'True Detective' Season Finale Recap: Rust And Marty Come Face To Face With Killer Errol Childress
Rust Cohle and Marty Hart finally get their man, and almost lose their lives, in the season finale of HBO’s True Detective, “Form and Void.”
The episode started with our serial murderer, Errol Childress (Glenn Fleshler), the man with the burn scars on his jaw. Errol’s house is a mess, packed with old papers, VHS tapes and creepy, half broken dolls. Dirty laundry, old clothes and sheets are strewn about the house. Errol’s garage is equally terrifying. He stands, shirtless, in front of a presumably dead body attracting flies. Errol’s back is covered in scars, and the walls are covered in red writing. He talks to the corpse for a moment, and then leaves, saying “Bye, Daddy,” and goes inside the main house to do a freakishly good Cary Grant impression and hook up with his disabled girlfriend (who is most likely a distant relative of some kind).
Rust And Marty Get A Lead: The Childress Family
Now officially working together, Rust (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty (Woody Harrelson) are right where we left them: on a fishing boat questioning Steve Geraci (Michael Harvey) at gunpoint. Rust forces him to watch the tape of ritualistic child abuse featuring Marie Fontenot, the girl he said had been with family, not missing. Steve admits that he never knew himself that the little girl had been reunited with family. It was his superior, Sheriff Ted Childress, who told him that the girl was with her family and not to ask questions: “I just follow what the big man says. It’s how this all works,” he says.
The trio gets back to shore and Marty and Rust take Geraci’s badge and gun and threaten to ruin his career if he tells anyone about their interrogation. Rusty even says that there’s a sniper ready to shoot him if he talks. Geraci calls his bluff, and bullets start firing, making holes in Geraci’s fancy car.
Marty and Rust head to Marty’s PI office and go to work digging up information on Sheriff Ted Childress. Marty has a breakthrough when looking at pictures of the crime scene where Marie Fontenot went missing. He notices a small house was repainted bright green right around the time the girl disappeared, and that maybe that green paint was why the spaghetti monster had green ears. Rust and Marty head over to the house in question and trace it back to its old owner, a woman living in a retirement home. She tells them that she remembers having her house painted in 1995 by men contracted through their local church. They were nice men, she said, that did work for the parish. She also recalled that the younger man had scars along his jaw.
In the car, Marty and Rust clear the air about Marty’s ex wife, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan). Marty tells Rust that he knows that Maggie initiated their one night stand and he doesn’t want to blame him for it. Rust takes a bit of responsibility for it, and then says that Maggie came to see him and that she worries about Marty. Rust goes off on a philosophical rant, as he is known to do, infuriating Marty, but it seems the detectives have found a bit more common ground.
Based off the information from the homeowner, Rust and Marty dig up her tax returns to find who they worked for: Billy Childress, the same name as the sheriff who covered Marie Fontenot’s disappearance. The Childress maintenance company has done work all over the coast, and Marty and Rust track down Billy Childress’ old address based on his DMV license.
Before storming over to the address to investigate, Rust and Marty take precautions. Rust makes copies of the tape of Marie Fontenot and gathers up old case files and his theories on the case, including the ties to the Tuttle family. He prepares envelopes to be sent in to news stations, newspapers and the authorities and gives them to his boss at the bar. If the boss doesn’t hear from him in the next 24 hours, then he is to send them all. Meanwhile, Marty meets with Detective Papania (Tory Kittles). He doesn’t reveal much, though Papania knows that he and Rust are up to something. He tells the detective enough to ensure that, if Marty calls, Papania will call in the cavalry to meet Marty and Rust wherever they are.
With their affairs in order, Marty and Rust drive over to the Childress estate, hidden in back swamplands and completely isolated from any larger community or town. When they arrive, Rust looks around and is sure this is the place – their murderer is here. Marty tries to call Papania, but there’s no cell service. Rust decides to canvas out back while Marty knocks on the door to ask to use the phone, gun at the ready.
The disabled, and slightly crazy, woman answers the door, but doesn’t let Marty in, saying that she doesn’t have a phone. While they struggle by the door, a dog escapes the house and runs out back. Rust goes out back, finds a dog shot dead behind the garage and tells Marty to clear the house, so Marty breaks down the door and forces his way inside. Looking through the house, he doesn’t find much, but the state of the house is enough to let him know that this is, indeed, the place. He puts a gun to the woman’s head and demands to know where the phone is.
Rust spots Childress out back, standing by the trees, staring at him. He takes out his gun and tells Childress to stop. Childress appears un-phased, turns and runs. Rust follows, and is led to a terrifying maze of brick tunnels covered in ritualistic graffiti resembling what was found at the church, and filled with what looks like giant nests of twigs and mummified bodies. Errol eggs Rust on, whispering creepy messages like, “Come die with me,” luring Rust into the center of the maze.
Rust finds himself in a giant dome, with an opening at the top where the sunlight shines through. For a moment, Rust looks up and sees a tornado-like portal reaching into the room from the sky above. That moment is interrupted when Errol Childress comes at him from behind, and stabs him in the stomach before Rust even has time to react. They fight, with Childress jabbing his knife so deep into Rust that he literally picks Rust up with it, causing the blade to move up towards Rust’s chest. Rust head butts him, finally getting Childress to fall back, and collapses on the floor with the knife sticking out of his stomach. As Childress gets back up, axe in hand, Marty comes bursting in and shoots Errol in the shoulder. The bullets don’t do much to stop Childress, who just throws his axe right at Marty’s chest. Errol approaches Marty, digging the axe out of his chest and getting ready to strike again. Just as he’s about to kill Marty for good, Rust rolls over and shoots him in the head.
The two detectives are barely alive, but Marty manages to crawl over to Rust and watches as Rust pulls the knife out of his gut. Marty tries to comfort Rust as sirens start blaring in the background and a flare gun is set off overhead. Marty did find a phone and manage to call Papania.
Light Versus Dark
Marty wakes up in the hospital and recounts his version of events to Papania and his partner. They tell him that they found proof of voodoo worship and pedophilia. Papania starts telling Marty about Childress and the crazy woman at the house, but Marty doesn’t want to hear about the family and he’s only partially satisfied to hear that they matched knives found at the Childress estate to their other murders. Case closed, or so it would seem. Rust is still in a coma.
Marty is visited by his ex and daughters, and he finally breaks down in tears. When Rust finally wakes up, he is similarly shaken, especially when he hears that the Tuttle family has been cleared from any suspicions regarding their connections to the ritualistic child sacrifices and abuse found on the tape.
Days or weeks later, when Rust is close to being released from the hospital, Marty comes by and takes him out for a cigarette. Marty doesn’t know how to move past what they’ve seen, past the darkness. Rust tells him that he’s not meant to be here, not meant to have survived. When he was dying, he felt his dead daughter’s love, and he wanted so badly to let go of his life and be with her. Marty tries to cheer Rust up by distracting him, reminding him of how Rust once said he used to look to the stars in Alaska and create stories. Rust says, as far as he can tell, the stars in the sky only tell one story: that of “light versus dark.” Marty looks up and says that there is a lot more dark than light, but, in a new twist, Rust says that, to the contrary, the light is winning.
Rust doesn’t want to stay in the hospital and decides he’s leaving and Marty is breaking him out. “I’d protest, but it occurs to me you’re unkillable,” grumbles Marty, supporting Rust as they walk away from the hospital.
– Olivia Truffaut-Wong
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