And in the penultimate episode, we are more straightforward police procedural than ever before.
It’s 2012, and after a contentious meeting in a bar, Marty agrees to see what Rust has, because they both have a debt. There’s enough horrible evidence there, in the form of the fate of Mary Fontenot, to convince Marty to take the case up again.
As they slowly go back to working on the case, you see just how little either has left in life. Rust, who always claimed the world has no meaning, once again shows he doesn’t really believe it. He needs to clear this last debt, this last piece of unfinished pattern, before he can kill himself.
Marty has a failing PI business, eats TV dinners alone, and hasn’t seen his ex-wife or daughters in over 2 years. He knows Rust is right that his hair-trigger shooting of Reggie LeDoux in 1995 closed down all their leads on the case then, and the continuing murders is a debt he owes.
So in a weird sense, after spending several episodes critiquing classical masculinity, we’re left with a version of a very classic masculine trope – “Honor is all you have.” Even if it isn’t their job anymore, even if they have no one who will honor or reward them for it, they have a debt, a duty, and they will follow it until it destroys them.
And make no mistake, I expect it to destroy them. At this point, assuming there really is a conspiracy, then this isn’t a single thing they can take down. This is embedded, long-term culture, wrapped in the history of one powerful family and backed by money and connections. You can’t stop that with a single arrest or a well-placed bullet. We’re heading to a “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown,” finish.
The episode felt like placing pieces on the board for the big finish, and that’s what I expect we have. We’ll head down to the home of the Tuttles, and Childresses, in Erath. There will be a shrine, either called Carcosa or a place to sacrifice to the vision of Carcosa. And they might save a person or two, and kill one or two people who are involved, but I don’t see them both getting out alive and I don’t see it truly fixing anything except maybe giving them some way to convince themselves they paid their debt.
The little character touches are there to let us know what’s happening. Maggie’s house is gorgeous, her family always had money. Marty’s eldest is an artist, one who sometimes decides she “doesn’t need to take her meds”. The younger daughter has been teaching with Americorps. Maggie shows up to Rust’s bar as well, where he dismisses her, refusing to even console her that this last case might not end up with Marty dead.
When the two get back to investigating, they sit in Marty’s car driving, in almost the exact positions they had in the first episodes set back in 1995. Full circle.
The most disappointing thing about this episode personally, however, is how much it feels like we’ve gone backwards on the deconstruction of masculinity some of us were hoping for. The women are even more invisible now, and with one episode to go, it doesn’t look like the fact that Marty and Rust overlook women is actually going to pay off in any meaningful way. Even the hints that Marty’s daughter was abused seems to have just been given a cursory nod but have not much to do with anything. I suppose there is still some small chance that Maggie’s family is involved, and the girls saw something, but it feels a bit like it would be tacked on if it shows up now. Worse, if Maggie is involved, it feels a lot like just a weak “women are evil” film noir trope.
I do expect at least one minor twist of sorts involved, just because for the life of me I can’t figure out why the 1995 murder was staged so publicly (and even had a fire draw attention to it), and the same with the 2012 one. It seems out of place given that all the other murders and disappearances seem to have been invisible. Someone broke protocol.
Like so many stories, a lot will ride on how the end plays out.