Skip to main content

There is no such thing as forgiveness. People just have short memories.

True Detective
1.6: Haunted House

The far-out theorising of the fifth episode (probably my favourite so far) is all but jettisoned as True Detective is brought back down to earth with a thud and a bump and a grind in Haunted House. It’s a definite and intentional pullback from the investigation side (barring a couple of scenes, and one especially memorable one), which tidies the hedgerows and brings the narrative fully up-to-date. And it serves to really cement that this is all about the decaying lives of the detectives at its centre; the solving of the crime needs to pay-off satisfyingly to justify not being a high class variant on The Mentalist’s progressively less-and-less satisfying Red John arc, but it’s the reverberations in the lives of Rust and Marty that really count. And once it’s over the great scenes filter back into the mind; Rust’s interrogation of the murderous mother, his encounter with Tuttle, the most stunning scene of the episode between him and Maggie (that soundtrack is the most sinister the series has produced outside of a crime scene). And through it all, raging at his loss of control over the women in his life is the emotionally impotent Marty.


This episode, from start to finish, shines a light on Marty’s short fuse temper and turbulent inner world. In any situation he cannot take charge of, he resorts to violence. We kick off with him beating up the Emos who went with Audrey (a scene that surprisingly shows the punches being pulled, unlike the superbly executed later altercation with Rust). The rage inside just will not cease. It isn’t long before he is back to his licentious ways (I wonder how the production meetings go with any high-minded potential show runner; presumably there’s a minimum shag content required), and Rust’s eerily predictive rebuke, when Marty gave Beth (Lili Simmons, no stranger to disrobing in Banshee) money to encourage her to find another line of work back in 1995, comes home to roost; it was indeed a down payment. And one that proves to be the final straw in his marriage when Maggie finds out.


His uncontrollable fury finds him poised to strangle her when she reveals she slept with his partner (“I haven’t been fucked like that since before the girls” she says, going for his emotional jugular). The flying fists when Marty encounters Rust for the last time (at least, as far as we know) until 2012 are predictable; one gets the sense Rust shows up at the police station because he’d rather get the inevitable out of the way. And then there’s the last scene, wherein Marty has clearly been sufficiently unsettled by the hypotheses of Gilbough and Papania that he is going armed to his drinking rendezvous with Rust. At least, that’s my take. It could be he’s still out for pure vengeance after all this time, but he surely would have finished it before this point if that were the case.


Harrelson is a tour de force throughout, utterly convincing as a man afflicted by demons he lacks the facility to recognise. He is unable to exert traditional masculine values because they are unwanted or unneeded. He’s out of his depth with his family and his job, and everything he touches he breaks. Not through single-minded drive the way Rust does, but through bull-headed blindness. He is unable to stop and reflect, and unwilling to adjust and restrain himself. He does more than enough here for us to see why his elder daughter disdains him so (and why his even his younger one seems to have had enough). And, while on one level it’s sad that Maggie should sink to the level of enacting pure revenge, for her it’s a cathartic moment and one he’s had coming for a long time.


After putting up with his shit for five episodes, Maggie serves her dish of revenge with jaw-dropping calculation and precision. She knows, from the time of their iced tea afternoon, that Rust reserves affection for her (even though his rational mind and intellect repeatedly reject her), and she is able to use it to her advantage and his abject recoil. We haven’t seen his abilities usurped like this before, his weakness exposed, and the actors, and Pizzolatto and Fukunga, observe the sequence perfectly. She half apologises (“I’m sorry. This will hurt him”), as he is merely an instrument in her husband’s destruction.


But it’s also evident that she doesn’t have Marty’s facility for attachment-free carnal abandon. She couldn’t go through with her bar pick-up; there was a connection with Rust, making her action so much more thunderous and effective. It’s one of the series’ big gasp moments, and Rust’s response (“Get the fuck out of here!”) is of someone who can’t quite believe how he’s been played, and that she would do such a thing. It only goes to reconfirm all his worst thoughts about human nature.


The Maggie of 2012 is delightfully sure of herself. Careful with her words, and revealing nothing more than she feels necessary, Maggie knows just how to control the detectives who make the mistake of treating her like a cop’s wife (because they have wives and think they know how to use the kid gloves to get what they want). The subtle make-up gives Monaghan a slightly gaunt look; if Harrelson is now playing his age, she needs to be aged-up (but she’s still considerably haggard than McConaughey). She is dutifully complimentary with her comments on Rust (to be honest, the device of bringing her in for a quiz seems a bit off; it’s fully needed in story terms, but it doesn’t stand up to much analysis, as they’re hardly going to prove his guilt in the case from someone so peripheral). “Rust knew exactly what he was, and there was no talking him out of it”. She may feel the need to redress the wrong she has done him, but it’s also as simple as his general outlook looks wholly correct when squared against her ex-husband’s follies. She clearly has a deep respect for him (“He was responsible. There are not a lot of responsible people in the world”; an insight into why the trick she pulls is so wrenching).


In some ways this is Maggie’s episode, and it may be why it hasn’t gone down quite as well with the more True Fandom-orientated desire for further word on Carcosa. That just isn’t really happening now, is it? Apparently Pizzolatto said all the clues were there in the first episode, so any descent into hell is going to be an interior one for the now ex-detectives rather than a lurid reveal of diabolical occultism. I’d imagine the climax to Seven, without Kevin Spacey (or the colourful killings that preceded his entrance); what’s important in that film is the effect all this has on the detectives. That’s what lingers most in Fincher’s film. But, as I said, if the solving of the mystery is a damp squib it may go to weaken the series’ bid for instant classic status. There’s a balance to be struck.


Rust is also on a path to his low point here. He summarises his sour insight into an empty universe as, following his punch-up with Marty, he resigns; “Yeah, fuck this. Fuck this world”. Even there, his words are punctuated by philosophical analysis (although his acid humour is also present as he compliments Marty on his hook).  In fact, there are more than enough moments in this episode to satisfy the detective story side, it’s just that they aren’t so vital.


Shea Whigham’s return as now ex-reverend Theriot is a surprisingly sympathetic one, and rather undercuts the contempt shown by Rust at their last encounter. He’s shown to be a man of integrity but a weakness for the liquor. His nuggets of information add to the mythology of the investigation, as he drops references to a 12th century Franciscan mystic named Telios De Lorca and a folder within the monk’s tome containing pictures of naked children. It’s confirmation to Rust of his suspicions of the Tuttle ministry (Theriot left soon after) but the main event is Rust’s meeting with Tuttle himself. But Tuttle’s full involvement in this dark ring of abuse (“Women, children disappearing” as Rust says) must surely remain debatable right now since, whether Rust offed the reverend or not, it clearly hasn’t stopped the murders.


The encounter is riveting viewing. Set in a bright airy room, watched over by suitably bad taste neon cross, the two square off against each other with equal composure. Tuttle allows no tells to slip when Rust sets out why he’s there and Jay O Sanders ensures he is wonderfully sharp with his insights (“It’s hard to trust a man who cant trust himself with a beer, don’t you think?”) Maybe Tuttle knows this because Rust is on Carcosa now or, more mundanely, he just has good contacts in the police department. And his goodbye (“Goodbye detective. You’ll be in my thoughts”) suggests Rust may have mis-stepped, especially since he still hasn’t wrapped things up a decade later. All Rust has done is bring the full weight of the police department down on himself (he gets suspended) and shown his hand to Tuttle before it was perhaps opportune to do so.


As Rust says on getting the news that he’s to be disciplined, “I’m the person least in need of counselling in this entire fucking state”. But it’s also evident that by this point his ruthless focus has impaired his ability to pursue his goal. Wilfully inciting his partner’s anger by pointing out his deficiencies as a detective (“You’re nobody without me. There is no you. So type the fucking report, huh?”; in part, it isn’t entirely true, as Marty was a shining star before Rust joined, although there are occasions enough to veer towards agreement with “Goddam, you moron!”), he has as little respect for the chain of command (accusing his bosses of incompetence).


Most illustrative of Rust’s unvarnished honesty is his interrogation of a mother who has killed her children but claimed sudden infant death syndrome. His thoughts on family are consistent with his previous form (“Some people mistake a child as an answer. A way to change their story”). He shows all the tactility necessary to elicit a confession and then, without missing a beat, instructs, “Prison can be very hard on those who hurt kids. If you get a chance, you should kill yourself”. It’s a breath-taking moment, as instructive of Rust’s worldview as his reaction to being used by Maggie.


The other moment to note involving Rust is his visit to the girl he and Marty rescued in 1995, now in a semi-catatonic state. She is roused by his arrival, and confirms the existence of the giant man with the scars (is he the guy on the lawnmower, then? I guess he’d need to stand up for us to be sure. Or maybe Kevin Spacey will enter, on stilts); he was the worst, we learn. And then she starts screaming hysterically. Can she see the demon within Rust?


So is that it for flashbacks? It would certainly appear so. Rust has been driving around with the same busted tail light for 10 years, and now he’s going to buy Marty a drink. Scratch that, “Actually, why don’t you buy me a beer”. I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to talk about. Nice to hear Marty get in one of his weekly cracks at Rust (they’re rare, but well-judged): “Change your hair?” I name checked Seven before, and I can only reiterate the feeling that, even if both these guys are left standing in two episodes time, something irreversibly shattering to their lives and minds is yet to transpire.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?

Jeeves and Wooster 2.4: Jeeves in the Country  (aka Chuffy)
The plundering of Thank You, Jeeves elicits two more of the series’ best episodes, the first of which finds Bertie retiring to the country with a new valet, the insolent, incompetent and inebriate Brinkley (a wonderfully sour, sullen performance from Fred Evans, who would receive an encore in the final season), owing to Jeeves being forced to resign over his master’s refusal to give up the trumpet (“not an instrument for a gentleman”; in the book, it’s a banjulele).

Chuffnall Hall is the setting (filmed at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire), although the best of the action takes place around Bertie’s digs in Chuffnall Regis (Clovelly, Devon), which old pal Reginald “Chuffy” Chuffnell (Marmaduke Lord Chuffnell) has obligingly rented him, much to the grievance of the villagers, who have to endure his trumpeting disrupting the beatific beach (it’s a lovely spot, one of the most evocative in the series).

Jeeves is snapped up into the e…

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

Angry man is unsecure.

Hulk (2003)
(SPOILERS) I’m not a Hulk apologist. I unreservedly consider it one of the superior superhero adaptations, admittedly more for the visual acumen Ang Lee brings to the material than James Schamus, Michael France and John Turman’s screenplay. But even then, if the movie gets bogged down in unnecessarily overwrought father-son origins and dynamic, overlaid on a perfectly good and straightforward core story (one might suggest it was change for the sake of change), once those alterations are in place, much of the follow through, and the paralleling of wayward parents and upright children, or vice versa, translates effectively to the screen, even if the realisation of the big green fella is somewhat variable.

‘Cos I’m the gringo who always delivers.

American Made (2017)
(SPOILERS) This is definitely more the sort of thing Tom Cruise should be doing, a movie that relies both on his boyish™ charm and at least has pretensions of ever so slightly pushing the envelope of standard multiplex fare, rather than desperately attaching himself to an impersonal franchise (The Mummy) or flailingly attempting to kick start one (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back); remember when Cruise wouldn’t even go near sequels (for about 20 years, The Color of Money aside, and then only the one series)? American Made is still victim to the tendency of his movies to feel superstar-fitted rather than remaining as punchy as they might be on paper (Made’s never quite as satirically sharp as it wants to be), but it at least doesn’t lead its audience by the nose.

I do… very competitive ice dancing.

Justice League (2017)
(SPOILERS) Superheroes, and superhero movies, trade in hyperbole, so it shouldn’t be surprising that DC’s two releases this year have been responded to in like, only each at opposite ends of the spectrum. Wonder Woman was insanely over-praised in the rush to fete a female superhero finally leading a movie, crushing all nuanced criticism in its wake. Justice League, meanwhile, has been lambasted on the basis that it’s more of the same as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, only worse – to the extent there have been calls for a Zach Snyder Director’s Cut, which is quite an extent, as extents go – as it’s guilty of being an unholy clash of styles, grimdark Zach scowling in one corner and quip-happy Joss pirouetting in the other. And yes, the movie is consequently a mess, but it’s a relatively painless mess, with the sense to get in and get out again before the viewer has enough time to assess the full extent of the damage.

You’re never the same man twice.

The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)
(SPOILERS) Roger Moore playing dual roles? It sounds like an unintentionally amusing prospect for audiences accustomed to the actor’s “Raise an eyebrow” method of acting. Consequently, this post-Saint pre-Bond role (in which he does offer some notable eyebrow acting) is more of a curiosity for the quality of Sir Rog’s performance than the out-there premise that can’t quite sustain the picture’s running time. It is telling that the same story was adapted for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents 15 years earlier, since the uncanny idea at its core feels like a much better fit for a trim 50 minute anthology series.

Basil Dearden directs, and co-adapted the screenplay from Anthony Armstrong’s novel The Strange Case of Mr Pelham. Dearden started out with Ealing, helming several Will Hay pictures and a segment of Dead of Night (one might imagine a shortened version of this tale ending up there, or in any of the portmanteau horrors that arrived in the year…

You diabolical mastermind, you.

The Avengers Season 4 Ranked – Worst to Best
Season Four is generally held up as the pinnacle of The Avengers, and it certainly maintains the greatest level of consistency in the run. Nevertheless, as I noted a few reviews back, one viewer’s classic is another’s ho-hum with this show, perhaps because it doesn’t elicit the same kind of exhaustive fandom to establish any level of consensus as some series. There follows my Worst to Best ranking of the season, told mostly in pictures. The index for full episode reviews can be found here.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

Sometimes when you take people away, they don't come back.

The Ward (2010)
(SPOILERS) I’d felt no particular compunction to rush out and see The Ward (or rent it), partly down to the underwhelming reviews, but mostly because John Carpenter’s last few films had been so disappointing, and I doubted a decade away from the big screen would rejuvenate someone who’d rather play computer games than call the shots. Perhaps inevitably then, now I have finally given it a look, it’s a case of low expectations being at least surpassed. The Ward isn’t very good, but it isn’t outright bad either.

While it seems obvious in retrospect, I failed to guess the twist before it was revealed, probably because I was still expecting a supernatural element to be realised, it being a Carpenter movie. But then, this doesn’t feel very much like a Carpenter movie. It doesn’t have a Carpenter score (Mark Killian) or screenplay (Michael and Shawn Rasmussen) and it doesn’t have Gary B Kibbe as lenser (Yaron Orbach). I suspect the latter explains why it’s a much more professi…