‘True Detective’ Season 1 Episode 3 Recap: “The Locked Room”

By January 27, 2014
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Here we are at episode three of “True Detective.” If you’ve missed my first two recaps, you can find them here and here. Please be warned – there are spoilers below, so proceed at your own risk.

If each episode of “True Detective” is going to follow a trend of common themes, then “The Locked Room” explores the themes of denial, guilt, and the concept of willful ignorance. There are some interesting developments that take place in this episode and they solidify the polarity of both Martin Hart and Rustin Cohle in their working and personal relationships.

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We open to find Hart and Cohle at a tent revival church in the middle of what actually looks like nowhere. As they observe the sermon that is currently in session, led by minister Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham), the two get involved in a philosophical debate of sorts regarding their opposing views on faith and religion. It’s no surprise here that Cohle blasts the concept of religion by saying,

If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of sh*t. And I’d like to get as many of them out in the open as possible. You gotta get together and tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day? What’s that say about your reality?

While there may be a point in this statement, Hart fires back by pointing out that for a guy who finds no meaning behind any of this, he sure does talk about it a lot.

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After the sermon is complete, the two have a word with Theriot and his staff regarding any knowledge they may have regarding Dora Lange or her known associates. Hart and Cohle find it best to split up, and while Hart finds some possibly useful information about a “tall man” from two of the church’s girls, Cohle does his own digging on those affiliated with the church and finds Theriot’s employee Burt has a record. To put it bluntly, he was arrested some years back for indecent exposure outside of an elementary school.

However, upon further interrogation, he quickly finds out that Burt is a eunuch from an unfortunate incident in Angola. This is definitely not their guy.

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With only days left before Rust and Marty have to hand over the murder case of Dora Lange to the governor-appointed task force that’s been designed to look into crimes with connections to the Occult, both men start to show their stresses in different ways. And for once, Marty’s unhealthiness is eclipsing Rust’s.

Hart and Cohle’s investigation into Dora Lange’s murder finally beget some solid leads and possible suspects in this week’s episode, the title of which refers to what Cohle calls the human mind at one point in his 2012 interrogation.

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After leaving the church grounds, the two stop for lunch and the debate that started at the tent revival continues. But this time, their conversation revolves around the concept of denial. Hart claims Cohle is too lost in his head at times to see the bigger picture. The flipside has Cohle throwing the concept of denial back at Hart, a thinly veiled reference to Hart’s infidelities and failing marriage at home.

It only makes matters worse when Marty comes home to find Rustin sitting in his dining room with Maggie discussing grief and loss. They’ve obviously become friendly and it’s quite evident that Marty is having none of it. As a favor for letting him borrow their lawn mower, Rust mows the Hart’s front yard. Martin Hart doesn’t like this one bit and after a brief back and forth about having him over, Cohle leaves. Hart follows him outside and confronts him about mowing his lawn and about being in his house when he is not there. Obviously, the fear of his wife finding out about his indiscretions has him panicking. And let’s not forget about the sexual tension between Cohle and Maggie…

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You can see it in Marty’s face – the pressure of everything is getting to him. There’s an intense desperation behind his want to keep his family together. Aside from the case and the growing fear Maggie will find out about the other woman, there’s also the little detail regarding their daughter Audrey (Madison Wolfe) who drew some sexually explicit sketches at school. Needless to say, this is the episode where we start to see Martin hit his breaking point.

After confronting their daughter, Maggie confronts Martin in the bedroom. She knows something is going on and tells her husband that he used to be smarter and how he’s just the same exact person he was when he was a teenager. In what seems like the beginning of a confession, Hart breaks down and admits he is terrified of getting older. Whether this is true or his way of deflecting the conversation, it seems to work. Maggie and Marty proceed to have sex for what seems like the first time in a really long time.

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It’s later that we see Cohle has begun to take advantage of his insomnia by working on the case through the night hours. The montage of him laboring over numerous boxes and images of dead bodies only seems to worsen the numbness and inability to sleep in Rust. With a glance at his watch after it beeps, he heads out to a bar to meet up with Marty and Maggie. It seems they are doing their part to fix Cohle up on a blind date; obviously he’s not that into it, but he goes along with it.

However, in a case of “wrong place/wrong time”, Marty spots his girlfriend Lisa (Alexandra Daddario) across the dance floor flirting with another man. With the excuse of needing more beer from the bar, he grabs the pitcher and walks Lisa’s way, makes eye contact and nods in the bar’s direction. They have a brief conversation that solidifies her stance regarding what she had with Marty was a fling and nothing more. She tells him what they had together has run its course and leaves him at the bar with a pitcher of beer and two shots, which he drinks in quick succession.

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Things don’t end well this evening as we find Marty drunk and driving his way up onto the curb to Lisa’s house. Instead of a friendly house call, he bangs on the door until she answers and proceeds to kick the door down. Hart enters the apartment like a madman and throws her half dressed date into the closet, breaking the door and then jumps on top of him on the bed. He threatens the poor bastard with his badge, yet all he seems to really want to know is if she went down on him or not. And once the truth is delivered, Martin backs off and leaves heartbroken.

Martin Hart may spout of statements regarding the importance of being a father and claim he’s great at dealing with stress, but these actions shine a light right through his false exterior. Like the preacher stated at the beginning of the episode:

The world is a veil and the face you wear is not your own.

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While Marty goes on a three day bender, Rust continues to “put his insomnia to good use” and we find him up late viewing cases of other ritualized killings to try and find a link to the Dora Lange murder as he truly believes a serial killer is at work. After what looks and feels like many hours of work, Rust comes across a new connection that sends our detectives down a path they both feel will break the case.

The connection in question is an old case regarding an apparent drowning victim from an island community two hours away. The death was originally labelled as accidental due to 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, yet Cohle saw the body had similar abdominal stab wounds and that same weird rune symbol drawn on the victim’s back.  The detectives go for the two hour drive and question a relative of the victim. The more they ask, the more this fisherman starts to suspect the death was not accidental. He tells Hart and Cohle that she was last seen with a man named Reggie Ledoux.

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Reggie climbs to the top of their prime suspect list as Ledoux recently skipped on his parole following convictions for both sex offenses and manufacturing meth. This revelation cuts short Cohle’s questioning of  a man on a lawn mower (is this a recurring symbol?) outside a closed down school that might have an affiliation with the revival church from earlier in the story.

The two drive off in the direction of Ledoux, calling in a full on APB for the suspect. As we see this happening, we cut back to 2012 where Rustin Cohle has taken it upon himself to cut what looks like a little metal person from the can of beer he finished earlier. As he shows the detectives the metal figure, he further locks in his views on existence and mortality:

You look at their eyes, even in a picture, doesn’t matter if they are dead or alive. You can still read ’em. And you know what you see? They welcomed it. Not at first but right there in the last instant. It’s an unmistakable relief because you see, they were afraid and now they saw for the very first time how easy it was to just let go. And they saw in that last nano second – they saw what they were. You, yourself – it’s all a big drama. It was never anything but a jerry rigged presumption and dumb will. And you could just let go! To finally know that you didn’t have to hold on so tight, to realize that all your life – no matter all your love, all your hate, all your pain – it was all the same thing! It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room. A dream about being a person.

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You can see the emotions slightly peaking through his numb exterior as he speaks. And as he sets down his little tin man, we see a clearing. It looks like someone lives here. As the camera pans closer, a disturbing image comes into view. A tall tattooed man, naked except for his underwear and a gas mask, walks slowly out of what I think is a trailer. He’s walking ominously…slowly.

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As he stops and looks back the way he came, we hear Rust continue talking:

And then like a lot of dreams, there’s a monster at the end of it.

It looks like we’re finally getting somewhere deep and dark. What are your thoughts on this episode? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll see you back here in two weeks!

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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.
  • atimb

    No one seems to be discussing why Martins little girl is drawing sexually explicit pictures. Where is this coming from?

    • Good question. Between that and the rapey positions they put their dolls in…I think there’s a lot of symbolism and subtext in this show and this stuff with the daughter will probably come back around.

      • atimb

        I am thinking that maybe she is witnessing these sexual acts. Most likely in her home. Since the father is the most likely candidate I am ruling him out. Perhaps the mother has a lover? That would be an amazing twist. I don’t think Marty’s daugher is being sexually abused or there would be other tell tale signs.

        • Maybe. Or it can be something more sinister. Something mirroring the case the men are investigating.

          • atimb

            Good thought. I do think this is a terrific program. Writing, acting, directing and more. However, this one plot development with Marty’s daughter was brought up and dropped too soon. As a cop that has seen it all, Marty should be more distressed and be looking into where this is coming from. Unless he is guilty of something here…but don’t think so.

          • I’m under the impression this plot development was not dropped and will recur throughout the season. This episode showed up that Marty is not the greatest father or cop. I really have a sneaking suspicion, the issue with the daughter is only going to get worse.

    • belgian Girl

      Maggie’s a good mom. It’s not her – but Marty may have pornography stashed at home (kids usually stumble across these things – don’t we?) and Marty may have brought work home with crime-scene photographs.