Episode 5 starts with the aftermath of the big shootout at the end of episode 4, and we meet Reggie LeDoux’s partner , who tells Cohle that “there’s a shadow on you, son.”
And here in this episode we see the event that has cast a shadow over the rest of Marty and Rust’s lives; their heroic rescue of a little girl from crazed meth cook Reggie LeDoux, who is blamed for Dora Lange’s murder as well. For this they received commendations, a measure of respect, and even some happiness.
And it’s a lie.
For the first time in the show we get definitive proof that the story Marty and Rust have been telling detectives Papania and Gilbough isn’t all true. They describe a heroic rescue under gunfire while we see them sneak into LeDoux’s compound, and then a rage-filled Marty gun LeDoux down after finding the kidnapped and abused kids. The two men cover up the crime, and close the case.
But seven years later, an interrogation results in a return of the Yellow King to their lives. Rust loses it, attacks the man who brought it up, then starts investigating disappearances and unsolved murders and generally making a nuisance of himself.
Marty is self-destructing as well, only it isn’t over his job of course, but his family. His daughter Audrey has grown up rebellious and promiscuous. Cops catch her with two boys in the backseat of a car, and as always, a threat to his stable home life brings out the violent streak in him. He calls her “head of the varsity slut squad” and slaps her – horrifying his wife and his other daughter.
It’s clear 2002 has become fraught for both of them, and these twin pressures will lead to the final crack up that splits them for 10 years.
These secrets and lies are at the root of the detectives’ suspicions of Rust. He has returned after years, and Reverend Tuttle dies soon after. He’s been spotted at the new crime scenes mirroring the old murders, and all the “breakthroughs” in the old case were Rust feeding information to Marty. And yet those old lies are why despite their estrangement, Marty won’t turn on his ex-partner. His whole self-history as a hero depends on the lies they told 17 years ago.
This story has always been one of men, the lies they tell, and the ties that bind them. This episode highlights that as it shows the trap it is for Marty and Rust, even as everything feels like it is coming to a head.
And trapped is definitely a theme of the episode. Trapped within time itself, if you listen to Rust and LeDoux’s rantings. “Time is a flat circle”, Rust says (echoing LeDoux), indirectly referencing Flatland as he discusses how from outside time, we poor mortals are trapped to live through the same experiences again and again. The show’s narrative highlights this, showing us how the events of three time periods affect one another. We get to watch the story from outside the flat circle, seeing patterns the people trapped inside can’t see.
There are nice parallel structures here, contrasting how Marty reacts to an abused girl to his reaction to his own daughter. Marty’s shooting of LeDoux parallels the story of how Rust lost his job executing a junkie shooting up a child with meth. Rust revisits old crime scenes, finding new clues. It all feels like Twain’s quote, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
The mystery itself takes a step forward, but mostly in terms of proving that they got the wrong man in 1995. There are more hints that the Tuttle schools are involved, and many hints that Rust himself may be the killer. (For the record, I still don’t think so.) Subtler hints are dropped as well. Rust’s whittling of the beer cans results in 5 little people, arranged similarly to the “barbie gang rape” from episode 2. He’s started referring to “they” as well, by now.
In terms of the Carcosa theme, LeDoux claims to have seen Rust in Carcosa, and now in 2012, Rust echoes the same philosophy of a flat circle of time. Mysticism or madness? I still hope the show intends to never say.
One thing that did bother me quite a bit was the storyline with Marty’s daughter, and it will depend on how things play out. Because the story is so tightly on Rust and Marty, and the blinkered ways they interact with women is part of that, we see nothing of what actually happened with Audrey and the boys. I can’t tell given her 1995 history of weird sexual drawings and barbie gang rapes if they are going for her promiscuity as an actual sign of a troubled youth or not. While it is presented as statutory rape (which it is given that Louisiana has no “Romeo and Juliet” laws) we have no sense of her agency in the matter. Of course, to Marty that’s irrelevant, but seems a glaring hole given the context of what we saw in 1995. Hopefully it will be touched on later, but it doesn’t sit well with me right now.