True Detective: Is Travis Cohle the Father of Rust Cohle?

HBO’s ‘True Detective: Night Country’ takes the audience to the cold and dark environs of Ennis, where a strange mystery leads two detectives to make haunting discoveries. While the show is a murder mystery and primarily works as a whodunit, the story also has supernatural elements that add another layer to it. What makes the events of this season further interesting is its subtle connections with the first season, one of whom is a character who is already dead: Travis Cohle.

Travis Cohle Has the Same Backstory as Rust Cohle’s Father

While ‘True Detective’ is an anthology, the show has not refrained from dropping hints that all the seasons are part of a shared universe. In the third season of the show, a picture of characters Marty Hart and Rust Cohle from Season 1 was used in reference to the case. While the third season didn’t explore the connections with the first season beyond that photo, ‘Night Country’ is full of Easter eggs and references that create a stronger connection between the seasons. Travis Cohle is one of those links.

Image Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

In Season 1, Rust Cohle’s backstroke reveals that his father served in the Vietnam War and met his mother while he was in Galveston, Texas. When the couple split, Travis took Rust to Alaska, where he lived for several years before going back to Texas because he couldn’t take the cold. Rust also mentions that his father was disappointed in him for leaving Alaska and that only further strained their relationship. Rust was barely in touch with his father, who is believed to have lived in solitude, much like Rust does in the latter half of his life.

At one point, he mentions that his father died of leukemia and that he’d been to Alaska to visit him. The detectives interviewing Rust claim that there is no record of a Travis Cohle in Alaska for the past thirty years as no one has seen him, and Rust’s story turns out to be a lie to cover up his undercover work at the time. All that information about Rust’s father doesn’t really come into play in the first season, but the fourth season confirms Rust’s story about his father when Fiona Shaw’s Rose Aguineau mentions that Travis died of leukemia, later using his last name “Cohle.”

All of this is enough to confirm that Travis Cohle in ‘Night Country’ might just have been Rust’s father. One cannot deny the resemblance between the two, especially when you look at Rust from the 2010s timeline in Season 1. Further, Rose reveals that Travis “went into the ice” after he was diagnosed with leukemia, suggesting that he didn’t want to get any treatment or medication and had decided to end his life. He met Rose one last time the day before he died, which shows that even though he only came around when he wanted something (according to Rose), he was intent on saying his goodbyes. It makes sense then that he would have reached out to his estranged son, whom he hadn’t seen in years, and would want to patch up things with him before passing on.

Another interesting thing about Travis Cohle is that at the end of Season 1, Rust claims that while he was in a coma following the showdown with the murderer, he could feel his father on the other side. Is it a coincidence that in Season 4, he appears as a full-fledged ghost? Rust also described his father as a man who “had some strange ideas.” Does this mean Rust was involved in something darker and might have known what was happening at Tsalal? Is that why his ghost came to Rose, telling her where to find the dead scientists?

The only thing that might need a better explanation is the timeline. The first season covers the events in the 2010s, and by then, Rust’s father has already been dead for some time. The events in Season 4 take place in the 2020s and considering that Navarro is in her late 30s (like actress Kali Reis) and she was the one who found Travis (considering that she was still a rookie at the time), Season 4, in conjunction with the events of Season 1, means that Travis died sometime in the 2010s, which is when Season 1’s second timeline takes place. Because it is not stated how long Travis has been dead, there is a good chance for an overlapping between the two seasons.

While the second episode of ‘True Detective’ gives strong reasons for the audience to make the connection between Travis and Rust Cohle, it could simply be an Easter egg. Travis had to be a dead character in Season 1, and instead of concocting a different story, the writers of Season 4 would have seen this as an opportunity to connect with the first season. It is quite an interesting way to spark fan theories, which are getting crazier by the episode, but considering that the show has previously acknowledged the connection between seasons, it is not, by any means, too much of a stretch to believe that Travis is after all Rust’s father.

Read More: Is True Detective Supernatural, Explained