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    Rust Cohle 

Det. Rustin 'Rust' Cohle

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rust-cohle-1024_9663.jpg
"I'd consider myself a realist, alright? But in philosophical terms I'm what's called a pessimist... I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution."
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/modernrust_321.jpg
"I know who I am. And after all these years, there's a victory in that."
Played By: Matthew McConaughey

"World needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door."

Rust Cohle is a Louisiana State Police detective who transferred out of Texas law enforcement. A cerebral, intense thinker, he holds a negative view of society which sometimes puts him at odds with his partner, Martin Hart, and the rest of the force.

  • The Ace: He eventually gains a reputation as a master interrogator, having more assists than anyone in the department.
  • The Alcoholic: Cohle is a relapsing-remitting. He's mostly sober in 1995, though he briefly falls off the wagon in the first episode. In 2012, he's drunk by noon and demands the interviewing detectives bring him a six-pack if they want him to keep talking. He also chugs a bottle of cough syrup while driving on the way to interview a CI and seems to buy barbiturates from her after the interview is over.
  • Amateur Sleuth: His interest in the Yellow King case post-retirement.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: He keeps doing his job despite his hugely pessimistic view of his own species. He doesn't fully becomes this trope until the finale, where he genuinely develops a new respect for life.
    Rust: Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light's winning.
  • Badass Biker: While he did undercover work with outlaw bikers and Mexican cartels. After a fistfight with Hart, in which Cohle got the upper hand, Hart still realizes that Cohle was holding back.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He is darkly pessimistic, a misanthrope who sleeps under a crucifix (despite being non-religious) and with a tendency to philosophize at random. Despite this, he is a skilled and hard-working detective.
  • Byronic Hero
  • The Cameo: He and Hart appear in online newspaper clippings in Season 3, and the events of the first season are discussed by woman interviewing Wayne Hays.
  • Character Development: Cohle has changed more overtly than Hart by 2012, as he is now washed-up, even more nihilistic, and completely lost control of his drinking problem.
    • But, as the Season Finale shows, Cohle admits that he's not as nihilistic as he appears to be and that's what he acknowledges at the end. His near-death experience has also given him at least some closure to his existential crisis.
  • Comically Serious: Especially in Episode 3, where Maggie manages to set him up with one of her acquaintances. He has the same stoic expression on his face even when he's dancing.
  • Consummate Liar: Contrary to Hart, Cohle lies very naturally and makes it very believable that he was a part of whatever fictitious event he's describing. Understandable, considering his past as an undercover cop.
  • Cowboy Cop: Pays scant regard to police protocol or procedure and engages in his own investigations, which doesn't sit well with his partner or superiors.
  • The Cynic: Unlike most examples, it isn't played as him being simply grumpy or downbeat but having genuine existential despair about life and humanity and shows what a wreck he is. By the end of the investigation, he's shown to be getting better, in his own nihilistic way.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Happened prior to the opening of the series, but the death of Cohle's daughter seems to qualify.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Death Seeker: He implies this is his motivation in 2012. He just wants to solve the Dora Lange case first.
  • Defective Detective: He is really messed up, at least when he's not on the job.
  • The Determinator: He will solve the Dora Lange case, no matter the cost. This is shown to great effect in "Form and Void", where he manages to survive getting stabbed by Childress and nearly bleeding out.
  • Hallucinations: Has these in episode 2, seeing blurring lights on the highway, a weirdly neon-pink wave that spreads across the cloudscape and a flock of birds forming the symbols on Dora Lange's body. He explains that it's a side-effect of a number of drugs he was taking while undercover.
  • Functional Addict: In 2012, Cohle remarks that he has been stone-drunk most of the time since 2002 while remaining functional.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Both Cohle and Hart count as modern-day spins on this trope, but especially Cohle with his poetic cynicism about the world around him.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Cohle is not only an atheist but a nihilist who believes that life is meaningless. He's constantly depressed as a result.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: He puts on this act when interrogating criminals, with Hart or other detectives who called him in. Cohle's overall demeanor is almost priestly, sympathetically trying to extract a cathartic confession from them. Then he abandons them.
  • Guile Hero
  • In-Series Nickname: the Taxman, for the ledger he carries, while most detective simply have notepads.
    • Ginger referred to Rust as Crash.
  • The Insomniac: As he himself says.
    Cohle: I don't sleep. I just dream.
  • Insufferable Genius: Gives off this vibe when he talks about his philosophic views.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: Has such a prominent pair that it's almost a deconstruction because it shows what a psychological wreck a person becomes by wearing them.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Comes across as abrasive and is extremely cynical about humanity in general, but when he shows up drunk to dinner with Hart's family, he genuinely apologizes. Also, even though Marty tries to arrange an alibi for him to leave gracefully, Rust stays because he finds that he actually enjoys spending time with Marty's family, more than he thought he would.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Has very little empathy with criminals, no matter how he acts in interrogations. Once he manipulates a confession from The Marshland Medea, he recommends that she kills herself to avoid media and prison persecution.
  • Knight In Sour Armor: Cohle often preaches about the futility of humanity, but nonetheless works as a detective to, as he says, "bear witness".
    • Also Ties in with The Last Dance as Cohle admits that after he's done with righting this great wrong that he and Hart had inadvertantly allowed to continue, he intends to die and put all the horror and tragedy of his life to rest as of Episode 7.
  • The Last Dance: His investigation from 2010 to 2012. At least that's what he thought he wanted at the time.
  • Looks Like Jesus: Yes, get your laughs in now, but Rust looks a lot like Jesus when we first see him lie in a hospital bed.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Extraordinarily skilled at working out how people think, and using it to his advantage. Hart mentions that Rust spots weakness better than anyone he'd ever met. He mostly uses this talent to interrogate criminals, acting as if he's their friend and that confessing to him would be their best course of action (a variation on real life recommended police strategy). As soon as he gets a confession from them, the act drops and he lets them know how much the killers disgust him. Papania even calls him a manipulator in the season one finale.
  • Meaningful Name: Rustin Cohle. Also the pronunciation of Hart and Cohle's surnames, which makes them sound like Hot and Cold. Also, Heart and Coal.
  • The Mole: Was one for four years while working for a DEA task force in Texas. Undercover cops are supposed to be pulled out after 11 months, but Cohle kept going because the DEA was essentially using his self-destructive behavior to further their own ends and could do so with impunity because of a previous shooting that would otherwise have put Cohle in jail or, at the very least, off the force.
  • Mysterious Past: He grew up with a 'Nam vet turned survivalist father in Alaska, his daughter fell into a coma after a car accident and later died, his marriage fell apart, he went undercover for an extensive drug operation that turned him into an addict, was in a shooting, and spent time in a mental institution all before coming to Louisiana to work the Dora Lange case.
  • No Social Skills: Subverted. He is stoic and generally abrasive to other people. However, it becomes clear that Cohle is perfectly able to be social when he wants to be. He's an outstanding interviewer and can also adopt realistic personalities while undercover. He even maintains a brief relationship so as not to arouse suspicion. When he's not playing a part, however, he simply chooses not to be sociable.
  • The Nothing After Death: This what he describes to Hart after having a near death experience following his battle with Childress. Interestingly, he seems to find it comforting, as he will finally be free of conflict, and he believes that his father and his daughter are waiting for him there.
  • Not So Stoic: The first time Cohle and Hart had a confrontation, Rust actually took his pulse afterwards, showing that he's not that emotionless as he lets himself appear to be. After he realizes that Maggie has been using him for revenge on Marty, he actually screams at her to get out, the only time that he has ever raised his voice in the series.
    • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Even more in the final scene of the series when he breaks in to tears as he recounts his near-death-experience to Marty.
  • No Social Skills: Or limited, in Cohle's case, as seen during the awkward dinner with Hart's family and his stilted interactions with the other Louisiana police officers. This trope is actually reconstructed with Cohle. His singular focus and abrasive personality frustrates his peers and nearly gets him and Hart thrown off the Dora Lange case. However, his drive and intelligence, combined with him lacking the distracting personal issues Hart has in his private life, are formidable enough that, by Episode 2, he is clearly driving the investigation forward.
  • Occult Detective: Played with. Cohle and Hart are investigating a case with overt occult themes, but they're not aware of this side, nor do they specalise in such matters.
  • Odd Friendship: With Marty, even though they don't like each other at first and probably wouldn't term their relationship 'friendship,' especially after their falling out, but still, the two have their subtle moments together, like Cohle playing devil's advocate for Marty when his wife learns of his affair, or Marty refusing to at first entertain the notion that Cohle has become a deranged copycat killer. It's mainly this because, in the end, they're Not So Different. Cohle also has one with Marty's wife Maggie. Although Maggie using him as a tool to get back at Marty sours that relationship as well.
    • Cohle and Maggie both seem to have moved past this in the future, and in the season finale, Cohle and Hart have strongly reaffirmed their friendship, even if it's in 'actions speak louder than words' kind of way. As Marty and his family seem to have finally reconciled after so many years, it's implied that Cohle and Maggie's relationship will begin to mend as well.
  • Off the Wagon: Identifies himself as a recovering alcoholic, shows up to dinner with Hart's family drunk. By 2012, he's fully relapsed.
  • Off Screen Moment Of Awesome: While undercover, he got in a shootout with members of a Mexican Cartel. He was shot four times (based off his Iron Crusaders jacket), but killed all of the Cartel hitmen.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Is this in 1995.
  • Pet the Dog: May be a misanthropic nihilist, but he still makes sure to individually direct two kids to hide in their bathtubs for safety in Episode 4 just before and during a riot.
  • Pragmatic Hero
  • The Profiler: Has elements of this. Hart warns him not to be; if he's trying to fit the evidence into a presumed narrative, he'll bias his judgment of the facts.
  • Signature Move: The wrist lock. See episode 2 (his locker room confrontation with Hart and the interrogation of the mechanic) and episode 6 (when Hart attacks him in the parking lot).
  • The Smart Guy: Hart highlights Cohle's intelligence several times just in the first episode.
  • Straw Nihilist: Spends a lot of time talking about how humanity is evil and life is pointless. Hart lampshades how annoying his nihilist rants are.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: It's established that Cohle and Hart don't particularly care for each other when first partnered up.
  • Tranquil Fury: Maggie using his failed marriage against him in an argument seems to elicit this response.
  • The Unfettered: Technically not (see Straw Nihilist above), but a lot of his badassery seems to come from all the trauma he's survived. He no longer cares about career advancement, making friends, or even his own safety.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Insists in 2012 that his leave of absence in 1996 was to visit his father. In fact, he went undercover in a biker drug ring, and was involved in a major firefight/riot. He and Hart also covered up the latter's execution of Ledoux, telling the world that there was a firefight.
  • World Half Full: Refers to himself as a pessimist.
    Cohle: Look, I'd consider myself a realist, alright, but in philosophical terms, I'm what's called a pessimist.
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    Martin Hart 

Det. Martin 'Marty' Hart

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/martin-hart-1024_4638.jpg
"Do you wonder ever if you're a bad man?"
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/modernhart_1722.jpg
"You gotta take your release where you find it, or where it finds you. I mean, in the end it's for the good of the family."
Played By: Woody Harrelson

"I get the feeling like, I can see forty and it's like I'm the coyote in the cartoons, like I'm running off a cliff, and if I don't look down and keep running, I might be fine. But I think I'm all fucked up."

Partner of Rust Cohle, Marty is the more conservative of the pair. While he may not always understand Rust's methods, he respects his partner's commitment to police work and will run interference between Rust and their commanding officer. Marty has two daughters with his wife, Maggie.

  • The Alcoholic: Descends into this over the course of the investigation. Early on, he brags that he can have one beer with lunch and "not need twenty more." However, as pressures build, he drinks more and more and becomes a belligerent drunk. After the case is initially closed, he joins a program as part of his efforts to win back his wife. After he returns to the investigation in 2012, he also starts drinking again.
  • Bad Liar: When he lies he either stumbles and avoids eye contact if improvising or uses unnatural words in a robotic way that makes it obvious he's reciting a rehearsed story. He does surprisingly well hoodwinking an old colleague in 2012 however.
  • Beneath the Mask: A subtle example. On the surface he presents himself as a laid-back, easygoing family man who bears the responsibility of his job. Underneath, he cheats on his wife and has shades of volatile anger issues when Cohle calls him out on it and when he is outright cruel to his wife at home.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Beneath Hart's laid-back Good Ol' Boy facade, he cheats on his wife and is dealing with psychological issues. Contrast with Cohle who doesn't bother with a facade and is utterly upfront with all his flaws.
  • Break the Haughty: happens twice:
    • First, in 1995, Lisa, his mistress, gets jealous after he breaks into her house. She sees Maggie in person and, in front of his children, tells her about the affair. Maggie and the kids leave to stay with her parents and Hart breaks down after Maggie's father refuses to let him speak to the kids.
      • Ultimately Subverted since eventually they come back.
    • The second time around, in 2002, his daughter is caught in a three-way and she begins to loath him after he chastises her. Then Maggie founds out about his new mistress, Beth, and leaves for good, Skip ten years, and Hart lives alone, seeking out middle-aged women on online dating sites in an attempt to get his old life back.
  • The Cameo: He and Cohle appear in online newspaper clippings in Season 3, and the events of the first season are discussed by woman interviewing Wayne Hays.
  • Character Development: While he still spouts hypocritical advice and insights, by 2012 Hart has greater introspection and self-awareness, having realized that he didn't appreciate his wife and daughters enough in the 1990s. It comes to a head during the season finale, when he realizes that he's made a terrible mistake with his relationship with his family, and cries openly when they come to visit him.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: When he sees his mistress, Lisa, going home with another man, he breaks down her door and terrorizes him. He promises to skull-fuck Lisa for personally telling Hart's wife about their affair in retaliation for Hart's breaking-and-entering. After his wife leaves him, Hart begs her to give him another chance at the hospital where she works and has to be held back by security, leaving only when prompted by Cohle regarding their case.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Defective Detective: He is outwardly more stable, but he's not much better than Cohle under the surface. His home life is extremely dysfunctional.
  • Eureka Moment: He's the one who ultimately breaks the case wide open by asking "Why does the Green-Eared Spaghetti Monster have green ears? It's from the paint he used to paint one of the victims' houses.
    • Even better, the moment is foreshadowed by Cohle in the first episode when he explains his reason for his notebook and the detailed notes he keeps.
  • The Face: He's the one that does the talking to their fellow policemen and superiors.
  • Friend to All Children: Marty's problems with his own daughter aside, he's really sensitive about seeing violence against kids. That's what made him execute Ledoux on the spot and eventually, quit the force entirely.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Firmly on the bad side, as he abuses his mistress as well. Marty hypocritically thinks he's justified in doing it though, to help his family by releasing pressure from work.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: He is extremely impulsive, like when he executes Ledoux out of disgust.
  • Hypocrite: Cohle points out that the difference between him and Hart is that Cohle isn't in denial about who he is.
    • In episode 3 ("The Locked Room"), 2012 Marty natters on about the importance of family, while 1995 Marty bursts into his mistress's apartment and beats her date up.
    • He justifies his affair with a courthouse employee essentially as letting off steam and states that it is ultimately "for the good of the family." He is saying this in 2012 with a left hand entirely devoid of a wedding ring.
    • Hart continually calls out Cohle for his perpetual angst, but indulges in it just as much himself where his family life is concerned. Even in the car, which he designated an angst-free zone after Cohle's first misanthropic rant.
    • While he seems sad when his wife tells him that she knows he's cheating on her again, he calls her a "whore" and threatens her after she tells him that she slept with Cohle.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He is, as this page makes abundantly clear, a jerk and a hypocrite. But he's not entirely without redeeming merit; he's good at his job, has several moments of sincere generosity, kindness and decency towards his workmates and civilians throughout the series, and by 2012 appears to have developed some self-awareness and regret about his own failings. He's also quick to defend the ordinary people who are often the subject of Cohle's misanthropic and at-times self-righteous contempt.
  • Kick the Dog: After he finds out his daughter was fooling around with two men in a car, he calls her a slut then slaps her when she tells him to go fuck himself.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Him executing Ledoux after finding the children he kidnapped and tortured most definitely qualifies. When Cohle learns why he did it, he approves, saying that he is "glad to see you [Hart] commit to something" and immediately helps Hart go about staging the scene to fit their false narrative. This later comes to bite them in the ass when they realize years later they did not get all the killers, and that they just offed their only two leads on the subject.
  • Killer Cop: Hart straight-up executes Ledoux after discovering the extent of his crimes. Cohle previously executed a meth head who injected his own daughter with crystal meth.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: While Marty is a competent cop, it's Rust who primarily pushes through the Dora Lange case. At least until 2012, when seeing the tape from Billy Lee Tuttle's house puts him into top gear. He also ends up cracking the case by figuring out the connection behind the Green-Eared Spaghetti Monster.
  • Never My Fault: Hart is prone to this, variously blaming his family, job, a midlife crisis, his father's death and even Cohle for his affair.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Had Hart not shot Reggie Ledoux in a rage, he and Cohle would have likely cracked the case many, many years earlier, and many lives would have also been saved.
  • Not So Different: From Cohle, Marty's just better at hiding it.
  • Occult Detective: Played with. Cohle and Hart are investigating a case with overt occult themes, but they're not aware of this side, nor do they specalise in such matters.
  • Odd Friendship: With Cohle, again, because they are Not So Different.
  • Overprotective Dad: He's willing to beat up two boys for having sex with his daughter, Audrey. To be fair, she was sixteen and they were nineteen and twenty.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: His partnership with Cohle.
  • Rabid Cop: He is a hot-headed detective who's prone to committing violence.
  • Simple-Minded Wisdom: This trope is played with; by all accounts, Hart's a competent detective, but not as cerebral as Cohle. However, Hart's the only one to call out Cohle on his rampant contemplation of navels and other acts of anti-social behavior during their time as police detectives. Hart also actually notices that Cohle cares about things, despite all the talk..
  • Unreliable Narrator: His first lie is that Cohle visited his father, when in fact the two went undercover in a biker ring. He and Cohle also tell Gilbough and Papania that there was a firefight at Ledoux's meth lab. The flashbacks show that Hart actually executed Ledoux.
  • Verbal Tic: Is prone to making a "psst" sound when being dismissive of something.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Is having an affair with Lisa, the sexy young courthouse admin worker. Later he sleeps with Beth, the underage prostitute he helped in 1996.

    Maggie Hart 

Maggie Hart

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/maggie-hart-1024_3379.jpg
"In a former life I used to exhaust myself navigating crude men who thought they were clever."
Played By: Michelle Monaghan

A nurse at the local hospital, Maggie is married to Louisiana State Police detective Martin Hart. They met in college and now have two daughters together. Intelligent and outspoken, her instincts are as sharp as her husband's.

  • A Day in the Limelight: Gets an important role in Episode 6, where she is interviewed by Gilbough and Papania and revealing how the final blow to her marriage came about.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Hart's affair.
  • Genre Savvy: When being interviewed by Papania and Gilbough, she says that after being married to a cop for so long she's aware of the tricks used in interviews, and tells them to just get straight to the point.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Subverted. She might seem like a textbook sympathetic adulterer, cheating to get even with her philandering husband, but in doing so, she takes advantage of Cohle's emotional connection to her and destroys their friendship.
  • Hospital Hottie: She's a nurse.
  • Kick the Dog: Telling Cohle "he must have been a great husband" after he plays devil's advocate for Marty to her. To her credit, she almost immediately looks incredibly guilty, especially when Cohle just stares at her and then walks out of the diner they were eating in.
    • Then even more brutally done when she has sex with Cohle — who is clearly drunk at the time — solely to get revenge on Marty. Rust screams at her to get out, the only time in the entire series to that point that Rust has raised his voice.
  • The Matchmaker: She's determined to set Rust up with a nice girl.
  • Ms. Fanservice
  • Odd Friendship: Maggie, the sweet married mother has a genuine, platonic friendship with alcoholic, stoical Rust.
  • Unreliable Narrator: She claims to have no idea why Marty and Cohle fell out in 2002, nor to have understood Cohle very well. She and Cohle actually had a pretty well-developed friendship, and it was her having sex with Cohle in order to extract revenge on Marty that led to Cohle and Marty's fall out.
  • Woman Scorned
  • Your Cheating Heart: Seduces Cohle in a moment of revenge and uses their one night stand to finally get rid of Marty.

    Maynard Gilbough 

Det. Maynard Gilbough

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/detective-gilbough-1024_8244.jpg
Played By: Michael Potts

One of two detectives who interview Cohle and Hart about the Dora Lange case.

  • Audience Surrogate: Primarily in episodes 1-6.
  • Characters as Device: Gilbough and Papania's contribution in episode 1-6 is essentially to interrogate Cohle, Marty and Maggie. Episode 7 gives additional depth by hinting they're being manipulated by their superiors.
  • Dramatic Irony: Papania and Gilbough get directions in episode 7 from Errol Childress, the scarred man who committed some of the murders they're investigating.
  • Foil: Gilbough's stoicism parallels Cohle, though he is far less talkative and preachy than Cohle.
  • Hero Antagonist: he and Papania ultimately come off as this. They are pushy and probing in their interviews, similar to Rust and Cohle during their prime in '95. And while they work against the heroes, they are still working for the same greater good that Rust and Marty and ultimately seeking out.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The blue one.
  • The Stoic: As Hart says, Gilbough is very difficult to read. If the two pairs of detectives, old and new, were compared, then Gilbough would be Cohle, though not as dramatic.
  • Those Two Guys: Particularly obvious in episode 7, when they give one of the episode's few funny moments.
  • Unwitting Pawn: He and Papania are for Cohle, who is using them to get information on the 2012 case. Cohle also fears that they're being manipulated by police or influential men in the Yellow King cult.
  • Working the Same Case: As Hart and Rust in 1995.

    Thomas Papania 

Det. Thomas Papania

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/detective-papania-1024_3900.jpg
Played By: Tory Kittles

One of two detectives who interview Cohle and Hart about the Dora Lange case.

  • Audience Surrogate: Primarily in episodes 1-6.
  • Characters as Device: Gilbough and Papania's contribution in episode 1-6 is essentially to interrogate Cohle, Marty and Maggie. Episode 7 gives additional depth by hinting they're being manipulated by their superiors.
  • Dramatic Irony: Papania and Gilbough get directions in episode 7 from Errol Childress, the scarred man who committed some of the murders they're investigating.
  • Foil: to Hart. They are both the more emotional of their respective partnerships. And both, at some point, think Rust is crazy.
  • Hero Antagonist: Papania and Gilbough ultimately come off as this. They are pushy and probing in their interviews, similar to Rust and Cohle during their prime in '95. And while they work against the heroes, they are still working for the same greater good that Rust and Marty and ultimately seeking out.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Slightly more emotional than his partner Gilbough.
  • Those Two Guys
  • Unwitting Pawn: He and Gilbough are for Cohle, who is using them to get information on the 2012 case. Cohle also fears that they're being manipulated by police or influential men in the Yellow King cult.
  • Working the Same Case: As Hart and Rust in 1995.

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Louisiana CID

    Ken Quesada 

Major Ken Quesada

Played By: Kevin Dunn

The head of the Louisiana CID branch where Cohle and Hart work, who is under pressure to close the Dora Lange case.


  • Da Chief: Of the CID branch in 1995. Is quite agitated by the political pressure he's facing to solve this case.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Shown when Hart and Cohle catch Reggie Ledoux. Before then he was just under a lot of pressure.
  • Put on a Bus: Has retired by 2002.

    Steve Geraci 

Sheriff Steve Geraci

  • Blind Date: Was once set up with one of Maggie's friends. Ended quickly after he vomited in her lap.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In his first appearance, he does little other than briefly antagonize Cohle. He doesn't appear again until the last two episodes of the series, when it's revealed that he assisted in covering up the Marie Fontenot case.
  • Dirty Cop: Not in the traditional sense, he's just too selfish, lazy and incompetent to do his job properly and makes everything easier for the real bad guys.
  • Everyone Has Standards: He might be a jerk, but he's horrified when Cohle shows him the Tuttle tape.
  • Just Following Orders: His rationalisation for the things he does.
  • The Sheriff: By 2012 he's become a Sheriff of his own parishnote .

    Leroy Salter 

Major Leroy Salter

Played By: Paul Ben-Victor

  • Da Chief: A textbook example. Has little patience for shenanigans and resorts to the classic Turn in Your Badge and gun disciplinary method.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He's brutally sarcastic. Bonus points for calling Hart 'the human tampon'.
  • Hot-Blooded: Salter is constantly angry.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: All he does on-screen is stop Rust from continuing his investigation in the Tuttle Family.

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Hart's Family

    Audrey Hart 

Audrey Hart

Played By: Madison Wolfe & Erin Moriarty

  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: After the Time Skip to 2002, when she's become a goth-grungey rebellious type and 'Captain of the Varsity Slut Team' who's having sex with two guys at a time. Clearly The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Scenes imply that she's jealous of her litter sister, which resulted in sibling bullying. The first scene that shows this, is during episode 5, before the Time Skip.
  • The Unfavorite: Audrey believes that Martin treats Marcie better, which might be the reason for the Sibling Rivalry.
  • Three-Way Sex: After the Time Skip, she's caught with two young adult men having sex. And has a reputation for being a Varsity slut.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Has a disturbing fixation with sex, posing her dolls in positions that resemble a gang-rape, and getting in trouble at school for drawing people having sex in her notebook. It foreshadows 2002, where she is picked up by Sheriffs about to have a three way with two adults in a pickup truck.

    Maisie Hart 

Maisie Hart

Played By: Meghan Wolfe & Brighton Sharbino

  • Unknown Rival: Doesn't seem to realize how much her older sister is jealous of her and believe she's the favorite between the two of them.

    Jake Herbert 

Jake Herbert

Played By: Thomas Francis Murphy

Maggie's dad and Marty's father-in-law, who gruffly expressed concern to Marty back in 1995 about the promiscuity of young people.


  • Dirty Old Man: Most of his conversation with Hart is about sex and its relation to 'young people'.
  • Grumpy Old Man: How he comes across, complaining about 'young people'.

Tuttle Ministries

    Billy Lee Tuttle 

Billy Lee Tuttle

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tuttle_billy_lee_6896.png
"I've seen more souls lost down a bottle than any pit. At the same time, it's hard to trust a man who can't trust himself with a beer."
Played By: Jay O. Sanders

A high-ranking reverend with a cousin in office, who founded a number of private Christian schools somehow connected to the Lange case.


  • Affably Evil: Tuttle has an easy smile, a genial manner and is unfailingly polite to the police. He's also behind a coverup of some pretty horrific scandals at his ministry and private schools, which Cohle also believes to be connected to the occult murders. And of course he took part in sexual abuse, rapes and murders to an unspecified degree.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: When it becomes apparent Cohle is onto him, Tuttle indirectly explains how he will be discredited if he pursues this case further.
  • Corrupt Church: Is in charge of one, and has become wealthy enough to afford four mansions with the profits.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Tuttle dies in 2010. Despite it seeming that Cohle killed him, he didn't. Cohle instead guesses that the other members of the Yellow King group killed Tuttle before he could be blackmailed with the evidence Cohle stole.
  • He Knows Too Much: Died shortly after Rust stole evidence of his activities; Rust speculates the rest of the cult killed him to keep him from being blackmailed.
  • Large and in Charge: Towers over most other characters.
  • Pedophile Priest: Reverend, but still.
  • Sinister Minister: He has a major role in the Carcosa cult. At the same time, he's trying to set up an 'Anti-Christian Crimes' task force.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: He's a big name in religious circles and is well-known as the founder of Christian schools. The fact that he's also the cousin of Senator Tuttle makes him an even more well-respected and untouchable pillar of society.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Photo evidence proves that he took part in the Yellow King rituals and child abuse at his schools.

    Joel Theriot 

Joel Theriot

Played By: Shea Whigham

A traveling preacher who previously worked at one of Tuttle's schools.


Extended Tuttle Family

    Sam Tuttle 

Sheriff Sam Tuttle

Played By: N/A

The former sheriff of Vermilion Parish and the patriarch of the Tuttle clan, likely deceased. He sired many bastard children, according to his former maid Miss Dolores, who also said that he is the grandfather of Errol (a.k.a., the Lawnmower Man). He was the father of Billy Lee Tuttle and uncle of Eddie Tuttle.


  • Bigger Bad: Just about everything can be traced back to Sam Tuttle. He raped 'Betty' and most certainly raped his grandson Errol as a boy, likely numerous times, and gave him the scars that would mark him for the rest of his life. Sam Tuttle turned Errol into a monster.
  • Karma Houdini: Even though he may have created and at the very least sustained the child-raping cult of Carcosa, and was responsible for the horrific rape, torture, mutilation and murder of many children including his own kin, Sam Tuttle was never exposed. He likely died of old age or something else fairly innocuous.
  • The Sheriff: Of Vermillion Parish.
  • The Unseen: Sam Tuttle is never seen in the series, and he's never spoken of in the present tense so he's likely deceased.

    Edwin Tuttle 

Senator Edwin Tuttle

Played By: N/A

Louisiana governor in 1995 and a senator in 2012; also the cousin of Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle.


  • Bigger Bad: Much like Sam Tuttle, his power and influence allowed the Carcosa murders to go undiscovered, unpunished and uninterrupted for decades.
  • Corrupt Politician: He was instrumental in covering up the activities of the Yellow King/Carcosa cult and his family's activities.
  • Karma Houdini: All connections between his family and Carcosa go unpunished.
  • The Unseen: The Senator is never actually seen, but he's mentioned enough that his presence is felt heavily.

    Ted Childress 

Ted Childress

Played By: N/A

The former sheriff of Vermilion Parish who closed the Marie Fontenot report in 1990.


  • Corrupt Cop: He's the one who makes sure that the Marie Fontenot case is never properly investigated.
  • The Sheriff: Uses his position in law enforcement to cover up the Tuttle Family's crimes.

The Yellow King

    In General 

The Yellow King

Played By: Charles Halford, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Glenn Fleshler, Jay O. Sanders

A mysterious group comprised of both influential and ordinary people who are responsible for the molestation of hundreds of young children. Their beliefs, motives and purpose is unclear.


  • Bigger Bad: Of the first season. Most members are never seen on screen, and by the end of the series, Senator Edwin Tuttle is all who remains.
  • The Conspiracy: In Episode 7, it's revealed that it's a group of men committing the murders, not just one.
  • Cult: Well, obviously.
  • Dirty Cop: Cohle suspects some members are police.
  • Hidden Villain: The Yellow King may even be a conspiratorial group rather than one man.
  • Interfaith Smoothie: The cult's theology is never fully revealed, but it appears to be a mixture of Lovecraft-esque mythos, Acadian folklore, and old Cajun supernatural beliefs dating back to colonial times or even earlier. Assuming Tuttle's ministry isn't solely a cover, it would appear the cult also draws on elements of southern baptist evangelical Christianity as well... or a very twisted interpretation of it at any rate. This would be supported by Joel mentioning some of the cult's beliefs during his sermon, suggesting there's a Lovecraft-Cajun-Christian fusion going on.
  • Karma Houdini: Marty and Rust manage to take down Errol Childress, clearly the worst and craziest of the cultists, as well as Reggie and DeWall Ledoux, but a few of the others remain unknown and at large. Marty points out that they'll most likely never catch them...but at least they caught theirs.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: They wear masks from a sort of local Mardi Gras celebration, including animal masks. These are worn during all Yellow King activities and rapes, to prevent identification.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Depending on how much of the last episode is ascribed to Cohle's hallucinations. Errol Childress seems to somehow be able to track Cohle's location and continue speaking to him seemingly from nowhere, as Cohle tracks him through the ruined building. Then Cohle has a conveniently timed hallucination that allows him to be ambushed, of a Lovecraft-esque cosmic void. The nature of the entire scene is intentionally ambiguous enough for Cohle not to be hallucinating.
  • Secret Society Group Picture: Cohle finds them in Tuttle's safe. The group's also branched out from pictures to child-rape videos. They wear masks in all of them though.
  • Serial Killer: The amount of victims is unknown, but Cohle seems to believe it may be at least a double figure number. Ultimately averted; there is no 'lone' Serial Killer but a highly organized group.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The entire "Yellow King" cult/Tuttle ministry runs on this, with the ritualized molestation, rape, torture and murder of children farmed from Tuttle's schools.m

    The Creature in the Tall Grass 

The Creature in the Tall Grass/The Green-Eared Spaghetti Monster/Errol Childress

Played By: Glenn Fleshler

"My family's been here a long, long time."

The mysterious Serial Killer who murdered Dora Lange.


  • Abusive Parents: His grandfather gave him the scars on his face and his family almost certainly abused him within their cult, based on his cryptic words to Cohle.
  • A God Am I: If his ramblings about his upcoming ascendance can be taken into consideration, it appears he thinks of himself as a higher being than other humans.
  • Ax-Crazy: Complete with axe!
  • Beneath Suspicion: He's the groundsman of Tuttle's school and Cohle quickly forgets him; he's actually Tuttle's nephew and a key member of the group.
  • Big Bad: Though he's ultimately only one member of the cult, his murders are what drive the plot of the first season.
  • Boom, Headshot!: He ultimately dies when Cohle blows half of his head off with Hart's dropped gun as he prepares to kill Hart.
  • The Brute: This was apparently Errol's role in the cult. He's just a lowly handyman, but he's large, strong, and a particularly depraved sadist.
  • Cult: Possibly the most dangerous member of the Carcosa cult. However, he seems to have gone off the reservation slightly. The cult seems to have largely faded, and Errol seems to be the only one who's keeping the 'rituals' going.
  • Death Seeker: Childress believes that being killed will bring him to a new existence.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The gardener Cohle has a conversation with outside one of Tuttle's schools in one scene? He's the Big Bad.
  • Drop the Hammer: He uses a hatchet with a hammer-head against Cohle and Hart.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Gives his victims meth and LSD.
  • Evil Brit: Played with. In his one POV scene, after he's revealed to be the final villain, he spends much of it affecting an upperclass British accent and spouting high-brow quotes.
  • Faux Affably Evil: When outside of his 'natural environment', he is polite and helpful.
  • Fat Bastard: He has a big bloated belly.
  • Fat Slob: Errol lives in an absolute pigsty of a home; the door is partially busted in, rotting food lies everywhere, discarded clothes of his victims, unwashed plates and all sorts of other miscellaneous crap.
  • Freudian Excuse: Was sexually abused and tortured by his father along with countless other children as part of the cult's rituals, which is what drives him to do the same to countless other children and young women.
  • The Ghost: The only glimpse seen of him is a silhouette as he arranges Dora Lange's body, in the first scene of the first episode. Subverted in that he appears in a brief scene where Cohle asks him questions, then the ending of episode 7 and the start of episode eight focuses on Errol.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: The infamous scarred man is the lawnmower man Errol Childress, Tuttle's nephew aka the Green Ear Spaghetti Monster.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: He's only seen in the final two episodes, and of course his very brief appearance early on when he was Beneath Suspicion.
  • Hidden Villain: The actual killer of Dora Lange is not seen for much of the series.
  • Human Sacrifice: The essence of the killings he carries out.
  • Implacable Man: He takes three headbutts from Cohle and two gunshots from Hart, and still manages to throw a hatchet into Hart's chest and almost kill him.
  • Knife Nut: Seems to favour knives as instruments of murder.
  • Large and in Charge: He's a tall, broad and fat man and is very involved with the cult.
  • Lovecraft Lite: The killer is influenced by Lovecraftian literature, but seems to be simply a man.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Depending on how much of the last episode is ascribed to Cohle's hallucinations. Errol Childress seems to somehow be able to track Cohle's location and continue speaking to him seemingly from nowhere, as Cohle tracks him through the ruined building. Then Cohle has a conveniently timed hallucination that allows him to be ambushed, of a Lovecraft-esque cosmic void. The nature of the entire scene is intentionally ambiguous enough for Cohle not to be hallucinating.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: He and his sister are both described by the show's creator as like children who have been left alone for too long.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Creature is a rapist of boys and girls.
  • Red Right Hand:
    • Is visually distinguished by his facial scars. When hunting him down, Hart and Cohle often make the same hand gesture around their chins when asking about "The Man With Scars."
    • The green ears. They're from the paint he once used to paint a house. He spotted one of his targets and gave chase. When she described his face to the police, she described him as a "green-eared spaghetti monster.
  • Self-Made Orphan: He killed his father, William Lee Childress, tying him to a bed in a locked shed with his lips sewn together, presumably killing him of exposure to the heat.
  • Serial Killer: It's eventually revealed that the murders are a mixture of cult sacrifices and lone killings by a remnant of the cult: serial killer Erroll Childress.
  • Softspoken Sadist: Has a quiet and soft Southern accent. And is a sadistic torturer and killer of women and children.
  • Stout Strength: Is pretty fat, but strong and tough enough to lift Cohle bodily with the knife he has jammed in his stomach, and hold him there while Cohle continuously headbutts him.
  • Tragic Villain: He was almost certainly raped by the Yellow King Cult as a child and is quite insane as an adult. Word of God suggests he made his murders so ostentatious in order to draw public attention to the cult that abused him.
  • Villainous Incest: Errol's lover is confirmed by DNA tests to be his half-sister in the very least, and she reminisces about Sam Tuttle having sex with her.
  • Would Hurt a Child: His victims are mostly children farmed from Tuttle's schools.

Ledoux Family

    Reggie Ledoux 

Reggie Ledoux

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ledoux_reggie_7892.jpg
"I saw you in my dream. You're in Carcosa now, with me."
Played By: Charles Halford

The prime suspect in the Dora Lange case.


  • Asshole Victim: Executed by Hart, who discovered the children Ledoux had abducted and killed.
  • Black Sheep: According to Jimmy, he was this for the Ledoux family, along with his cousin.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Hart shoots him through the side of the head, and the bullet blows his face to pieces upon exiting.
  • Creepy Souvenir: The most logical reason for why he walks around his house wearing a very faded My Little Pony towel.
  • Depraved Bisexual: He kept two children at his compound as sex slaves and he took part in the "rituals" that went on at the Tuttle schools.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: He's the prime suspect, but he's not the culprit, or not the main one at any rate. Later episodes suggest that him and DeWall assisted in carrying out the murders, as well as in sexually abusing children as part of the cult's rituals, but they weren't the lead killers.
  • Drugs Are Bad: He's a meth cook.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Ledoux and his cousin DeWall (who also died at the farm) were involved in the rape, torture and murder of children that forms the central case, but as mooks and not the main figurehead or villain. Deconstructed in Episode 7 however, when Cohle and Hart acknowledge that by executing him and covering it up they gave up a valuable lead. Then again, it's likely that if they'd successfully arrested Reggie, he'd just have committed suicide on the cult's orders.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Necessary given his occupation.
  • Gonk: As you can see from that picture, Reggie is ghoulishly ugly. He's extraordinarily gross and feral-looking in a show that's already full of some pretty visually unappealing people. His mangy, unwashed hair, his glaringly-evil tattoos, and his brazen nakedness are admittedly over-the-top, but they go towards making him a creepy and memorable villain in spite of his limited screen time.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Rust. His relationship with Charlie Lange mirrors that of Rust's and Marty's relationship and his "Time is a flat circle" quote is repeated by Rust himself. Hinting that he and Reggie may have had similar philosophies.
  • Machete Mayhem: He's seen with a machete stalking around his home, but he's never seen using it.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Reggie claims to have seen Cohle in a precognitive dream. Since Ledoux is invoking Lovecraftian mythology, this could be true. However, he could be psychotic and delusional from being whacked out on meth, or he's just trying to play mindgames with Cole.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: His rape of two children is what prompts Hart to kill him.
  • Storyboard Body: Reggie seems to consider his body a canvas, and has acted accordingly.
  • Tattooed Crook: His art includes such lovely features as 666, a few swastikas, and a hangman's noose around his neck.
  • Wicked Cultured: In spite of looking like a homeless meth fiend, he's apparently familiar with Nietzsche and The King in Yellow.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Along with his two accomplices, he killed at least one child, and left another horrifically traumatized.

    De Wall Ledoux 

DeWall Ledoux

Played By: Ólafur Darri Ólafsson

"You got demons little man. And I don't like your face. Makes me want to do things to it."

Other Characters

    Dora Lange 

Dora Kelly Lange

Played By: N/A

The first victim that Hart and Cohle encounter, whose murder kicks off the entire investigation. The 28-year-old former prostitute was found dead in Erath in 1995 wearing antlers, with a spiral tattooed on her back.


    Charlie Lange 

Charlie Lange

Played By: Brad Carter

Dora Lange’s ex-husband, whom Hart and Cohle interview in prison. He is Reggie Ledoux’s former cellmate.


    Lisa Tragnetti 

Lisa Tragnetti

A young court reporter who is having an affair with Hart.


  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Cohle's take on her. He thinks that she's parading in front of Hart with another guy to make him jealous, and that he could tell with one look that she's a bit crazy.
  • Ms. Fanservice: As Alexandra Daddario said:
    The president has seen my boobs.
  • Put on a Bus: Not seen after 1996.
  • Revenge Before Reason: She tells Maggie about the affair to get back at Marty, despite having just seen first hand how dangerously violent he can get.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gives this viciously to Marty over his hypocrisy after she told Maggie of the affair.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Cohle notes how Lisa looks like a young Maggie, and Marty has an affair with the similar looking Beth in 2002.

    Beth 

Beth

Played By: Lili Simmons

  • Brick Joke: As they leave the Bunny Ranch, Marty gives $100 to Beth, one of the Ranch's underage girls, to try and get her out of prostitution. Rust quips that Marty's putting down "a down payment" on the girl, which raises Marty's ire. Seven years later, Marty meets an older Beth and they start having an affair.
  • Evil Uncle: She apparantly had one.
  • Ms. Fanservice: She's seen naked, and later she's parading around in front of a mirror in skimpy lingerie while talking dirty to her lover over the phone.

    Ginger 

Ginger

Played By: Joseph Sikora

  • Bald of Evil
  • Fluffy the Terrible: He's a biker named Ginger for God's sake which is apparently a reference to his red beard.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Ginger tests Cohle's legitimacy by making him take a snort of cocaine and then rob a drug stash house with him.
  • Jerkass:
  • Karma Houdini: Ginger gets dumped in a ditch by Cohle, but otherwise escapes all punishment for his drug stash invasion and general scumbaggery.
  • Meaningful Name: It's a reference to his hair colour.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: We never do find out Ginger's real name.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Ginger's plan to rob the stash house in the ghetto is incredibly audacious. To wit, he dresses himself and two other guys in cop uniforms (keep in mind they are still bearded, tattooed 1%ers), rolls into ghetto, takes a few black guys hostage and proceeds to rob the gang. It would have worked, even though the gangbangers were fooled only for a moment, but one of the bikers shot the hostage, prompting people outside to retaliate.

     Robert Doumain 

Robert Doumain

Played by: Johnny Mc Phail

    Jimmy Ledoux 

Jimmy Ledoux

Played By: Jay Huguley

An estranged second cousin of Reggie Ledoux who, in 2012, gives Hart and Cohle intel on a possible meeting years back with the so-called spaghetti monster, a scarred-face man who kept looking at him ominously.


  • Good Counterpart: the only Ledoux shown who isn't a a crazy member of a cult, though Jimmy Ledoux stresses to Hart and Cohle that his cousins were the pariahs of the Ledeoux family. He even says they're worse than white trash.
  • Irony: he refers to the false story of Hart and Cohle killing his cousins right to Hart and Cohle, who make no attempt to say they're the ones that did it.

Alternative Title(s): True Detective Louisiana CID, True Detective Other Characters, True Detective Tuttle Ministries, True Detective Yellow King, True Detective Main Characters

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