It took 17 years for former Louisiana Criminal Investigations Division detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart to reach the brink of solving the case of their lives and put an end to its sprawling, infecting darkness. And it took just two short months and seven episodes for the growing legion of True Detective fanatics to get whipped into an obsessive frenzy to see where the many clues unearthed by Cohle and Hart take them. As we head toward Sunday night’s finale, let’s take a detailed look at the evidence to see which perpetrator or, more likely, perpetrators may still be waiting for Rust and Cohle at the end of their long road.
Of course, some unambiguously complicit parties, such as the slippery, heinous-videotape-having Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle (played by Jay O. Sanders) and those meth-cooking, child-molesting cousins Reggie and Dewall Ledoux (actors Charles Halford and the awesomely named Olafur Darri Olaffson, respectively), are no longer living in the 2012 time line where Rust and Marty’s casework is now taking place and therefore don’t merit longer discussion here — but that doesn’t make them any less guilty. And while we could get burned by a big-time TV plot twist, we’re also going to eliminate Rust and Marty themselves from the proceedings, as the Butch-and-Sundance events in episode seven seem to have absolved them of any lingering suspicion. As for the other characters possibly involved — or not — the hour is nigh for their reckoning — or not.
These heinous crimes don’t just go back decades in time; they also climb to the highest ranks of political office, courtesy of Billy Lee Tuttle’s cousin, the Louisiana Governor turned U.S. Senator. Or so it would seem. The public official has yet to be implicitly connected to the disturbing crimes committed on his deceased cousin’s treasured videotape or to any of the other wrongdoings, for that matter, or even to appear in person on the show. But it is largely implied that he’s the grand wizard of the evil taking part in and around Erath. It stands to reason that his political perch would give him plenty of influence over local elections, and at least two elected lawmen (Sheriff Childress and Sheriff Geraci) have already been implicated. During his time as governor, he could have appointed yes men in key positions to look the other way (*cough cough* Commander Speece *cough cough*). And as a federal lawmaker, he’d be able to use his lobbying clout to help ensure that the backwater areas surrounding Erath were kept free of outside development, thereby preserving the Tuttle (and Childress and Ledoux and any other purportedly bastard wing spawned by deceased patriarch Sam Tuttle, himself the former sheriff of Vermilion Parish) way of life. Yes, the senator has yet to be introduced except in passing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he hasn’t already made a cameo. If you can believe the addled memories of Sam Tuttle’s former longtime domestic Delores Jackson, who claimed to Cohle and Hart that Eddie and his cousin Billy Lee were always running around together when they were younger, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the senator was one of the masked, costumed figures in that stomach-churning videotape, or that he’d gone to great lengths — killing Billy Lee Tuttle for losing the tape, siccing Gilbrough and Papania on Cohle for continuing to ask the right questions — to make sure no one ever connected the dots.
Level of complicity: Guilty as kin.
When Rust and Marty’s circa-’95 CID colleague Steve Geraci (Orange Is the New Black’s Michael Harney) reappears as a person of interest in “After You’ve Gone,” he should really know better. That game of golf with Marty was suspicious from hole one, but Geraci couldn’t resist demonstrating how far he’d come since being bitch-slapped by Rust way back in episode one. He’s the sheriff of Iberia Parish now, goddammit, and he drives a Maserati now, and he drives it fast. Unfortunately, he’s too dim-witted to see that Marty has been corroborating with Rust again and shaking people down until they pull the curtain back on Marie Fontenot’s disappearance. He’s also a terrible liar, and probably an even worse sheriff (a post one assumes he’d been installed in as kick-back for going along with former Vermilion Parish lawman and probable Tuttle kinsman Sheriff Childress’s whole “Marie’s with her birth dad” cover-up), so his wickedness likely ends at garden-variety corruption possibly fueled by the alcohol problem he copped to having had back then. As hinted at in the cryptic trailer for episode eight, his punishment might well be death by rifle, but no doubt he’ll earn some sort of comeuppance.
Level of complicity: Aiding and abetting horrible men.
As we learned in episode seven through the interview with Dolores Jackson, Tuttle DNA is common throughout Vermilion Parish and beyond, thanks to Sam Tuttle, who, she claimed, tired of sexual partners if he got them pregnant, which apparently happened often. Sheriff Childress (who, like Senator Eddie Tuttle, we also have yet to meet in the flesh) is almost certainly one of Sam Tuttle’s bastard sons — and may well have one or more of his own. When Cohle asks Dolores Jackson about the scarred-face baddie, she recalled that the scarred man was a grandson of Sam Tuttle and likely a Childress; she also said that the scarring had been caused by his (unnamed) father. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that this abominable father is none other than the former Vermilion Parish sheriff, who, with the help of a pre-CID Geraci, covered up what had happened to Marie Fontenot. What’s unclear is whether he’s alive or dead; according to Sheriff Tate, his successor as head lawman of Vermilion Parish, he’d moved up to the Gulf Shores area circa 1990. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t in Carcosa now, waiting for Rust and Marty to put it all together.
Level of complicity: Major player.
Detectives Maynard Gilbough and Thomas Papania
It’s safe to guess that Gilbough (Michael Potts) and Papania (Tory Kittles) aren’t Tuttle kin, and they seem to be following all the wrong leads, edging the truth in clean circles that the Lawnmower Man might admire. But that doesn’t exclude the possibility that they’ve operated willingly under direct orders to frame and authenticate a case that pegs Rust for the 2012 Lake Charles murder. It’s too soon to exonerate them completely, but it’s also equally likely that they turn out to be true detectives.
Level of complicity: Unwitting pawns in the great evil.
Major Leroy Salter
We don’t know what became of Major Quesada, but come 2002, Major Salter’s (Paul Ben-Victor) been at CID long enough to bristle when Marty calls him “Leroy” during serious disciplinary action. It’s reasonable to propose Salter’s involvement, but his frustration with Rust and Marty seems to earnestly stem from their patent disregard for the rules. Still, he does suspend Cohle in a way that even Marty says is too harsh; could the punishment have been influenced by known Tuttle crony Speece, the Lousiana State police commander, who’d sat in on their meeting with his typical sour-face?
Level of complicity: Minor involvement, if any.
And speaking of that stone-faced James Rebhorn lookalike sitting in on the meeting where Major Salter snatched Cohle’s gun and badge? The one who looked tired and weary when he snapped, “Hey, dipshit, you don’t get to decide what kind of conversation it was” at Rust after his shakedown of Billy Lee Tuttle (who he’d smugly escorted around C.I.D. back in episode one)? And what about Speece’s hangdog expression when Rust made and held eye contact with him? The one that conveyed anger and shame? This guy’s no grand wizard, and he may not know everything, but he sure seems to know something — and he seems to know better than to have let it happen.
Level of complicity: Guilt by association.
Major Ken Quesada
Sad you didn’t see Kevin Dunn do his best work in True Detective? Don’t be too sad, as he’s coming back in all his profane glory for Veep’s third season this April. ’Tis odd that a known quantity such as Dunn would inhabit a relatively thankless role like Rust and Marty’s ’95 superior, no? Just as it felt off, until he reappeared five episodes later, that Jay O. Sanders wouldn’t find his way back into the frame sometime after the pilot. Maybe Quesada will be unmasked in the finale. Perhaps he was ousted by the powers that be for not containing the nuisance that was Detectives Hart and Cohle (we saw what an issue that was for Salter once Rust got the devils nest bug up his butt again). Or he was just an administrator whose two top guns bagged him the win of a lifetime with Reggie Ledoux’s demise, and time moved on. Or maybe he just retired. Or died of natural causes, untarnished. We’ll find out when all is said … and Dunn.
Level of complicity: Probably not.
We met Joel Theriot (Boardwalk Empire’s Shea Whigham), preacher for the Friends of Christ Revival evangelist church, in the midst of a fiery “Locked Room” sermon. He was dismayed to hear about the murder of Dora Lange, and positive that his mentally challenged, prison-castrated worshipper Toby had nothing to do with it. But still, he was among the first who could be accused of keeping something secret. Well, jump ahead a few episodes later to 2002, and Theriot’s folded his tent and dedicated himself to the higher power of booze. He’s got nothing left to lose, so why not open up to Cohle about the time he accidentally knocked over a book belonging to Austin Farrar, one of Billy Lee Tuttle’s deacons, and found a picture he’d kept inside the tome of naked schoolkids. Theriot took the matter as far as it could go up the Tuttle ministries food chain, but maybe he should have gone further, and over the Tuttles’ heads, as vigilant in the hunt for justice as Rust himself? Or, alternatively, let those men keep their clandestine habits and collapse into faithlessness. Is there a sadder living witness than this guy?
Level of complicity: May know more than he’s revealed.
Jake Herbert (a.k.a. Maggie’s dad)
Marty’s disapproving father-in-law has been a popular target of fan suspicion ever since the first episode, and why not? He’s a loathsome conservative who’s just the kind of good ol’ fatcat folks can easily see preserving some entitled local rite. Thing is, most of the real-life history that parallels the Tuttles’ winter festivities originates in anti-noble ethos, and Maggie’s pops seems more like the aristocratic, new-money type, the kind that rubbed off on Maggie and her posh 2012 lifestyle. Even if he were a murdering, pedophilic furry — or even just the regular old non-murdering, non-furry pedophilic sort — it’s doubtful he’s a major player in the sweeping conspiracy. But we have to say, these arguments against the Herberts, including Maggie herself, are compelling, but their involvement would constitute a pretty major twist.
Level of Complicity: This ship may have sailed.
He looks kind of like Sam Elliott, but the similarities seem to end there, since we don’t really hear the guy speak. But what we do know about Robert Doumain (played by Johnny McPhail) by the end of “After You’ve Gone” is that he owns the shithole dive bar where Rust works and that the guy’s son disappeared in 1985. In the trailer for Sunday’s finale, we see Doumain laying in the weeds with a rifle, seemingly waiting on Rust’s signal to drop the hammer — but a True Detective teaser might not be the most reliable predictor of future events. Is Doumain a family victim of the Carcosa rites, ready to trade nihilistic self-abuse alongside Marty and Rust and end the cycle of violence and degradation? Or is he a soldier in some kind of regional, spiritual culture clash? And is he aiming at Geraci, Cohle, Hart or someone else entirely? It seems likely that these questions will be answered Sunday.
Level of Complicity: Almost certainly more an ally than an adversary.
Errol (a.k.a. the Lawnmower Man)
Is this our Tall Man, our Giant, our Spaghetti Monster, our Man With Scars? Is Errol our Yellow King, or just a brutish serf obeying the order of a crown that’s been passed down between Tuttles and Childresses as they find their winter queens? Whatever that hulking groundskeeper’s origin story and future intentions might be, he’s got all the markings of being True Detective’s Big Bad and the facial scars to match. Anyone who announces to a receding car’s dust trail that his family has claimed residence in that there territory for many years is, at minimum, guarding the entryway to terrible things.
Level of Complicity: Oh, shit!