After watching last night’s “True Detective,” I feel like a kid who was working on a puzzle of a bayou bog and just as I finished an obscure corner where the swamp edges with the roots of the trees, someone kicked the puzzle into pieces and poured black paint all over my work. “The Secret Fate of All Life” poured that black paint over everything I wanted to think was going on in “True Detective” and left me with more questions than I thought was possible in a season that’s only aired five episodes so far.
The show begins with a great “holy shit, that was intense” moment where Rust and his biker ex-pal Ginger are drinking at Sportsmans, waiting for Reggy Ledoux’s brother, Dewall. Rust’s plan erodes once Dewall sees the demons lurking at the corner of Rust’s eyes. Solid foreshadowing ensues when Dewall talks about Rust’s soul corroding, and it certainly seems that way 17 years later.
But the more I think about this, I wonder if Rust expected this faux drug deal to fail and he planned all along for Marty to tail him to the drug lab in the middle of the Louisiana backwoods. This episode left me very flustered. I don’t know what to think anymore.
So Rust and Marty hike through high grass and avoid makeshift booby-traps, and the occasional Cajun bird trap we’ve been accustomed to seeing since first laying eyes on them at the crime scene of Dora Lange. As the image of Reggie stomping outside of the shipping container lingers in our mind, Rust and Marty opt to move in without calling for backup. It’s a tense couple of minutes. Rust and Marty fed us the idea of an epic gunfight breaking out, which they did skillfully through Rust’s almost too perfect whitewashing of the crime scene. Instead, Rust and Marty were the hunters and once they caught their prey, the Ledoux brothers, darkness takes over.
One of the most powerful scenes takes place when Marty opens the container shielded by sheets and spider webs and we see his eyes turn from focused to bewildered. He follows his impulse after the grizzly scene of seeing a dead boy and catatonic girl by shooting the handcuffed Reggie in the head. Dewall gets the “Rambo”-style death of running into one of his makeshift booby traps and blowing himself up.
So Reggie is dead and the case seems to be closed. Rust and Marty are considered heroes and life is good. Marty is building back his relationship with Maggie and wouldn’t you believe it, Rust finds a woman he can live with — a doctor who senses Rusts energy levels — deep, man. But you can see it Rust’s face when he brings his date to have dinner with Marty and Maggie, there is a sense of uneasiness underneath the happy-go-lucky sentiment passed around the dinner table: the darkness is returning.
This is where the stories of Marty and Rust begin to divide. Rust is often called for his skills as an interrogator and he is assigned to convince Leonard Francis, a.k.a. “Southern Fried Pharmacy Firearm Thief” to admit he murdered two people high on PCP, which, of course, he does. The thing is, Rust gets more than he bargains for once Leonard admits to knowing about the Yellow King, saying, “he’s still out there killing. Big people know about him.” Rust doesn’t take kindly to this and resorts to slapping the shit out of Leonard. Even though he senses Leonard is speaking the truth.
On the other hand, Marty is dealing with problems at home. Just as there are two sides of Marty — the “not crazy” cheating husband and the by-the-book cop — his two daughters have taken up two different paths in life. His eighth grade daughter Macy just made the cheerleading team, beating over 10 people. The other, Audrey, is a punk rocker more into the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys than Britney Spears.
As Detectives Gilbough and Papania interview Marty, he admits that infidelity is a sin but inattention is even worse. Clearly, Marty can’t connect with his daughters and once he finds out Audrey was caught in a car with two guys — who are now facing possible statuary rape charges — he snaps and resorts to slapping her.
But just as his family falls apart, and he seemingly can’t stop it, Rust comes along and brings Marty back in with the lead from Leonard.
Those “big people” Leonard talked about come into play when Rust and Marty discover his bloody corpse in his cell after he commits suicide (or was it Rust once again leading Marty on with some sort of conspiracy theory about the Yellow King?). Regardless of what the motives were for Leonard’s suicide, something doesn’t seem right.
Detectives Gilbough and Papania begin to unravel their case against Rust as the possible killer behind the Yellow King murders but I’m not sure if I can believe their case. Yes, Rust was at five crime scenes that seemed to tie in with the Yellow King and yes, he’s been off the grid since 2002. And yes, his existential theories about existence (there is no time, just a sculpture image of life) could seem a little confessional but I’m not ready to nail Rust as the killer. Even though his little beer can sculptures are becoming more eerie every episode, I sense some goodness in him, even though Dewall would disagree.
So it seems the law is closing in on Rust. And writer Nic Pizzolatto leaves us hanging with a ghostly ending scene as Rust goes through the abandoned high school scene in Episode 2. The walls are covered with angels and Rust walks into a room filled with the Cajun bird traps. I’m not going to lie, I felt a little sick in my stomach watching Rust pick up one of the traps and examine it almost proudly … as if he was its creator.