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The Best of This Week’s True Detective Recaps: ‘After You’ve Gone’

"‘After You’ve Gone’ felt like a slow march to the end,” wrote Vulture recapper Kenny Herzog. This week's episode was all about setting the stage for next week's finale, with Hart and Cohle reuniting and beginning to tie up loose ends, the possible reveal of our "green-eared spaghetti monster," and Cohle reenacting the plot of Captain Philips on a riverboat ("I'm the captain now"). This week, critics and recappers speculated on the outcome of the case and pondered what various endings could mean for the show's legacy as a whole. Some were disappointed at the lack of visible scarring on the lawnmower guy, while others were just happy to see the old band back together. Your recap of the recaps:

"Scars and their size aside, what do you think about this man, seemingly a major bad guy—though not the Yellow King—being revealed at the end of this episode (sounding, by the way, like a menacing Forrest Gump), instead of in the next one? I like it. There’s only one episode left, which hardly feels like enough time, and I suspect the meat of the finale will be figuring out the scope of what now seems to be a very old, large, murder cult, and whether or not Rust or (really) Marty has any direct connection to it. Which is all more interesting to me than tracking down the one guy with scars on his face." Slate

"People have compared the show to other great serial killer dramas, but this episode, or at least the sustainedly great first half, in which Cohle takes Hart to his storage locker and briefs him about the case, reminded me of L.A. Confidential. In both 'After You've Gone' and Curtis Hanson's brilliant 1997 film noir, you had two completely different cops who decided to work a case together again, after mutual antagonism. You even had a scene with two cops talking about why they did or didn't decide to commit to the job, which reminded me of a great scene between Kevin Space and Guy Pearce in L.A. Confidential." —The New Republic

"In 'After You’ve Gone,' all internal conflicts and character idiosyncrasies that embossed the show’s scaffolding are now virtually gone, scrubbed away by time and the narrative’s need close the loop. All that remains are a pure genre reduction and a more meaningful show title. I don’t mean to suggest that Pizzolatto abandoned the integrity of his creation in order to deliver a more by-the-numbers suspense thriller, but he may mean to say that we prefer our detectives unencumbered by family, bureaucracy or love. Rust and Marty had to burn away the ornamentation associated with a well-rounded life if they ever hoped to solve the Dora Lange murder." —Wall Street Journal

“This episode also seemingly put a nail in the lingering question of whether True Detective glamorizes its characters. You’d be hard-pressed to find either Rust’s or Marty’s 2012 lifestyle very enticing. They occupy their days with long work hours, and then drink or surf the Internet until they fall asleep. True detectives — they’re just like us! Rust, of course, is still fixated on the murders and surrounds himself with the evidential detritus from the case. His storage locker central hangout could be a lot less creepy. Hanging papers up everywhere is par for the course, but spray-painting 'SCARS,' 'CARCOSA,' and 'THE YELLOW KING' on the wall in huge letters is maybe slight overkill.” —Grantland

"It's worth noting that however bad his scars might be, they're hardly tentacles. I'm not a betting man, but it seems likely that when Cohle, Hart, Papagania, and Gilbough all reach their final destination in the season finale, neither Cthulhu nor any other supernatural entity will be present. Perhaps the Tuttles and Ledouxes simply latched on to a convenient fiction, a fantastical vision that fueled their cruelty — like Charles Manson finding incitements to race war in the White Album, or Jeffrey Dahmer building an altar of body parts in hopes that he could gain the powers of the Emperor from Return of the Jedi. If the furious drive to "solve" True Detective before its final hour is unveiled tells us anything, it's that the stories we tell ourselves are often just as powerful as the reality. Hell, a few twitter back-and-forths about a pan I wrote, combined with evocative but likely meaningless coincidences like this one, and my brain concocted a double-feature of symbolic violence in this show's honor." —Rolling Stone

"With Pizzolatto describing the last two episodes of 'True Detective' as the third act of his saga, much of 'After You've Gone' plays like a table setting for the finale, but still, an undeniably riveting one. What's in store for the last hour of the series we're not going to guess, but Martin's visit to Maggie — for the first time in two years — indicates he's expecting to perhaps not come out of it alive. His visit is so out of sorts that Maggie asks him pointedly if he's trying to say his final goodbye to her, and her visit to Rust out of concern for her ex-husband seems small, but crucial. 'My whole life is one expanding, circular fuck up,' Rust tells Martin. Let's just hope that when that circle comes back around, they both survive." —Playlist

"Some people had theorized that in an extravagant climactic twist, the Yellow King would turn out to be Marty, and while there are some intriguing visual red herrings to suggest that outcome, it now seems highly implausible that either detective, for all their flaws, is involved in covering up or perpetrating any of this. What has made this debut season of True Detective so deeply satisfying is that the murder mystery plotline is in service of a more universal story about two estranged men and their isolation and cruelty and weakness. Yes, Marty is a human tampon who deserves his fate, but that doesn't make the montage of him drearily surfing Match.com and eating TV dinner alone any less heartbreaking. And how perfectly pitiful is it that he names his company Hart Investigation Services, a.k.a. HIS?" Gothamist

"The ultimate twist of True Detective may be the cosmically depressing truth that sometimes there is no justice. The case was a focal point in many ways of the episode, but it also really spent most of its hour healing the time and pain between Rust and Marty, and allowing them to finish what they had started 17 years ago. Rust’s desire to work outside of the system (though using Marty’s connections within it to grab some necessary files to help them), and his dogged desire to finish this case seems to be the crux of this series. Rust obtaining the child pornography and the video means nothing in a court of law, as it was illegally obtained. Holding the Sheriff at gunpoint isn’t going to stand, and neither is pulling down five probably very wealthy men who enjoy the dark arts. But Rust, and ultimately Marty, don’t care. By whatever means necessary, they will end this cycle of violence. Or die trying." Collider

"And one of the great things about the time-spanning structure of this season is the way we get to see the partnership evolve over a long period, from the uneasy alliance of 1995 to the bitter 7-year itch of 2002 to these two being so old and weary and useless in the company of anyone else that it might finally occur to Rust to ask Marty about his personal life. There is nothing for either of them but each other and this last piece of business. Both seem at peace with the idea that they might die closing the case, or at least go to prison — Marty's visit to Maggie was that of a man saying his final farewell — almost as if they know that their story only has an hour to go before the world never sees either one of them again." HitFix

"With one episode left, Rust and Marty are going for broke, forsaking the law and their own well-being, just like they did the first time around. Whatever happens to them — whether they die or live, find the Yellow King or go mad trying — it will be something that brings the circle to a close." —GQ

"Now that the rules and regulations attached to a badge are out of sight and out of mind, Cohle is willing to employ whatever means necessary to get to the bottom of the case. He doesn't even need more than a second to suggest torturing the 'cocksucker' Geraci into talking. So cat burgling Tuttle's mansion and now DIY electro-torture? Could this be any more awesome? It's too bad we only get to see Cohle's unencumbered, laser-focused brand of vigilante justice for two episodes." —Esquire

"Marty Hart has committed the most egregious sin in the Book of Male Antihero: He’s gone ordinary. In the parlance of St. Martin of Scorsese, patron saint of lovable assholes, captivating monsters, and psychos worth rooting for, he’s a schnook. With a private investigation firm on the wane, a dance card full of mundane Match.com profiles, and a frozen dinner waiting for him at home, he may as well put on a bathrobe and go pick up Henry Hill’s morning paper. It’s commendable that True Detective has allowed Marty to fall this far — but I’m worried that former state police detective Hart is angling for a redemption story." A.V. Club

"So Rust and Marty achieve some kind of middle-aged detente–Rust with his rat-tail stache and haunted eyes, Marty with his gut hanging over his golf pants. The upside for us is that after last week’s letdown of an hour, “After You’ve Gone” spends its time mainly with the two leads (and the only two well-developed characters in the series). It is still unclear exactly what Rust and Marty will find when they get to the rotting heart of this mystery — or whether Gilbough and Papania won’t get there first, having unwittingly come across Scarface in the last moments of the episode. We may have things left to learn about our protagonists before this story is over. I’m betting — hoping, maybe — that having so wholly embraced Rust’s perspective, True Detective will somehow upend that, rather than using him as the show’s Nietzschean Mary Sue to the end." —Time

"Here’s one thought that hadn’t occurred to me before: satire. We’ve always known True Detective plays with the tropes of the cops-and-killers genre, but in this past hour there were times when I wondered whether the show was straight-up making fun of the characters and maybe even the audience. Creepy music and dark lighting ratchets up tension before it’s revealed that Rust’s storage unit is basically a True Detective comment thread in diorama form. A lovely old lady reminisces warmly until some twig drawings send her into a mad fit of coughing and “Carcosa!” The jolly lawnmower man makes a nefarious-sounding reveal to the camera after detectives cut him off mid-sentence and drive away. All of these things are presented like revelations, but they feel more like camp. They’re images out of an airport paperback, recycled to tell us things we already know. Rust’s obsessed. Carcosa’s some lunatic swamp ideology involving the Tuttles. And salt-of-the-Earth Louisiana contains dark secrets. It almost feels as though the show is laughing at us for obsessing over it as a murder mystery: The next twist is … not really a twist!" —Atlantic

Photo: LACEY TERRELL/HBO