The Scene of the Crime (Episode Summary): Tonight’s episode delves into the events that led to the blow up between Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Hart (Woody Harrelson) as well as the events that led to Cohle leaving the state police. The episode starts with Hart beating the holy hell out of the two 20-somethings that had sex with his daughter. We fast forward a few weeks later and Hart is in a T-Mobile store where he encounters Beth (Lili Simmons of Banshee fame) whom he had run into in ’95 when he and Cohle came upon that brothel in the woods. As you probably guessed, Hart ends up sleeping with her…repeatedly. Discovering his affair, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) decides she’s going to exact her revenge. Meanwhile Cohle continues his search for the truth about the murders. He re-interviews Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham) whom he met in ’95 as a revival tent preacher. Now an alcoholic, Theriot divulges info that the schools set up by Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders) were rife with corruption and possible sex abuse. Cohle’s dogged pursuit leads him to Tuttle’s office which of course gets him in serious trouble, leading to his suspension. Then all hell broke loose…
The Lead Investigator (Favorite Performance): While McConaughey and Harrelson were awesome as always, this was Michelle Monaghan’s night to shine. She’s been given little too do throughout the series besides have some bad hair, shed some tears and get profusely angry for a brief moment. “Haunted Houses” allowed for us to see Maggie Hart as the woman scorned and how you shouldn’t mess with her. Her scene with Cohle, without giving anything away, was awesome. It really shows that she can be as evil, as manipulative and as much of an asshole as her husband. Then, the following scene where she confronts her husband and just flat out lays down the law (and the fact they’re getting divorced) is probably her best work in the series and probably one of Monaghan’s finer scenes we’ve seen her in since Gone Baby Gone.
They Could’ve Spared Us These Gory Details (Worst Part of the Episode): When Beth calls Hart and says, “I think I want you to fuck me in the ass.” Wow. Seriously? That’s a bit much, right?
The Devil in the Details (The Little Thing You Loved): We see this crazy brawl between Cohle and Hart in 2002 and during the fight Hart ends up getting thrown into Cohle’s truck’s tail light. Cut to “modern day” and during the final scene the camera slowly pulls back and we see the tail light has never been fixed. It’s such a small detail but it’s a perfect one. It’s exactly the kind of thing Cohle would do and the fact the writers and director make the conscious decision to highlight this is just what makes the show so damn awesome — the wonderful attention to detail.
The Debriefing (Thoughts on the Episode): “Nice hook Marty.” ‘Haunted Houses’ was a knock down, drag-out of an episode. Every scene packed an emotional wallop and you, like the characters, just feel bloody and drained when the credits roll. You’re given a lot to digest with the implications of the murder conspiracy. Is the church involved? Has the state police turned a blind eye to the crimes? Is Cohle actually the killer? Then there’s the emotional aspect. The Martin and Maggie pier-six brawl was just brutal. It was a scene-chewing bile fest that has been brewing all season and the pay-off was great. The end of the episode, in present day, where Cole and Hart decide to have a beer to talk about “unfinished things” was such a great tease for the end of the series.