What are we all going to do after next week? I can’t remember the last time the collective internet so immediately and thoroughly dove into a show, always eager to discuss plot points, gender politics, and crazy theories. Even Breaking Bad took a while to catch on; True Detective was noisy from the start. “After You’ve Gone” is the penultimate episode of the first season and it’s suspiciously quiet. By this time next week, we should have all the answers — with a new story and new cast next season, I can’t imagine they’ll leave many loose ends — so it’s worrying that “After You’ve Gone” wasn’t the best or most memorable episode of the series so far but kudos to the show for crafting such excellent episodes that even a good one feels a bit disappointing.
Don’t get me wrong: There was nothing bad about “After You’ve Gone.” It felt off, maybe because so much is now out in the open — as it should be, by now. Hart and Cohle aren’t dancing around each other in separate interviews anymore. They have come together and meet for the first time in years over a beer (“Father Time has a way with us all. Looks like you must have pissed him off,” deadpans Marty Hart, giving me a line for all future high school reunions) but there’s still clear animosity there (that will happen when you sleep with your partner’s wife). Cohle has been living in Alaska, drinking away his days, and dealing with the guilt from the Dora Lange case.
Reggie Ledoux is dead and a girl is saved (albeit in a mental hospital) but the similar murders means they didn’t fully solve the case. Hart and Cohle both have their debits. Cohle is dedicated to paying it off, Hart needs a little more convincing. Hart doesn’t ever want to help Cohle — not only does he prefer to let Cohle drown, but he wants to ensure that drowning happens — but he agrees to, anyway. True Detective masculinity rule #49: Men always pay off their debts. Also, of course, there is the natural curiosity. Hart is still a detective, even if he’s no longer on the force and instead has a failing private investigation firm, and he has to solve this case.
They head to Cohle’s secret creepy storage shed and watch an upsetting video of what happened to Marie Fontenot. Woody Harrelson shows off his acting chops and suddenly Hart and Cohle are reluctant partners once again (I longed for a tension break and “The Boys Are Back In Town” to start playing). They delve into the Tuttle family, Hart makes up a lie about becoming an author and writing a true crime book in order to get access to old case files, they talk to a mad woman babbling about Carcosa (another confusing lead), and they both — separately — meet back up with Hart’s wife, Maggie.
Hart briefly asks about his daughters and is given just-as-brief responses. He asks why she was being interviewed by the cops and she succinctly answers that it was about the 2002 fight (the fight that she was in the middle of). Later, Maggie is the one who seeks Cohle out by going to his bar and “classing the place up.” It is, again, an all too brief conversation but it’s all about Maggie’s worry: she worries that the two of them working together again will almost certainly mean something is going to go south and that someone will end up hurt or dead. It’s a legitimate worry, and I share it.
But the biggest kicker in the episode revolves around Hart and Cohle’s former boss, Steve Geraci who played cover up around the time of the murders. Hart and Geraci hang out on the golf course and it becomes clear that Geraci is lying and that he isn’t ready to come clean, even with the opportunities Hart is giving him. Plan B? Get Geraci on a boat where Cohle is secretly hiding and either scare or beat the truth out of him — but we’ll have to wait to see how that turns out. From there, it’s a quick jump to two other (true?) detectives questioning a groundskeeper aimlessly mowing in circles (it’s the groundskeeper who bears a striking resemblance to the scarred man). The episode ends on an eerie note — “My family has been here for a long, long time,” the unnamed man says to no one in particular — and I’m not entirely sure what to make of the whole thing but I know it’s going to be a very, very long week waiting to watch the conclusion.