Written by Nic Pizzolatto
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
"If the common good's got to make up fairy tales then it's not good for anybody." - Cohle
Detectives Martin Hart and Rust Cohle watch as a forensics team documents the mural they discovered in the abandoned church. Afterwards, the partners locate the revival ministry they believe Dora Lange attended, the Friends of Christ, where a preacher sermonizes a crowd of underprivileged patrons. Hart asserts that faith keeps people in line, but Cohle pities the congregation because they're desperate to transfer "fear and self-loathing to an authoritarian vessel." Religion is part of a "life trap," Cohle explains to detectives Gilbough and Papania years later, the misperception that fulfillment and closure exist, that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
"I know the difference between an idea and a fact." - Hart
After the service, Hart and Cohle speak with the preacher, Joel Theriot, who recognizes Dora's picture from the community's time in Eunice, a six-month stint that ended when the church burnt down. After questioning the congregation, the men come away with one lead: Several of the volunteers recall once seeing her leave with a tall man whose face was scarred.
Between Marie Fontenot and Dora Lange, Cohle believes there's a history behind their killer; he proposes scavenging old case files for overlooked details. Hart stresses that Cohle's obsession with his hypothesis can easily twist evidence. They put out an all points bulletin on tall men with facial scarring.
"You put a ceiling on your life, on everything, because you won't change." - Maggie
Another day, Hart returns home to find his lawn freshly cut and Cohle sitting in his kitchen with Maggie. Marty confronts Rust outside and makes it clear he does not appreciate the favor.
Maggie and Marty question their daughter Macie about suggestive pictures she drew at school. Maggie worries the incident is reflective of larger issues at home - specifically that Marty is never around. Later that night, Marty apologizes for taking their family for granted. The couple can agree on one thing; Marty is "all f***ed up." Moved by his honesty, his wife and he reconnect in a tender moment.
"You just look them in the eyes and the whole story's right there." - Cohle
Hart and Cohle interview various suspects that match the APB's description. Hart is appreciative of Cohle's interrogation techniques; Rust is extremely adept at getting people to talk. It's easy for him, Cohle tells Gilbough and Papania, because he isn't afraid to imagine the darkness in people.
Marty, Maggie, Rust and Jen, a friend of Maggie's, double date at a bar. Rust explains that he has synesthesia, a condition where his senses can become confused. Marty heads to the bar and notices his mistress, Lisa Tragnetti, on a date with another man. When Marty gets jealous, Lisa explains that she doesn't want a future with him; they're over. Later that night, an inebriated Marty shows up at Lisa's apartment. He barges in and attacks the guy she brought home. Meanwhile, Maggie calls Cohle to check if Marty's alibi about having to work is legitimate. Cohle replies honestly -- he doesn't know.
"The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door." - Cohle
That Monday, Cohle fills in Hart about another missing girl who was pulled from a river after a flood. Her death is documented as a drowning, but Cohle believes their suspect killed her. The deceased, Rianne Olivier, had drugs in her system and a spiral tattoo between her shoulder blades. Hart ruminates on his guilty conscience on the drive to her hometown of Pelican Island.
Rianne's surly grandfather informs the detectives that the girl ran off with her boyfriend, a man named Reggie Ledoux. He passes along a box of her belongings including Rianne's high school yearbook. The school, Light of the Way Academy, was part of a Tuttle ministries program and closed in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew hit the area. The duo visits the old school. Hart interrupts Cohle's interview with a parish groundskeeper when he hears back from the station: Reggie Ledoux recently skipped out on parole. A statutory rape charge against him was dropped, but he was convicted for running a crystal meth and LSD lab. Ledoux spent two years in prison, where for the last four months his cellmate was Charlie Lange, Dora's ex-husband.
"To realize all your life, all your love, all your hate, all your memory, all your pain - It was all the same thing." - Cohle
Separately, both Hart and Cohle pause while recounting the case to Gilbough and Papania. Hart is skeptical his interviewers will understand his experience, as neither of the detectives have been in a gunfight. Pointing to the investigators' case file, Cohle confesses that in pictures of the deceased, he sees relief. Life is only a dream, he says, and "like a lot of dreams, there's a monster at the end of it."
In the woods, at the site of the eventual confrontation, Reggie Ledoux exits a shack, wearing a gas mask and carrying a machete. He crosses the field and pauses ....