True Detective Review: “Who Goes There” (Season 1, Episode 4)
For the past three episodes, Nic Pizzolatto’s slow-burn anthology True Detective has spent the wealth of its time getting underneath the jaundiced skin and bottled rage of its two detective protagonists, Hart and Cohle. McConaughey and Harrelson both got their share of potential Emmy reel moments from the first episodes, as their characters battled their demons in a bleak and troubling light. The only big issue from the first few hours is how the investigation into Dora Lange’s murder seemed to crawl, taking a back seat to the front seat banter between the cops as they dealt with their woes and desperation.
Therefore, “Who Goes There” marks a big step forward for True Detective, as almost the entire hour is dedicated to leaping toward the main suspect in the case, Reggie Ledoux. Ledoux made a searing impression as episode three faded out. Shown as a heavily tattooed man wandering around in a compound, wearing just underwear and a gas mask, he looked as if Walter White had joined the cast of Sons of Anarchy.
The menace piles on in “Who Goes There,” as Hart and Cohle infiltrate a seedy bike gang with ties to the drug-dealing child assault suspect. Ledoux skipped parole but recently passed through Louisiana with a supply of crystal meth. Hart gets a break in the case and finds out that Ledoux was recently working with an East Texas bike gang, the Iron Crusaders. Cohle knows of this gang from his time out west and sets up a plan to go undercover, get to the gang’s supplier and hope to use him to find Ledoux.
However, there are still some family matters to attend to. Hart, again, uses his position as an authority figure to cover up his own indiscriminate activities against Lisa in court. Predictably, Lisa strikes back and confronts Maggie, who packs up with the kids and abandons her husband.
Harrelson, once again, gets most of the episode’s anguished moments. When he confronts Maggie in the hospital, his rage prompts security to step in and drag his resisting body away. He tries to pull the most conviction he can from a ‘sorry,’ but with a long history of lies and temptation clouding his judgment, Hart is still a slippery slope. Harrelson is arresting here, a slowly boiling pot of despair and desperation. His tense, wound up cop slowly drifting into weariness is not far from the tortured cop he played in the little-seen indie Rampart, where he also gave an explosive performance.