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You, yourself, this whole big drama, it was never more than a jerry-rig of presumption and dumb will, and you could just let go. To finally know that you didn't have to hold on so tight. To realize that all your life--you know, all your love, all your hate, all your memories, all your pain--it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room, a dream about being a person. And like a lot of dreams, there's a monster at the end of it.
~ Rust Cohle to detectives Gilbough and Papania
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.

Detective Rustin "Rust" Spencer Cohle is a brilliant but disturbed Detective serving in the Louisiana State Police. Cohle serves as on of the two main protagonists of the HBO crime drama True Detective alongside his partner, Martin Hart of season one.

After losing his young daughter in a tragic car accident, his became a broken man that dedicated every part of himself to his job, at the same time making him a hard and cold person, losing all faith in everything and everyone around him. However Cohle's hardened personality has made him almost the perfect detective as he is able to get into the mind set of even the most evil and depraved criminals that his job pits him against.

He is portrayed by Matthew McConaughey, who also voiced Buster Moon in Sing, and Beetle in Kubo and the Two Strings.


Early Life

Rustin Spencer "Rust" Cohle was born around the 1960s to an unnamed father in Texas, but lived the majority of his childhood in Alaska. Rust later returned to Texas presumably due to not liking the cold temperatures, and became a police officer at the Houston Police Department.

Around this time, Rust met a woman named Claire, and the two eventually married and had a daughter together, Sophia. After his daughter was tragically killed in a car accident, Rust turned to alcohol, which led to his divorce from Claire. His substance abuse led to him turning to drugs after transferring from robbery to narcotics, and he later killed a meth head who injected crystal meth into his child. Afterward, Cohle was given the chance to go to jail or go deep undercover for narcotics by a state attorney, and he chose the latter.

While going undercover of several years, Rust survived gunshots wounds and was transferred to a mental hospital in Texas. After being released, he was offered retirement by his superiors, but he refused and wanted to be transferred to the homicide division. Being transferred to the homicide division in Louisiana, Rust moved there and become somewhat a recluse, living in a barren apartment that only had a bed and books on criminology. Due to the loss of his daughter and alcohol and drug abuse, Rust has become a pessimistic individual and has a negative view on society in general.

It's also implied that his abuse of drugs and alcohol has caused him to have insomnia and visual hallucinations. Despite his troubles, Rust is known to be a dedicated and brilliant detective, and received the nickname the "Taxman" due to him carrying a large ledger.

True Detective


Rust is partnered with Martin "Marty" Hart, and there first case is of the Yellow King, where they find a victim killed in a sacrificial way. Investigating the crime scene, Rust believes that this isn't the killer's first victim, noting how the killer was too specific with his murder methods. While working together, Rust and Marty come at odds due to Cohle's negative and cynical perspective on society and people. However, the two come at goods terms once they get to know each other, but Rust still shows disappointment at Marty for cheating on his wife.

When confronting Reggie Ledoux after finding connections to him for the murder, Marty kills him after finding that Reggie has murdered and tortured two children. Rust assists Marty in covering up the crime by staging evidence at the crime scene, such as using an assault rifle to make the case that Reggie fired at them, and Marty killed him in self-defense. Afterward, Rust and Marty are considered heroes, receiving commendations and promotions for their actions.


Around 2002, Rust learns from a suspect that Reggie and his relative Dewall didn't act alone in their murders, causing Cohle to become obsessed with reopening the case. Despite the suspect committing suicide, Rust begins to investigate on his own, going to Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle, who had been close to rumors of child molestation. Tuttle then speaks to Cohle's superiors on Rust pestering him, which causes Rust to be suspended. When Marty's wife, Maggie seduces Rust to get revenge on her husband's infidelity, this causes their friendship to be strained. After engaging in a fist fight with Marty outside the police department, Rust quits the police force and becomes a drifter. Rust returned to Alaska and became a fisherman, but returned to Louisiana and worked as a part-time bartender.


When murders start happening that are similar to the ones back in 1995, Louisiana detectives Gilbough and Papania call in Rust and Marty to interview them. It's revealed that Gilbough and Papania believe that Rust is the killer, considering that he led Marty during the 1995 case and understood the killer's frame of mind. After the interviews, Rust and Marty reluctantly work together to find the killers, and their investigations lead to them learning that the Tuttle's, Reggie and Dewall were related to the Childress family, whom are connected in committing torture, child abuse, and murders. Ted Childress, who was a sheriff at a time, secretly told Sheriff Steve Geraci to get off the original case, thus allowing the Childress family to continue their crimes.

Rust and Marty travel to the Childress home, and found that Ted's son, Errol, is the serial killer and kill him in the catacombs behind the Childress residence. Solving the case, Rust and Marty have one last conversation, where Cohle tells Hart that he believes that the light is winning.


I'd consider myself a realist, alright? But in philosophical terms I'm what's called a pessimist.
~ Rust to Marty.
I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. 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. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.
~ Rust to Marty.
It's all one ghetto, man. A giant gutter in outer space.
~ Rust Cohle.
This place is like somebody's memory of a town, and the memory is fading. It's like there was never anything here but jungle.
~ Rust Cohle.
I don't sleep. I just dream.
~ Rust to Marty.
I think about my daughter now, and what she was spared. Sometimes I feel grateful. The doctor said she didn't feel a thing, went straight into a coma. Then, somewhere in that blackness, she slipped off into another, deeper kind. Isn't that a beautiful way to go out, painlessly as a happy child? Trouble with dying later is you've already grown up. The damage is done. It's too late. You got kids? I think of the hubris it must take, to yank a soul out of nonexistence into this meat; and force a life into this thresher. As to my daughter, she spared me the sin of being a father.
~ Rust Cohle lamenting on his daughter.
Life's barely long enough to get good at one thing. So be careful what you get good at.
~ Rust Cohle.
If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of s**t. And I’d like to get as many of them out in the open as possible. You gotta get together and tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day? What’s that say about your reality?
~ Rust to Marty while watching a sermon.
No, I don't wonder, Marty. World needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.
~ Rust to Marty.
Nice hook, Marty.
~ Rust to Marty after quitting the police force.
I know who I am. And after all these years, there's a victory in that.
~ Rust Cohle.
Look, as sentient meat, however illusory our identities are, we craft those identities by making value judgments. Everybody judges, all the time. Now, you got a problem with that, you're living wrong.
~ Rust Cohle.
There was a moment-- I know when I was under in the dark that something... whatever I'd been reduced to, you know, not even consciousness. It was a vague awareness in the dark, and I could-- I could feel my definitions fading. And beneath that... darkness, there was another kind. It was--it was deeper, warm, you know, like a substance. I could feel, man, and I knew, I knew my daughter waited for me there. So clear. I could feel her. I could feel... I could feel a piece of my--my pop, too. It was like I was a part of everything that I ever loved, and we were all... the 3 of us, just-- just fadin' out. And all I had to do was let go... and I did. I said, Darkness, yeah, yeah." And I disappeared. But I could-- I could still feel her love there, even more than before. Nothing... There was nothing but that love. Then I woke up.
~ Rust to Marty.
Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light's winning.
~ Rust at the end of season one.


  • Matthew McConaughey received critical acclaim for his role, receiving numerous awards and nominations.