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Recap: ‘True Detective’ Season 1, Episode 7 Investigates ‘After You’ve Gone’

Recap: 'True Detective' Season 1, Episode 7 Investigates 'After You've Gone'

“I don’t dwell in the past,” Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) tells his former partner Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) in their first conversation in a decade, but neither can escape it. For Martin, the past is a series of mistakes and choices he’s continually trying to correct, to varying degrees of success. When he meets Rust, he tells him he’s trying (again) to stay away from the bottle, revealing he hasn’t had a drop in a few weeks (suggesting he’s forever relapsing into bad habits). As for Rust, the past continues to consume him in the shape of Reggie Ledoux, with the unanswered questions and knowledge that his death was just one loose thread in a larger tangle of horror still lingering. But where has Rust been?

Detective Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts) and Detective Thomas Papania (Tory Kittles) have been throwing a cloud of suspicion around Rust in their interviews, questioning whether or not he’s truly been away. But Rust tells Martin the same story he told the detectives. “Most of the last decade I spent stone drunk. Functional, but hammered,” he says, confirming that he was working fishing boats and tending bar in Alaska. But it’s the “debt” he feels he owes that brought Rust back to Louisiana in 2010, and he knows that Martin also feels there’s work that needs to be finished. He reminds Martin that shooting Reggie Ledoux in the head closed off any opportunities they had to find out the extent of the conspiracy—a theory Rust has been diligently re-building for the past two years. But he needs Martin’s help and connections to bring it all together and decides to share with him what he hasn’t shown anyone else.

The pair head to the mysterious storage locker that Gilbough and Papania have been asking to see, and within is a room papered with maps, drawings, the words The Yellow King, Scars and Carcosa written on the walls—it looks, as Martin assesses, like the work of someone who has been “alone too long.” But Rust has a helluva story to tell, and Martin can’t deny that it’s compelling. It’s a theory Rust describes as a “sprawl,” with the latest link in the chain the Lake Charles murder, which still has yet to be reported in the press. And it spreads to numerous women and children who have disappeared along the bayou, often within a ten-mile radius of a Tuttle school. It goes back further, with Rust establishing something perhaps generational, with current state senator Eddie Tuttle a cousin to the late Reverend Billy Tuttle, and certainly someone with the power to keep the killings under wraps. But as Martin notes, it’s all “conjecture” at this point, and Rust still has no real evidence with which to make his case, and delicately, his sanity is questioned. “I had my time when I wondered if this was all in my head,” Rust states. “That time has passed.”

But Rust needs Martin’s “access” to case files and research databases to keep going, and he’ll need to convince him that this isn’t a wild goose chase spurred by guilt or mourning. And again, Rust shares with Martin what he hasn’t told Gilbough and Papania (because as he says, they might be unknowing “pawns” in the grand scheme of this horror). Rust admits to casing and breaking into two of Tuttle’s home, noting that only one of the robberies was ever officially reported, and what he found cleared away any notions that he might have been building something out of nothing. In Tuttle’s safe, Rust uncovered photos that confirm rituals involving children, but it’s a terrifying video documenting the death of Marie Fonteneau (cleverly remaining mostly off screen, though showing a girl being held down by a group of men in masks, with her legs open, which says all you need to know) that seals the deal that Rust is on to something. He didn’t kill Tuttle as Gilbough and Papania believe, but Rust thinks that once word got out among the people the Reverend associated with about what was taken from safe, he was eliminated. Martin is convinced, and he’s on board.

What follows is an old-fashioned investigation. Martin is four years off the force, quitting after finding a dead baby in a microwave belonging to an meth addict, vowing it would be the last time he’d ever subject himself to something like that. But he’s now running his own private investigation service, and still knows the right people in uniform to bribe with a bottle of single malt to get the info he needs. And it turns out Rust’s idea that the truth behind the killings involves “family trees” is spot on. But no matter how far the branches spread, the answer lies with one person: the man with the scars. 

Marty and Rust continue to dig, and everything starts coalescing after a visit with an elderly former employee of Sam Tuttle, the Reverend’s father. She reveals that Sam had children with many women, implying that after they had given birth, he was no longer interested in them. And when Rust asks about any of the kids having scars, the woman reveals that she knew him, and he was a grandchild on the Childress side of the family. And then things take a turn to the eerie when Rust shows her some drawings of the strange twig sculptures. “Carcosa,” she says before repeating over and over, “Death is not the end, rejoice.” To remind you, as writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto has stated, ”…Carcosa is the domain of the Yellow King. For viewers it should be taken as a signifier of the larger mythology unfolding around this case.”

That mythology goes all way back to the series first episode “The Long Bright Dark” (that you’ll definitely want to rewatch). Dora Lange’s body was found just outside of Erath, which we learn is the home of the Tuttle family, on January 3rd, notably pointed at the sun. Why is that date significant? Because Rust believes that part of the rituals involved in the killings center around Saturnalia, a festival of light, celebrating the winter solstice, which in ancient times involved human sacrifice. Other practices of Saturnalia are presided over by a priest with his head covered. Sound familiar? There’s more. The illustration of the “green eared spaghetti monster” first surfaced in the premiere episode, as does the name Ted Childress, the sheriff who first took the report about the missing Marie Fonteneau. And then there’s Steve Geraci (Michael Harvey). He beefed briefly with Rust way back in 1995 in the police department, but his role turns out be much bigger than expected. He took the original complaint about Marie Fonteneau, and moreover, Erath was his beat, so if there was anyone able to make a case disappear, or at least know the players involved, it would be him. So Martin makes the first play to try and get some info out of Geraci in 2012, and it becomes clear he’s lying. So Plan B is enacted, and before the episode closes, Rust has Geraci at gunpoint on Martin’s boat, willing to do whatever it takes to get the answers he needs.

But the final twist of the episode is perhaps the most resonant. “You know the detective’s curse? Solution was right under my nose, but I was paying attention to the wrong clues?” Martin previous asked rhetorically of Gilbough and Papania, but little does he realize how prophetic that statement will be. Those two detectives close out “After You’ve Gone” following up on Rust’s stories, heading to The Son Of Life church, again last seen in “The Long Bright Dark,” and they are hopelessly lost (reminder: the minister played by Clarke Peters told Rust and Martin that the twig sculptures were taught to him to be “devil’s nets”). The pair stop to ask a man riding a lawnmower for directions, and he informs them the church has long since closed and gives them directions back to the highway. “I know the whole coast,” the man tells the cops, who quickly drive away. They should have stuck around. As the man gets up, his face his scarred, he continues the conversation with himself, intoning with a palpable chill, “…my family’s been here a long, long time.”

Attentive viewers have seen this man before: in episode three, “The Locked Room,” Rust talks to him outside The Way Of The Light school (where he was also mowing the lawn) as they were trying to track down Reggie Ledoux. Perhaps he didn’t see the man’s scars under the beard he had at the time. Or perhaps he was struck by the detective’s curse, unable to see solution right in front of his face. As Flavorwire pointed out a week ago, the Lawnmower Man (as they call him) is the key to The Yellow King, and he’s been hiding in plain sight. And for all the wild theories being spun about the secrets behind the killings, the fact that the biggest clue is out the open, undiscovered, is perhaps the most frightening. 

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. [B]

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The King in Yellow

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brendog | March 5, 2014 12:31 PMReply

If anybody has seen the final episode preview, I think that it's now clear that:

a.) Maggies' mom is the one with a gun to her head ( I don't agree – too dirty )
b.) Maggies' dad is "worse then anybody…" (Yes, I think maybe Audrey saw a video or pictures at Grand Pa's house. Shortly afterwards she poses the dolls in the rape scene )
c.) Audrey was a witness to the rapes/killings of children (guest of Maggies dad) but not a victim….( Yes, see B )
d.) as a witness, she is sexually active young, draws the drawings, and throws her sister's tiara (deer antler crown resembling) into the tree ( Yes, ironic Grand Pa was complaining to Marty about young people in black, etc. Self fulfilling prophecy ? His fault ? )
e.) the creepy house in the preview is…Maggie's families house from 1995, now overgrown…needs a good lawn mowing :) ( No, I think that's the Hunting Lodge or perhaps the scene of the sacrifices, Corcosa museum of Clan victims ? )
Notice in Ep 8 preview that Steve Gerachi is on the ground next to his unethically acquired car in someone's rifle scope cross hairs. I think the Clan and Rev Tuttle's killers take him out. Not Cohles bar buddy Bob ) We're having a lot of fun guessing the outcomes, but seems like we'll have a lot of loose ends with only one hour to go – Polliop

That's my theory and I'm open to debate…anyone???


If anybody has seen the final episode preview, I think that it's now clear that:

a.) Maggies' mom is the one with a gun to her head
b.) Maggies' dad is "worse then anybody…"
c.) Audrey was a witness to the rapes/killings of children (guest of Maggies dad) but not a victim….
d.) as a witness, she is sexually active young, draws the drawings, and throws her sister's tiara (deer antler crown resembling) into the tree
e.) the creepy house in the preview is…Maggie's families house from 1995, now overgrown…needs a good lawn mowing :)

That's my theory and I'm open to debate…anyone???


I find the two main characters a lot more compelling than the story. To me, the actual story is pretty convoluted and not all that interesting, but I am still enjoying the show.

L Tot

Oh, man…. That theory that Maggie's dad is involved intrigues me.


Nice review. This show is really delivering on it's early promise. While some have exorciated those who look too deeply into this show (and yes, it does go too far at times with the whole Marty is the yellow king! business), there is clearly a ton of attention paid to every aspect of this show by everyone involved. There are a few important Checkovian guns left to go off, one of which goes unmentioned in this article: The Hart children, Audrey in particular. This episode seals the deal for me that Audrey was exposed to that horrible ritual we saw in the video.
There are so many details pointing to this.
My friend and I have been obsessively cataloging them and blogging about them in a blog called A Guy, A Girl and Cthulhu (can't post links but you can look it up by that title)
There is a hell of a lot to find in this show, without a doubt. Not all of it is rorschach.

harlow jean

The Yellow King doesn't have to be an actual person…more like an idea; a name standing for something bigger.


My theory: The rich and powerful guys are a big underground society of pedophiles and they invented a fake cult (exploiting local mythology) to get trashy/druggy/impressionable people to procure or give up their children just so that they (the rich men) could have their way without getting caught…like Ledoux, Dewall and Errol (who seems to be the head of that part of the operation–maybe the Tuttles "appointed" him as a "cult leader"…the Yellow King perhaps?). So those guys kidnap and drug the kids, the rich guys molest them, and then they "sacrifice" them. And I think the women killed are cult members that sacrificed themselves under brainwashing/drugs. I think Marie Fontenot's mother was a cult member and gave her to them.

I think the schools were started for the same reason–to procure children.

I think Austin Farrar was going to blackmail them (so the head minister would have been a pedo) with the pictures Joel Theriot found. And they killed him. That's why Joel hadn't been killed–Farrar never reported it because he decided to blackmail them. So they don't know he's the one that found the pics.

And I think in this pedophile society started by Sam Tuttle and his friends are/were Billy Lee Tuttle, Governor Tuttle, Sheriff Childress, Sheriff guy-from-orange-is-the-new-black, head minister of Tuttle's church, maybe Maggie's dad…and who knows how many more.


Might have missed it in the recap, but I really thought Rust's reasoning for coming back was to basically solve this case so he could "get onto doing something else" was one of the most important parts of the episode, as a not-so-subtle way of saying he's planning on ending his life after this case is over. Anyone else get that feeling?


Best recap i've seen since TD began.Pay attention to the picture in the house of Dori Lange's mother , 5 riders on horses around a girl , with masks , episode 2 i think, those are the followers of Yellow King, camera shows the picture twice.


I have analyzed this show over and over and in my opinion it all points to this: a lot of what we are seeing happen is not real; this is a show based out of the mind of a disturbed person. Which of these characters, Rust or Marty, is the real man I don't know but they are one in the same. There are so many clues from episode 1-7. The symbolism within each episode, the stories and faces reoccurring in different roles, pictures becoming paintings, the sly way Rust and Marty mention their father being in Vietnam, they both drink Lone star, they dress the same; Marty the clean cut version and Rust being the edge, the Light of the way school year book that shows 10th grade versions of so many cast members. The references in the interview; its like a memory of a town and the memory is fading, the locked room, to create something from non existence, there are so many subtle clues! Look in the last episode when Marty goes to visit Maggie- the zoom into pictures over a countertop- the scene changes back to Rust and Cohle, then back to Maggie and Marty- now the pictures are above the fireplace. Nothing we are seeing is happening in the present tense. I can't wait to find out next week how and where it all began- what pieces of the story are true and what is just a illusion made in the mind of a crazy man. Then again- maybe I'mway off track.


This has been a great mini-series. All I ask is that all of our questions are answered andwe know the full story behind all of these killings. If that does not happen, I would just as soon have Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy join forces with LT. Columbo in order to continue the investigation next season.


SPOILER: Been speaking to my mate about this, and he came up with a pretty good revelation that Audrey is the new murder at the lake. All the signs suggest this, we haven't seen her in present day, and the implication is that Maggie hasn't spoken to her for a few days, and Marty certainly hasn't. The identity of the victim hasn't been released yet. We know that the Audrey scenes allude to her having experienced something like the case in the past, so it ties nicely into the possibility Maggie's dad is involved as well. Also sets up Marty to be a loose cannon and let his emotions run rampant in the final episode. Food for thought.


I believe Martin has been off the force 6 years. He stuck around another 4 after Rust left.

Blake Blake

Great recap! SPOILER: I found Audrey's painting with the girl with black stars as eyes in this episode very creepy and seems to suggest a Tuttle school was attended by them. Not sure what was going on with Maggie's outfits including the one with white stars if there is some intentional clues thrown in or we are all reading way too much into every little detail. Beginning to wonder though if her father is somehow involved in this. We at least now have a clearer picture of the family tree of the Tuttle's (still some missing dots) that should be cleared up in 8. Lawnmower man at the end was interesting especially mowing in a spiral and add that to Nic saying we finally see the killer at the end (in the inside episode 7). Not sure they are the Yellow King though as it would seem whomever this person is would be much higher up the peking order.

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