hart asks Cohle if his mother is still alive. The reply? “Maybe.”

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We cut to a set of scenes painting the contrasting home/family lives the two characters have. Cohle wakes up solitary in his bare apartment. Hart is woken up by his daughters prying his eyelids (curtains?) open to see them and his wife all in the bed welcoming a new day.

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In last week’s episode, Cohle revealed the death of his daughter and failed marriage to Maggie Hart while at their house for dinner. Here, he reveals this info to Martin who shows nothing but sympathy for Cohle. Yet the concept of a happy marriage and proper role as a father comes immediately into play as we are shown that Mr. Hart is quite the hypocrite.

That evening, we find Hart letting off some steam over some beer with some peers. Cut to a drunk Martin Hart in a phone booth having a suggestive conversation with an gal on the other end and we truly see what kind of man he is.  Soon, he arrives at his lady friend’s house with a bottle of Jameson and a gift box containing handcuffs (romantic).

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We jump back to 2012 for him to explain his cheating to the detectives by simply saying, “It’s for your wife and kids. You gotta take your release where you find it or where it finds you. In the end, for the good of the family.”

He punctuates that statement with this face:

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When Hart returns to work, there’s a slight scuffle in the locker room as Cohle points out his observations regarding a certain scent on the man from the night before. The claim of infidelity sends Hart into a rage, only to be returned by Cohle’s calm demeanor explaining how easily he can snap Martin’s hands in two. “Odd couple” doesn’t even begin to describe these two.

Through some tracking of their own, the two end up at a ranch of the “naked sexy time” sorts, except this one’s out in the backwoods and doesn’t look very inviting. They confront the Madam and questioned her about Dora Lange.

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Hey, cute cat! Anyway, Hart and Cohle track another lead through a girl that lives at this ranch (it’s really more a trailer park, if that) who again tells them that Lange has been going to church a lot. The detectives walk away with Lange’s diary that has a bunch of strange ramblings scrawled on the pages. There is mention of The Yellow King and Carcosa. Upon a quick Google search, I found these to be a reference to a collection of short stories titled “The Yellow King” written by Robert W. Chambers in 1895. Go check this out if you have the time; not only does this book and play exist, but this may be an Easter egg or a clue of sorts to lead us down the path both Hart and Cohle are taking.

Along with the ramblings, Cohle finds a flyer to The Friends Of Christ Revival Church. Their next lead.

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When we return back to the Hart household, it’s obvious Maggie is not in the dark regarding the lies Martin tells her. They take a trip to her parents’ house where their two daughters are fishing in the lake practically unsupervised, while her mother tries to jar some sense into her regarding her own knowledge about how men are.

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This is the kind of symbolism spread throughout the episode. The two girls are detached from the family, fishing in this canoe right off the shore.

And later back at their home, Martin and Maggie get into a fight regarding the lies she knows he is telling, only for him to claim she is being whiny and self important. She buckles under the pressure of the fight and requests the girls come to dinner. Martin goes and fetches them and as they leave to the kitchen, he finds this scene of male dolls surrounding a naked female barbie on the carpet. Symbolism or foreshadowing?

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Back in 2012, the detectives ask Cohle about how he ended up working Homicide with Hart. He unloads a ton of backstory, explaining that after his daughter Sophia died, he and his wife Claire turned on each other. After the marriage failed, he transferred from Robbery to Narcotics and started working it 24/7. Within three months, he ended up in a Ramada Inn with a couple of 8 balls. Somewhere in that time frame, he gunned down a crank head for injecting his infant daughter full of crystal. The State Attorney gave him one chance to stay out of jail so they made him a floater (a deep undercover officer). He maintained this status for four years until he killed three cartel men while taking three shots to the side. This is how he landed in the North Shore Psychiatric Hospital in Lubbock, Texas, and after being offered a psych pension, he requested to be put on Homicide instead and he ended up in Louisiana working with Martin Hart in 1995.

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Cohle’s “visions” moved to the forefront of this episode, and he tries to explain to his questioners where they came from. Whether it’s PTSD from the what he calls the “High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas,” it’s hard to say. What isn’t difficult to say is the growing suspicion the detectives have against Cohle as he calmly admits all of these details without a blink of an eye.

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The ongoing theme of failed fatherhood continues as Cohle reveals his dark and f*cked up view on being a dad.

I think about my daughter now and what she was spared. Sometimes I feel grateful. The doctor said she didn’t feel a thing, went straight into a coma. Then, somewhere in that blackness, she slipped off into another deeper kind. Isn’t that a beautiful way to go out, painlessly as a happy child? Trouble with dying later is you’ve already grown up, the damage is done, too late. I think about the hubris it must take to yank a soul out of nonexistence into this. Force a life into this thresher. As for my daughter, she spared me the sin of being a father.

It’s revealed back in 1995 that a task force was sent into the police station to take the case off both Cohle and Hart’s hands. The pressure was turned up a notch as the guys are given the rest of the month to solve the murder. It’s time to follow up on the lead they got from Dora Lange’s diary.

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The detectives take a drive out into what looks like a dead end, but they end up finding a burned down church in the distance. Upon approaching the building, Cohle has one of his visions in the shape a flock of birds takes as it moves throughout the afternoon sky. Is it just me or does this look similar to the mark found on Dora’s back? Symbolism!

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The men enter the remnants of the church and explore a bit before Cohle spots something disturbing in the corner of the building. He makes Hart aware of his findings and they both walk over to a wall that depicts what looks like a beast wearing a crown of antlers. The plot thickens, indeed.

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As this image is revealed, Rustin Cohle closes the episode with this statement.

Most of the time I was convinced that I’d lost it. There were other times I thought I was mainlining the secret truth of the universe.

“Seeing Things” is an episode worth multiple viewings as there is imagery and symbolism galore. Aside from the picture of young Dora surrounded by Klansman on horses that we briefly saw in her mother’s house, I can recall an odd moment of Cohle looking into an eye sized mirror as if he was really staring into his own soul. An eye sized mirror? Eyes are the mirror to the soul? Genius!

HBO is really raising the bar here with “True Detective.” We’re only 2 episodes in and we’re already getting pretty deep and dark. As a nice chaser to the episode, I found this Behind The Scenes video pretty damn cool and informative.

What are your thoughts about Sunday’s episode? Did you catch anything I may have missed? Do you think Cohle is the killer? Let me know in the comments below and let’s pick this thing apart!

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Aside from throwing words onto your screen here, he has written for the likes of FEARnet, Examiner, Dread Central and MTV Movies Blog. And yes, he was Percy on VR Troopers.
  • Colt Howard

    Cohle is definitely not the killer. If anything, he has been searching for the killer of his daughter this whole time and being a NARC allowing him to do it.

    • Yeah it’d be too obvious of a choice to make him the killer. But maybe the obvious choice would be the most not obvious choice? I dunno, I can’t even begin to predict what will happen next.

      • Colt Howard

        Exactly! It’s SO good! Never has a show revealed so little, yet grabbed me so quickly!

  • Brian R. Keathley

    This is by far my new favorite show! I agree with Colt: it grabs you very quickly with very little. It says a lot about the acting.