TV Review: True Detective: Episode 3: The Locked Room (SPOILERS)
Episode Synopsis: After discovering a mysterious painting that resembles the state of Dora Kelly Lange's body in a burnt-out church, Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Hart (Woody Harrelson) try to use this new lead before a government task force takes over the investigation.
Review: After the relatively quick-paced second episode, the third installment of TRUE DETECTIVE, “The Locked Room” goes back to the slow-burn tone of the pilot. Other than the first ten minutes, the majority of the episode is spent exploring Cohle and Hart's relationship with Hart's wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), although the last act sets the stage for what I presume will be an explosive and violent fourth episode.
Up to now, I wondered why an actress of Monaghan's stature was cast as Hart's wife as the role initially seemed a bit limited. However, episode three suggests she's about to become a major player, especially where her relationship with Cohle is concerned. Right from the first episode, where a drunken Cohle ignored Rust's attempts to have him excused from a dinner date with the wife, it's clear that McConaughey and Monaghan had chemistry. Cohle opened up to her about his dead daughter, and in this episode we learn he's been spending time at the Hart home helping out with chores, and comforting Maggie about her strained relationship with Hart- who's in the midst of a hot affair with Alexandra Daddario's Lisa Tragnetti. Maggie tries to hook Cohle up with one of her friends, but it's clear that Cohle's more interested in her than anyone else, a fact the jealous Hart seems to recognize. I wonder whether this will lead to an affair and be the reason for their broken partnership which, if you remember the pilot, only ended in 2002- a full seven years after the Lange investigation. Meanwhile, Hart's affair with Tragnetti seems to be wrapping up- at least from her perspective- although a crazed Hart isn't quite as willing to let things go, resulting in even more cracks in his armour- exposing his violent, even crazed, temper.
McConaughey's Cohle remains enigmatic, although his hatred and distrust of religion is given full reign early in the episode where the detectives investigate preacher Joel Theriot's (Shea Whigham) congregation as Theriot owned the church the mysterious painting was found in. Whigham is another juicy character actor who fits right into the seedy TRUE DETECTIVES world, even if his motivations may not be as selfish as Cohle presumes, as he proves to be a relatively compassionate man. Considering his stature, I presume Whigham will be back, but who knows? THE WIRE's Clarke Peters had a small role in the pilot and hasn't been seen since.
In the last twenty minutes, the detectives catch a break when Cohle discovers a murder with eerie similarities to the Lange case from four years earlier. The two head out to question the victim's former boyfriend, Reggie Ledoux, and it's clear that this meeting is going to be a violent one, with both detectives- in the modern day segments- clamming up when asked what happens. Ending on an eerie freeze frame of Ledoux (I presume) naked except for tighty-whiteys, a gas mask, and a machete, the episode ends on a foreboding note, brilliantly setting the stage for next week's installment.
Overall, this was another wonderful installment. While it was a slow burn compared to the second episode, it set up a lot of conflict for the next few episodes, both in the detectives personal lives and in the Lange case. In the world of TRUE DETECTIVE, both are given equal importance, which keeps this from feeling anything like a procedural. I wouldn't have it any other way. Both McConaughey and Harrelson continue to do superlative work.