TRUE DETECTIVE. “Who Goes There”, or how to create the last scene perfectly

Cohle vs. Crash in a maze of plywood houses for homies.

Przemysław Mudlaff

10 February 2023


In the American South, innocence and goodness rot like ivy growing on the moldy buildings of local residents. Huge spiders and cockroaches crawl out from under the leaves of the climbing plant and the cracks in the walls of the houses that have been repainted many times, and they have eaten gruesome family secrets. As a result, the everyday life of the inhabitants of the American South is subordinated to violence, rape and evil, as evidenced by ritual murder and the lack of any objection to it. “And where is God? He’s not here! God jumped to do business.”

Michael Jordan among psychological and crime series

Here is a gothic space for a season of the series that brought a whole new quality to modern television and streaming. The season of the series that today is an inspiration and a point of reference. True Detective (first season) by Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Joji Fukunaga is an unusual mix of several pulp genres: buddy cop, neo-noir, Lovecraftian horror. Their masterful combination, as well as the musical contribution of T-Bone Burnett and the brilliant acting of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson led to the creation of a cultural phenomenon that is extremely characteristic in terms of appearance, style and sound, which is not only an atmospheric crime story, but above all a kind of study of the human mind, society steeped in corruption and evil, and the nature of faith. The production of Pizzolatto directed by Fukunaga also draws attention in the context of perfectly fitted and used references, both to various works of culture, as well as to philosophy, religion and psychology. Paraphrasing the already famous words of Marty Hart, True Detective appears as Michael Jordan among psychological and crime series.

In the labyrinth of knowing yourself

Who Goes There is the fourth episode of the first season of True Detective. Interestingly, while this mid-series episode doesn’t really provide viewers with the information they need to make any progress on the Dora Lang murder, it does represent one of the most pivotal hours in Pizzolatto and Fukunaga’s entire storytelling. It’s mostly about our special pair of cops, and most of all about Rust Cohle.

A good cop should be able to recognize the motivations of the perpetrators of the crime, as well as empathize with the role of the victim. However, this is not possible if you are not completely honest with yourself. To sum up, to be an effective police officer you must fully understand yourself. This is the right theme for one of the most intense and best-produced series episodes in recent years.

In the case of Marty, the process of discovering his own identity is hindered by his short-sightedness, impetuousness and hypocrisy. This “ordinary guy with a big dick” therefore blames not himself but Lisa (Alexandra Daddario), the girl with whom he had a fiery affair, for leaving his wife (Michelle Monaghan) and children. With his decisions, Hart complicates his own life, and although he has solutions to problems under his nose, he wades towards self-destruction, constantly hitting the walls of the maze.

Rust, on the other hand, wants to get out of the total mess. Who Goes There is primarily a story about his inner struggle, struggles with his own identity and motivations. The first part of the episode introduces the viewers to Cohle, a little known to us – a cynic marked by tragedy (the death of his daughter) and a nihilist tormenting everyone with his strange arguments. Rust, however, has a second nature that, enhanced by drugs and alcohol, takes the form of Crash. During an interrogation conducted in 2012 by Papania (Tory Kittles) and Gilbough (Michael Potts), Cohle’s recent past is revealed. So before the detective got to the heart of darkness (Louisiana), he spent four years working undercover as a wild junkie in Texas. Although this period left marks both on Rust’s body and psyche, who was treated in a psychiatric hospital afterwards, it’s easy to sense that the cop talks about this phase of his life with passion and excitement. It was as if some part of Crash was still in Rust Cohle. It’s his head that the identity of the junkie/killer doesn’t take precedence over the identity of the cop/detective. Rust tries to control this by choosing to live an ascetic life, and in moments of heightened risk he has developed a habit of checking his pulse. Having to infiltrate the structures of the Iron Crusaders biker gang (Cohle was a member of the gang before) to track down Dora Lang’s murder suspect, Reginald Ledoux (Charles Halford), threatens the detective’s forged but still fragile new identity. Putting on the leather jacket of the Iron Crusaders, previously hidden in a chest, with bullet holes, Rust/Crash consciously internally transforms into a Cretan Minotaur, and the border between identities becomes almost transparent.

6 minutes that made television history


Putting on a jacket and a sip of Jameson, however, is not all that increases the risk of Crash winning in an internal battle with Rust. To gain the trust of the Iron Crusaders, Cohle has to snort some decent lanes of coke and take part in the attack on Houston’s “Plywood Cottages”. Ironically, several gang members disguise themselves as police officers. This is the introduction to one of the most intense and well-executed 6 minutes in the history of television and streaming.

While Episode 4 of True Detective is a great testament to Pizzolatto’s exceptional writing talent, the biggest applause for this episode goes to Cary Joji Fukunaga. I would even venture to say that Who Goes There is the director’s greatest artistic achievement, and the perfectly staged 6-minute shot crowning this unique episode is the proverbial icing on the cake. Importantly, this sequence is not only about effectiveness. It is a scene that shows Rust in a daring and unique way, forced to react without much thought. Act like Crash or maybe like Cohle? where now? Kill or run away? For 6 minutes Rust is stuck in a maze usually depicted in noir films with skyscrapers in big cities. In Who Goes There, Fukunaga, instead of tall buildings, offers us the interiors of plywood houses full of small rooms, where another threat may lurk, which further enhances the feeling of claustrophobia and the theme of the labyrinth itself.

The final scenes of Who Goes There are a stunning and breathtaking visual and audio masterpiece. It’s also a complete departure from the style and pace of the first season of True Detective. Rust’s escape, saved at the last moment by an oncoming Hart, marks Cohle’s victory over Crash. It is a triumph of strong will, the result of hard work and sacrifices, which, contrary to appearances, are of considerable importance in the context of further events. Rust hasn’t gotten rid of Crash forever, but he already knows exactly who he is and who he wants to be.

Przemysław Mudlaff

Przemysław Mudlaff

He appreciates the truth and sincerity of the intentions of its creators in cinema. He loves to be emotionally kicked and abused by the film, but also happy and amused. A hunter of film curiosities, references and connections. A fan of the works of PTA, von Trier, Kieślowski, Lantimos and Villeneuve. What he likes the most is talking about the cinema over a beer, and the beer has to be cold and thick, you know what.

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