Rustin Cohle

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Rustin Cohle
True Detective character
Rustin Cohle.jpg
First appearance "The Long Bright Dark"
Last appearance "Form and Void"
Created by Nic Pizzolatto
Portrayed by Matthew McConaughey

Crash (by Iron Crusaders)

The Taxman
Gender Male
Occupation Detective
Family Sophia Cohle (daughter; deceased)
Claire Cohle (ex-wife)
Significant other(s) Laurie Spencer (ex-girlfriend)

Rustin Spencer "Rust" Cohle is a fictional character in the American television drama series True Detective on HBO. He was created by series creator Nic Pizzolatto and is portrayed by Matthew McConaughey. Cohle works as a detective for the Louisiana State Homicide Unit, alongside his partner Martin "Marty" Hart (Woody Harrelson). The series follows Cohle and Hart's hunt for a serial killer in Louisiana, across 17 years.

Both the Rustin Cohle character and Matthew McConaughey's performance have received critical acclaim. McConaughey won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series, and has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film.[1]

Character overview[edit]

Cohle is introduced as a gifted, but deeply troubled, homicide detective from Texas who is transferred to a Louisiana police department in 1995 to investigate a series of brutal, bizarre murders. A haunted, solitary man, he believes that life is a meaningless "disease" and that hope is merely self-delusion — an attitude that rubs Hart the wrong way.[2] Hart nevertheless respects Cohle's talent for investigating crimes and getting suspects to confess, and the two eventually become an effective team. Cohle spends all of his free time obsessing over every detail of the crime, hoarding evidence in a storage locker and keeping extensive notes in a ledger, which earns him the derisive nickname "The Taxman" among his colleagues. [3]

The series gradually reveals Cohle's backstory. He was born in Texas but raised in Alaska by his father after his parents divorced, and became a police detective in his 20s. Years before the main story arc, his two-year-old daughter, Sophia, was killed in a car accident, a tragedy that destroyed his marriage. Devastated by the loss, Cohle developed a drug problem that reached a boiling point when, during an investigation, he killed an addict that had murdered his own child. His superiors offered him a chance to avoid prison by joining a narcotics unit. During this assignment, his addiction worsened until he was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. Upon his release, he was offered retirement with full pension, which he declined in favor of transferring to Louisiana. He tries to remain sober, but he occasionally falls off the wagon because of the stress of his job and his grief for his daughter. Cohle is also prone to auditory and visual hallucinations.[3]

The series takes place in two time periods: 1995-2002, in which Cohle and Hart work together to find the killer; and 2012, when Cohle, who has by now quit the police force and become an alcoholic, submits to an interview with Louisiana State Police Department detectives Maynard Gilborough (Michael Potts) and Thomas Papania (Tory Kittles) regarding the murders. Cohle sees through the detectives, and realizes that they think he is the killer.[4]

Character arc[edit]

Cohle and Hart are assigned to investigate a murder in which the killer raped and tortured the victim, Dora Lange, and attached a pair of antlers to her head after killing her.[2] They find Lange's diary, which contains repeated references to "Carcosa" and a "Yellow King". In the wreckage of a burnt-out church Lange attended, they find a wall painting depicting a human figure wearing deer antlers.[3]

Cohle and Hart work the case for three months, during which they trace the murder to Reggie Ledoux (Charles Halford), Lange's ex-boyfriend.[4] To find more information, Cohle infiltrates a biker gang with ties to Ledoux, posing as a drug dealer. He assists the gang in a home invasion so he can arrest the ringleader, Ginger (Joseph Sikora), and get him to lead them to Ledoux, but a shootout ensues in which several people are killed.[5] Ginger takes Cohle and Hart to Ledoux's cousin and accomplice Dewall (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), who inadvertently gives them a lead to Ledoux's meth lab. There, Hart discovers that Ledoux has kidnapped and tortured two children, and kills him in a fit of rage as Cohle looks on; Dewall, meanwhile, is killed when he accidentally sets off his own homemade explosive. Cohle supports Hart's story that Ledoux opened fire on them, forcing Hart to kill him in self-defense. The two are hailed as heroes, and receive commendations and promotions.[6]

In 2002, Cohle interrogates a suspect who reveals that Ledoux and Dewall did not act alone.[6] Cohle becomes obsessed with reopening the case, and pursues several leads, including a private Christian school run by Rev. Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders) that had been closed amid rumors of child molestation. Tuttle complains to Cohle's superiors, who suspend Cohle without pay and order him to seek counseling. That night, Hart's wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) shows up at his apartment and seduces him to get back at Hart for cheating on her. Hart finds out and gets into a fistfight with Cohle in front of the entire department. Cohle quits the force the same day, and becomes a drifter and an alcoholic, supporting himself as a part-time bartender.[7]

He is seen in the vicinity of several murder scenes over the next 10 years, arousing the suspicion of Louisiana State Police Department detectives Maynard Gilborough and Thomas Papania: They believe that he is the killer, and has been manipulating the investigation for 17 years. They interview Cohle and Hart, who both leave and refuse to cooperate once the purpose of the interview becomes clear.[7]

Cohle meets with Hart and tells him that he has found evidence leading to the killer. Hart is skeptical, but Cohle convinces him to help with the investigation by showing him a videotape he stole from Tuttle's home showing several masked men raping and torturing Marie Fontenot, a missing child who had come up in their investigation 17 years earlier. Cohle and Hart find the case's chief investigating officer, Steve Geraci (Michael Harney), and interrogate him at gunpoint. Geraci tells them that his superior, the late Sheriff Ted Childress, ordered him to halt the investigation; Childress was one of Tuttle's relatives.[8] They soon discover that the Tuttle and Childress families — to whom Reggie and Dewall Ledoux were related — have long histories of child abuse and ritual murder, and that Childress' son Errol (Glenn Fleshler) committed the murders that Cohle is suspected of.[9]

Cohle and Hart go to Childress' house, where they find the remains of his victims and encounter Fontenot (Wanetah Walmsley) — his half-sister, with whom he is having an incestuous relationship. Cohle pursues Childress into the catacombs beneath the house, which Childress identifies as Carcosa. Cohle discovers an idol draped in yellow and covered in skulls — the "Yellow King" — and has a hallucination of a spiraling vortex. Childress stabs him in the gut and also attacks Hart, but Cohle saves his partner by shooting Childress in the head, killing him. Gilborough and Papania, whom Hart had called in, arrive at the scene, and take Cohle and Hart to a hospital. With the evidence Hart and Cohle collected, they connect Childress to dozens of murders, including Dora Lange's. [9]

Cohle falls into a coma, during which he feels the loving presence of his father and daughter, which gives his life renewed purpose. When he wakes up, he tells Hart that, "Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light's winning."[9]

Awards and nominations[edit]

McConaughey received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Cohle, and has won and been nominated for several awards, including:


  1. ^ Vincent, Alice (March 5, 2014). "True Detective: Matthew McConaughey wrote a 450-page deconstruction of Rust Cohle's life". The Telegraph.
  2. ^ a b Season 1, episode 1, "The Long Bright Dark".
  3. ^ a b c Season 1, episode 2, "Seeing Things".
  4. ^ a b Season 1, episode 3, "The Locked Room".
  5. ^ Season 1, episode 4, "Who Goes There".
  6. ^ a b Season 1, episode 5, "The Secret Fate of All Life".
  7. ^ a b Season 1, episode 6, "Haunted Houses".
  8. ^ Season 1, episode 7, "After You've Gone".
  9. ^ a b c Season 1, episode 8, "Form and Void".

External links[edit]