Skip to main content

You’re on Carcosa now with me. He sees you.

True Detective
1.5: The Secret Fate of All Life

This is the first episode I’ve watched all on its lonesome, and I have to agree with those suggesting it’s a series that pays to watch in weekly instalments rather than as a big chunk. Having said that, the last series that I was addicted to in such a manner was Lost (for not dissimilar metaphysically and philosophically speculative reasons). And look how that investment paid off. True Detective at least will reveal itself as a true success or a true failure in a mere few weeks, but the journey (as with 90% of Lost) will have been enormously enjoyable no matter what. It’s clear I’m in the minority for seeing the razzle-dazzle of the last episode, while enthralling, as an unnecessary veer off target. Thankfully, The Secret Fate of All Life rights that, and then some.


There’s a wealth of forward momentum here, even though little of it has the virtuosity of Fukunaga’s climax to Who Goes There. Indeed, in a sly undercutting of the build-up to meeting Ledoux he is disposed of with remarkable ease. It’s the crescendo of bullshit versus what actually happened that really informs the episode, as we discover the tale of grand heroics from Marty and Rust is a grand illusion designed to cover up some less than by-the-book police work.


And these layers push forward into the present. Is Rust’s demeanour and appearance all a veneer, designed to invite misreadings from his interrogators and anyone else who may care to look too closely into what he has in fact been up to? Detectives Gilbough and Papania may think they’ve been getting the lowdown on him, but as Marty says “If you two talked to Rust, you two weren’t getting a read on him, he was getting a read on you”. The “evidence” of photos of Rust at the 2012 crime scene has convinced the detectives he may be implicated in the murders, pushing the earlier case where he wanted it to go. But to us it suggests Rust may never have dropped the case. Maybe he had to take his work underground, to prevent himself from falling into the wrong hands. Did he dispose of Tuttle (who died soon after Rust returned to Louisiana)? Is he deep undercover? Is Marty still in contact with him? Perhaps not, as he scoffs at the suggestion Rust has fallen into disarray (it would be a bit of a leading by the nose to tell them he was up to more than he appeared to be if Marty was in consort with Rust).


And Rust’s exit, (“Thanks for the beer, company men”) opens up the series for a present narrative that I had quite expected not to come to pass. Who knows what will happen outside of the safety of the past? We’ve already jumped seven years in the flashbacks (to 2002), but if Rust’s contributions have ceased there’s still Marty to give the lowdown on just how his relationship with his partner went south (if indeed it did).


And so much uncomfortable energy is pervading Rust’s psyche now, it might be more comforting if he was just a drunk. If he isn’t the bad guy, or a bad guy, most of the actual bad guys seem to be identifying something very untoward about his person. The biker contact (who, predictably, wants none of his business) reveals “I can see your soul at the edges of your eyes. It’s corrosive, like acid. You’ve got a demon, little man” adding that’s there’s a shadow on him, and if he sees him again he’ll be putting him down (well, that didn’t happen).


Then there’s crazy Ledoux’s return to the theme of Carcosa and The Yellow King. This aspect is so resonant of the half-myths Lost built up around itself, I can quite see how the Internet is abuzz with possible theories, and why Entertainment Weekly has gone crazy for it. Ledoux, before his decisive demise, references “the black star”, and ultra-creepily tells Rust he knows what happens next, he saw him in his dream, tying into Rust’s determinedly morose theory of existence in which we repeat the same lives again and again and again. “You’re on Carcosa now with me. He sees you”. This is a world where nothing is solved, opines Rust to his interrogators. Or is that all a spin? The pronounced anti-religious statements of the first few episodes have given way to an entire cosmology of Lovecraftian proportions, in which fourth dimensional beings can see that space-time does not exist; to them it’s a circle. We’re reborn into the same life we’ve always been born into. Bleak yes, but it all sounds a bit too high falutin’ for the former nihilist.


The seven-year gap finds Rust setting up domestic “bliss” with Laurie (Elizabeth Reaser); we’re told he was happy for a while, and we wonder just how things turned sour. But our attention on this period is mainly held by the encounter with Guy Leonard Francis (Christopher Berry; who also played a character in the first episode? What’s with that?) Francis, who doesn’t last long after spilling some beans, picks up on the idea that others know more about Rust than he knows himself (or maybe that’s what we’re supposed to think, but Rust as some kind of Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart figure would be a major let-down). “I know who you are,” he says; he means the famous crime-solving detective, but it reverberates given Ledoux’s comments. Back in the frame are The Yellow King, and the golden nugget that the guy who really did it is still out there killing. “There’s big people who know about him”.  It looks like it will be this that unravels Rust’s calm. He is instantly suspicious of a conspiracy (he theorises that this is why the taskforce was so keen to wrest control of the case from them).


Rust returns to the site of the first murder and finds more wooden lattices, including one in the shape of a cosmic maw. It’s the kind of symbolic queasiness David Lynch might relish. Another stick figure appears in the abandoned school, where there are more murals on the wall. The pull back framing of Rust through a window is particular ominous, as if he has been caught in a web the scope of which he has no concept.


The other big deal in the episode is the kids. Marty’s the one who goes haywire when he finds a couple of kids at Ledoux’s. That one is a boy is perhaps a surprise, as this seemed hitherto a gender based ritual murder. But we don’t know the extent of Ledoux’s connection to The Yellow King (a procurer?) There’s no shortage of queasiness in this area. Rust’s tin can figurines seem to consciously echo the Barbie gangbang daughter Audrey arranged several episodes ago. 


And Audrey 2002 is well and truly on a wayward path, incurring dad’s wrath when she is arrested having a three-way (something her father copped to in the first episode). Where all Marty’s rage and these family tribulations are at is entirely unclear at this point. His 2002 self has patched things up with Maggie, but we know that the relationship is doomed. And his reflective 2012 incarnation in some respects doesn’t seem all that far from Rust’s doom-saying (“It’s like the future’s behind you… it’s always been behind you”). He also observes, ominously (again) that his true failure was inattention, not infidelity, as the camera pans up on his youngest daughter’s tiara in a tree, where Audrey threw it. Having her ensnared in the cult would be rather silly, I think, but there must be dark connections here. I don’t think Marty is really a psycho; that would be as unimaginative as having Rust revealed as one. But Harrelson is doing a bang up job portraying a man who has no ability to deal with his family (hitting his daughter was about as far from a measured response as he could get).


Three episodes to go, and I like having no real idea what to expect next. In some ways, this is all an exercise in atmosphere and portents of doom, much as Lost was, and I’m fine with that as it’s a great ride. The mark of a show like this is how the threads are weaved together though. Its longevity will be based on how it resolves itself, so I hope it really does have a good answer to the mystery up its sleeve. Dale Cooper laughing into a mirror might be better than anything conclusive, if what’s revealed can’t live up to expectations.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

I hate natural causes!

Body Bags (1993) (SPOILERS) I’m not surprised Showtime didn’t pick this up for an anthology series. Perhaps, if John Carpenter had made Coming Home in a Body Bag (the popular Nam movie series referenced in the same year’s True Romance ), we’d have something to talk about. Tho’ probably not, if Carpenter had retained his by this point firmly glued to his side DP Gary Kibbe, ensuring the proceedings are as flat, lifeless and unatmospheric as possible. Carpenter directed two of the segments here, Tobe Hooper the other one. It may sound absurd, given the quality of Hooper’s career, but by this point, even he was calling the shots better than Carpenter.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

Hey, my friend smells amazing!

Luca (2021) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s first gay movie ? Not according to director Enrico Cassarosa (“ This was really never in our plans. This was really about their friendship in that kind of pre-puberty world ”). Perhaps it should have been, as that might have been an excuse – any excuse is worth a shot at this point – for Luca being so insipid and bereft of spark. You know, the way Soul could at least claim it was about something deep and meaningful as a defence for being entirely lacking as a distinctive and creatively engaging story in its own right.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

I want the secret of the cards. That’s all.

The Queen of Spades (1949) (SPOILERS) Marty Scorsese’s a big fan (“ a masterpiece ”), as is John Boorman, but it was Edgar Wright on the Empire podcast with Quentin “One more movie and I’m out, honest” Tarantino who drew my attention to this Thorold Dickinson picture. The Queen of Spades has, however, undergone a renaissance over the last decade or so, hailed as a hitherto unjustly neglected classic of British cinema, one that ploughed a stylistic furrow at odds with the era’s predominant neo-realism. Ian Christie notes its relationship to the ilk of German expressionist work The Cabinet of Dr of Caligari , and it’s very true that the picture exerts a degree of mesmeric immersion rarely found in homegrown fare.