Television: True Detective, "The Locked Room"

. . . In which significant progress is made as Rust and Marty track the murderer of a prostitute. Rust is convinced the killer has done this kind of thing before and finds evidence for it after looking through scores of dead body photos. He lights on a supposed flood victim (shout out to Abbeville, where my father grew up) whose body shows similar lacerations and the same spiral design as the prostitute's.

Rust Cohle is, of course, the most interesting figure here. His name alone suggests (a) the slow transmutation of something from one solid, cohesive and useful state to something that has been eaten away and is no longer stable, and (b) darkness, a pollutant, something pulled from the earth, mined under harsh conditions. My fear is that they're aiming to have Cohle be the suspect in the more recent murder, which would be a shame since that would be a very predictable direction to take things.

The contrast between Marty and Rust is stark and adds wonderful tension. Marty has a family, is at least moderately rooted in a belief system as well as the community, and yet is decidedly less likable than Rust, who floats untethered . . . A man without anchor is dangerous to himself and sometimes to society at large. Rust needs a touchstone and finds it in visiting Marty's family while Marty is busy with his mistress. Yet Rust also rejects other resources that might keep him grounded (as in dates and other human connections); perhaps he feels he does his best work from up in the ether.

Still, being "above it all" may give Rust the big picture, but it also gives him a superiority complex. And one wonders if it's sustainable. What will happen when he runs out of oxygen out there?

As for the mystery itself, it is engaging mostly for the way it paints the characters involved in solving it. You hear people in law enforcement talk about the big cases, the ones that made or broke men, and this has the feel of one of those. The kind of thing that draws lines and defines a person. After striking out at a local tent revival, Rust and Marty discover a suspect with links to both the prostitute and the girl in Abbeville, and the last thing we see in this episode is what one supposes is that suspect, all but naked and wearing a gas mask and carrying a machete. There's the promise of some kind of stand off coming, but we'll have to wait another week to know for sure.

True Detective is currently one of the best things on television, one of the few shows I refuse to miss. I understand that each season will have a different cast, a different story, and I hope that works out for them, that they can keep up the tremendous work. At least for this season, it is amazing. Blows any- and everything else out of the water. Your move, Broadchurch/Gracepoint. (That's probably not fair since they have to stick to network regulations. But still.)

I mentioned Stephen Dobyns some posts ago, and his Cemetery Nights has a poem: "To Pull Into Oneself as Into a Locked Room." Dobyns' work and True Detective do go together nicely.

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