True Detective Wiki

"We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. "
Rust Cohle [src]

Rustin Spencer "Rust" Cohle is a Louisiana State homicide detective along with his partner, Martin Hart, he is one of the two protagonists in season 1 of True Detective.



Rust is a talented but troubled detective, dedicated to his work and renowned for his abilities, most notably his ability to get confessions from criminals. He carries an unusually large ledger which he uses to keep notes and sketches of crime scenes, earning him the nickname "The Tax Man" from his colleagues.

Rust is aloof; at one point his partner Martin Hart says that he "wasn't big on talking except when you wanted him to shut up." He seemingly prefers living by himself, and he presumably hasn't been able to sustain a relationship for longer than a few years. However, few details about his marriage to Claire Cohle are revealed. Rust is not prone to material desires and his apartment is bare, with only a simple bed and books on criminology. He suffers from insomnia, which may partially be a consequence of his past drug use. He has suffered from an alcohol addiction before the events of the series, but has managed to quit drinking during the first part of the series, although he occasionally drinks to numb the pain caused by losing his daughter. In the lead up the events surrounding his undercover work with his former biker gang, Rust picks up drinking heavily. By the time he and Marty are reunited Rust admits that he has spent the last decade stone drunk albeit functioning.

Even though Rust prefers to stay out of other peoples business, he doesn't hesitate to show his disappointment and disgust towards Marty after he cheats on his wife, clearly disagreeing with his ways. At one time he visits Marty's house to mow his lawn when he is away, much to Marty's annoyance. Whether he did this with the intent of making Marty uneasy is unclear, but Marty clearly implies that he sees it as an invasion of his private life, and later accuses Rust of "creating tension". He seemingly enjoys eating dinner with Marty's family and talking with Marty's wife, Maggie Hart, whom he has a positive relationship with, for most of the series.

Early life[]

Rust was born in Texas, but later moved his father to Alaska, where he spent most of his childhood. He later leaves Alaska and goes back to Texas, supposedly because he prefered the temperature and weather-conditions there. He went on to marry a woman named Claire. The two had a daughter, Sophia Cohle, who was tragically killed in a car accident. The loss of his daughter quickly led to Cohle's divorce as well as his addiction to alcohol. Cohle transferred from robbery to narcotics, and eventually became addicted to cocaine, and possibly other narcotic substances. At some point during his time in narcotics, he killed a meth-head for injecting his infant daughter with crystal meth. The state attorney gave Cohle the choice of either going to prison for first-degree murder, or agreeing to be their deep undercover narco, for an unspecified period of time. Cohle was forced to spend four years undercover, and in February 1993 he killed three cartel members and was shot three times with a .25 caliber handgun. During his recovery from the gunshots as well as his substance addictions, he was committed to a mental hospital in Texas. Upon his release, he was offered retirement with full pension, but declined that offer in favor of transferring to a homicide division. His superiors then transferred him to Louisiana. In Louisiana, he lives alone and has no friends, family or relationships, only living for his work. He tries to remain sober, but occasionally fails to do so, mostly because of his grief for his daughter. Cohle is also prone to auditory and visual hallucinations, as a result of his substance-abuse during his days as an undercover narco.

The Yellow King case[]

Louisiana 1995, a young lady is found under a tree naked and wearing only a blindfold and a "crown" made of deer antlers, posed as if praying to the large solitary tree. A twig latticework, like a Cajun bird trap, is found beside her body. The woman is identified as Dora Kelly Lange, a former prostitute. Cohle is already convinced that this is not the killer's first victim, stating that it's too specific.

Later Years[]

Cohle was partnered with Martin Hart in 1995. The two worked various cases, most prominently the Yellow King case, together until 2002, when Cohle had an affair with Martin's wife. The two had a fall-out and wouldn't speak again until 2012.

The two reconnected due to Rust's continuing pursuit of the Yellow King case. Rust convinces Marty to join him by insisting that Marty has a debt to the victims, and later by showing him the taping of the ritualistic murder of Marie Fontenot. The two eventually find their way to Errol Childress, the man behind the Dora Lange murder, the Lake Charles murder, and likely many others. Rust and Martin pursued Childress into "Carcosa", a series of tunnels filled with Cajun traps, childrens clothing, and most notably a shrine presumably dedicated to the fictional character "The Yellow King". Errol managed to wound both Cohle and Hart, but Rust managed to kill him with a shot to the head.

After healing up at the hospital, Rust informed Martin of his near-death experiences and him feeling a connection with his dead daughter, and also his father. Rust opened himself up to a new faith in life and, in the end, seemed to be optimistic about the future.


On the surface, Rust is aloof, introverted, cynical, and can come off as cold and apathetic to the people. But as we get to know him, we find that he's a complicated and deeply damaged man.

Rust is a highly intelligent and capable detective and is clearly the brains of the operation. He often is the one who has to do the legwork of putting the pieces of the case together. While Marty often deals with the more political aspects of their work, Rust is the one who often goes tooth and nail to get the results that he desires. This causes him to even bend the rules to his advantage in order to get to his objective.

Rust is generally cynical about human life, though as we get to know him we find that much of this cynicism comes from the pain that he feels from losing his beloved daughter. Rust often uses his cynical philosophies as a way for him to protect himself from feeling the pain of losing his daughter. This goes as far as for Rust to suggest that his daughter was lucky to have died when she did, so that she wouldn't have to deal with the meaninglessness of the universe.

One of Rust's greatest faults is his bluntness, which often alienates him from other people and has him come off as cold. Unlike Marty, who knows how to 'talk to people' and get people to his side, Rust has no interest in what other people think about him. He states what he has on his mind, and doesn't care who gets offended by it. This bluntness also causes him to get in trouble with his superiors, who criticize him as being insubordinate.

Despite his apparent coldness and bluntness, Rust shows himself to be capable of forming genuine attachments. He forms a connection with Maggie before that ends with Maggie seducing him. His most meaningful attachment is to his partner Martin Hart who despite their friction, is probably the closest thing that Rust has to a friend. Rust may hold some disdain for Marty for his complacency and hypocrisy, Rust showed care for Marty and even missed him while they were apart, though Rust wouldn't admit it outright.

In 2012, we've seen that Rust hasn't changed very much. He is showing the effects of age and the years of abusing drugs and alcohol are taking their toll, with Marty commenting on his disheveled appearance when they first meet again in 2012. Despite this, he seems to feel a sense of loneliness and subtly shows to Marty that he missed him.

Rust's near death experience at the end of the season leaves a profound effect on him. He finally allows himself to feel the grief and loss that he suffered with his daughter, and also felt the love of his daughter. This causes him to have a profound change in his outlook and attitude on life, with Rust seeming more optimistic and hopeful about his future.

Behind the Scenes[]

Rust Cohle was portrayed by Matthew McConaughey in Season 1 of True Detective.