ARTS & CULTURE

'True Detective' Season 1, Episode 7 Recap: 'After You've Gone'

03/02/2014 10:02 pm ET | Updated Mar 02, 2014
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This week, we finally get to the nitty gritty detective work, which is refreshing to me. This has probably been my favorite episode thus far.

We are now in the present. Rust and Marty get drinks together, and Rust says that he is sure there is a cover up with the most recent murder, that the cops are in on this (maybe even unknowingly). Rust tells Marty that the two of them have unfinished business to take care of, that he wants Marty's help working the case without police involvement. Marty tries to say no because he thinks Rust is crazy, but Rust tells him that Marty has a "debt" because Marty shot Reggie Ledoux in '95, rendering them unable to get any further information out of him.

Rust takes Marty to his storage unit, and it turns out that Rust has been working this case for quite some time. There are maps of all the missing persons from along the coasts. Rust has also even found a former student of one of the Well Spring program schools. The former student tells him that sometimes during nap time, he would wake up and not be able to move, and that there were men there. Some of them were taking photos, others were touching him. Some of them were also wearing animal masks (at the time, this made him think he must have been dreaming). Rust asks if there was a scarred man. The former student says, yes, in fact there was. He also says that there was one other student who he talked to about what was going on: Marie Fontenot (the little girl who went missing, but was assumed to be with her father).

Rust thinks that Senator Eddie Tuttle (Billy Lee's cousin) is involved, that it's a family affair. He admits that he broke into Billy Lee Tuttle's home and broke into his safes. He found photos of children with blindfolds and antlers. He also found a video tape, which he shows to Marty. Marty can't even make it through the whole video; he has to turn it off before it's over (the viewers only see the very beginning of the tape...we mostly just see Marty's face as he's watching in horror, then in tears). Rust says that the girl in the video is Marie Fontenot.

Rust tells Marty that he wasn't the one who killed Billy Lee. He thinks people in the group got to him after they found out about the stuff missing from the safes.

With Marty's help, they find Reggie Ledoux's cousin, Jimmy. Rust asks him about the scar-faced man, and Jimmy says he remembers him, that he met him when he was a kid. Jimmy says the man stared at him in a way that made him feel very uncomfortable, but that he never saw the man again after that.

They find Sam Tuttle's (Billy Lee's father's) retired housekeeper who worked for him for 19 years. Sam had lots of illegitimate children. It turns out the scar-faced man is one of his grandchildren, that his own father was the person who burned his face. Rust then shows the former housekeeper images of the stick figures, and she loses it. She starts asking, "You know Carcosa?" Then she mentions "he who eats time" and says, "Rejoice! Death is not the end! Rejoice!"

Rust and Marty try to work deeper into the Marie Fontenot case. A former colleague of theirs, Steve Geraci, had worked on the original case, so Marty goes to see if he can get any information from him. Geraci clearly lies to Marty, so Marty suggests that they get together again to go fishing. Marty and Rust trap Geraci at gunpoint on the boat, and take him into the boat to interrogate him and try to get the truth about the Fontenot case.

At the end of the episode, the two new detectives (Gilbough and Papania) are looking for the church Russ mentioned. They stop to ask a man on a lawnmower for directions. The man tells them it no longer exists, and gives them detailed directions back to the highway. One of the detectives notes that this guy certainly knows his way around. The man says, "I know the whole coast...my family's been here a long, long time." The detectives pay him no attention and drive off. We see a closeup of the man's face: IT IS THE SCAR-FACED MAN.

This episode was so exciting! I can't wait to watch the season finale next week. Things are finally getting tense, and I'm very anxious to see how the season is wrapped up.

However, there's also something that has been bugging me. Earlier this week, Slate published an article titled "Don't Try To Solve The Mystery of 'True Detective.' That's Not What It's About." The article goes on to compare "True Detective" to David Lynch's "Twin Peaks," a comparison that has been made a lot, but that I actually find kind of sloppy. Sure, in some ways the shows are alike. They're both about murders in small towns, in which there might be some kind of weird supernatural element at work. But while I feel that Lynch really pulled off the irrelevancy of who killed Laura Palmer, I don't think that "True Detective" does the same. In fact, "True Detective" doesn't even really seem to be attempting to make the whodunnit, thrilling aspect of the show irrelevant. The show's writer, Nic Pizzolato, told the Wall Street Journal that, "It’s also important to me that the mass audience doesn’t need to know or engage these associations in order to enjoy the show" (he's referring to the more philosophical aspects of the show). This means that the story itself, according to the writer, should still be acting as a coherent murder mystery narrative, even with the additions of all the philosophical aspects that make it different from your average cop drama.

"Twin Peaks" gave us a lot of other material to work with: complex, bizarre characters that we cared about, a completely weird aesthetic, a bunch of other corny soap opera drama. Clearly it's not impossible to make viewers put the murder on the back burner. David Lynch did a great job of it. The murder is almost a secondary plot when compared to everything else going on.

This is not the same for "True Detective." This show REVOLVES around the murder, on both surface level and at a deeper level. There are a ton of clues and references that appear to be worth looking into ("the Yellow King" and "Carcosa" references). Rust's life philosophy is even ripped off of one of the killers. The murder does appear to be an important aspect of the show. Is it about MORE than just the murder? Sure! It's a very clever show that plays around with storytelling, the casting and acting of both Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are absolutely stunning, the directing is dark and brilliant, etc, etc.

Is it your average, run-of-the-mill cop drama? Definitely not. Does that mean that people will lose interest in the gory, bizarre, creepy murder case, even though there is other stuff going on? Of course not!

The Slate writer seems to be annoyed that viewers are concerned with the whodunnit aspect, but I wouldn't put the blame on the viewers. I think it is only natural to be swayed by the whodunnit aspect of the show, as it's extremely fascinating (by "whodunnit," at this point, I am also referring to the resolution/confrontation with the scar-faced man, since we at least think we know everyone who is involved in the murder).

Pizzolato also told The Wall Street Journal that "the show’s agenda won’t be clear until the eighth episode has ended." If, in the season finale, the resolution is really stupid and ridiculous, some viewers (including myself) will be disappointed. I believe that if the show ends in a jumble of nonsense, that will change the audience's entire opinion of this season. Basically, whether or not this season can be called a great season completely rides on next week's season finale.

What do you think? Do you still find the murder case itself compelling or are you only watching for the other elements at this point? Let me know in the comments!

"True Detective" airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on HBO.

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