True Detective – Episode 6

And Episode 6 is The Breakup. We finally see what split Marty and Rust, and the straw the broke the camel’s back is a woman; specifically, Marty’s wife, Maggie.

In some ways it’s exactly what you could have predicted all the way back when Rust and Maggie first meet and bond – there’s an attraction, and it threatens Rust. But this isn’t an affair, it’s just sex. It’s quick, desperate, lonely, and quite divorced from love.

Maggie fucks Rust because she needs to hurt Marty. She needs to break up with him in a way that will hurt him, and make him accept that things are over. The weapon she has that can inflict that kind of damage?

Rust.

Rust who has always rubbed Marty wrong, always made Marty feel a bit inferior, and a lot like a hypocrite.

Maggie is right, it cuts Marty to the quick. I don’t think she realized just how much damage it would do to Rust, though. The loss of his family is what pushed Rust from eccentric genius to damaged visionary, as far as we know. His nihilistic slide started with the loss of his daughter, and the eventual conviction that the world is heartless, and he will never have the comforting illusion of family again. His vicious manipulation of “The Marshland Medea”, eliciting a confession and then encouraging her to kill herself, is driven by his anger over anyone killing children and destroying Family.

His desire for Maggie is only partially out of real admiration or attraction; she is a Wife and Mother – something he knows he doesn’t get to have. So when she comes knocking, while he is drunk and on suspension, he succumbs. He fucks her as one desperate claim to be allowed that peace, and in the space of her pulling up her panties he realizes he’s been used. It’s just one more illusion. He’s a means to an end, he will never be Family, and it breaks him.

Maggie’s betrayal of both of Marty and Rust makes sense here – she has reasons for what she does and how she does it. I am a bit confused why she’s lying about it 10 years later, though, to the detectives. I’m not sure who she is protecting, unless it is simply herself and her image after all this time. (Conspiracy minded people can conclude she’s hiding something bigger about the murders.)

Of course, Marty isn’t blameless in all this. He goes back chasing lost youth by sleeping with Beth, the ex-child prostitute he was so offended by in 1995. Rust accused him of “putting a down payment” on her back then, and now that odd prophecy has come true, even if she is a mobile-phone sales girl long removed from the Ranch. (I am sure the conspiracy minded have decided she is still a hooker, and was paid to seduce Marty and break up the marriage and thus remove the only two detectives who have any idea about the murders. Especially since both she and Maggie order dirty Martinis.)

But this break-up is only tangentially about Maggie. Rust had been treating Marty like dirt for a while, as his obsessive hunt for the real killer they missed 7 years ago takes him to the politically powerful Tuttle, the traumatized girl they rescued years ago (still in a mental institution years later), the father of a lost boy, and the tent-revival reverend they interviewed in 1995. He’s stepping on toes, and not respecting the fact only Marty is on his side. Maggie just ends up being the excuse to fuel the split.

But despite all that happened, Marty refuses to go along with the theory the detectives are spinning that Rust is the killer.

The episode ends in the present, with Rust and Marty agreeing to get a beer; Marty checks the bullets in his gun while Rust goes back into his truck, the tail light still broken from the fight they had 10 years ago. Time has come full circle, and all the past is prologue. I suspect we’re mostly going to stay in the present from here on out, as the two look for the circle of child abusers and murderers who have been haunting Louisiana for years.

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