In 1995, Cohle and Hart continue to investigate the murder of Dora Lange, and learn she was attending church prior to her disappearance. Cohle deduces that Hart is cheating on his wife, Maggie, with Lisa Tragnetti, creating friction between the two. Cohle is also experiencing hallucinatory synesthetic side effects due to his drug consumption and is contemptuous of Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle's lobbying for the creation of a special task force focusing on "anti-Christian crimes" to assist in the investigation. While buying drugs from a young prostitute, Cohle is pointed towards a trailer park of runaway girls. The two find Lange's diary at the park and learn the location of the church, which was destroyed in a fire. While searching through the wreckage, they find on a wall a nightmarish painting of a woman with deer antlers.
Seventeen years later, Papania and Gilbough continue their interviews of Cohle and Hart. Hart is divorced, and Cohle confides that his daughter died after being involved in a car accident, leading to the collapse of his marriage and the beginning of his addiction. To avoid prosecution for killing meth user who had injected his own infant child with the drug, Cohle's superiors compelled him to be a "floating" drug undercover officer for four years, until he was hospitalized in a psychiatric institution after shooting three cartel members and being wounded in the gunfight. After his release, Cohle's request for another job resulted in his becoming a homicide detective with CID, where he was partnered with Hart.