1.4: Who Goes There
I’m going to go against the grain here and suggest that, in spite of the bravura seat-of-the-edge fireworks of the final section (including a six-minute take), the fourth is the weakest episode so far (although, given the quality of this series, that still means it’s very good). It feels like a cynical switch of gears, a self-conscious ratings-grabber by way of a huge set piece gun battle. It takes the show out of the police procedural and into the territory of an action movie, as Rust relives his undercover days.
The opening interrogation with Charlie Lange (Brad Carter) sees Pizzolatto seize the opportunity of a very convenient info-dump, while Rust inspects his prey with unflinching coolness (“We’re not going to give you the Oscar, no matter how hard you try”, he informs Charlie). When Marty reproves Rust for showing no empathy towards Charlie, who has, after all, lost his wife and been told he is partly to blame, Rust is unrepentant. “He asked about his end first” he responds, indicating that any concern for his wife was a distant second to Charlie’s desire to be paroled.
Marty does have what is becoming a weekly opportunity for a finely judged comeback (he probably needs a week to think one up, like George Costanza), though. Commiserating with Charlie over having to deal with Reggie, he says with feeling “It’s gotta be tough, living with somebody spouting insane shit in your ear all day long”.
But it’s Charlie’s few words that form (for me) the highlight of Who Goes There. Lange warns of dark deeds by a rich elite, the sort of thing that might infuriate Alex Jones. And devil worship. Old stones out in the woods. Chilling, we are told there is “So much good killing down there”. It must be said that, Charlie serves this up little too neatly. He even puts garnish on the plate. Recollecting the spiral tattoos is a very tidy verification of what we already know, though (as if Charlie has been waiting to spill these precisely received details, or the writer failed to conceal his process). But there is also a momentum gathering to the divergence between what we see in the flashbacks and what is reported to the investigating detectives. That’s not just about Marty’s home life (this time out, Lisa vengefully tells Maggie about Marty’s affair and Maggie throws him out), but the stunt the duo pull in order to track down Reggie.
Rust goes undercover to infiltrate biker gang the Iron Crusaders, stealing cocaine from the police evidence room in order to sell the illusion. He lies to Marty (that Maggie will return to him) in order to buy his attention on the risky mission (Maggie also manages to give him some food for thought that has him walking out on her, after she delivers a low blow; “At the end of the day, you duck under rationalisations just like any of them”). What Rust doesn’t count on is that he’ll be strong-armed into participating in a raid on a stash house. A raid that inevitably goes awry.
This sequence is masterfully executed, infused with imminent violence and nerve twisting suspense. It also has the odd moment of humour (the idea that anyone would fall for beardy bikers as cops, especially given the uniforms, is hilarious and indicative that Tryo (Todd Giebenhain) really isn’t very smart).
But it’s still a detour, one that feels a little too calculated. Particularly when, after all that, Rust gets the information he needs from Tyro pretty sharpish. Halfway through the season, and one wonders what’s in store. The encounter with Reggie in his gasmask, obviously. The killing grounds. And the present day? Will there be a resolution with the former partners reteaming? Or will the case be solved in the interview room, with the terrible deeds of the-powers-that-be hushed up and the murderer revealed as just a patsy?