In case you haven’t figured it out by now, there’s spoilers below. But are there really any spoilers when time is a flat circle?
From the first note of The Handsome Family’s Far From Any Road, you know that True Detective is a different show. The haunting song accompanies the show’s opening credits and sets the proper tone for the increasingly creepy world of Rustin Cohle and Marty Hart.
This rustic world of Louisiana invaded by elements of Lovecraftian cosmic horror has consumed people to the point of obsession. Conspiracy theories were all over the internet after a single episode had aired. It only got worse as the show got better and began sprinkling in bits of Robert Chambers’s The King in Yellow, a weird fiction tentpole that you can read all about in this terrific io9 piece.
The show quickly built a mythology, and the moment when Reggie Ledoux looks at Rust Cohle and tells him that he is in Carcosa, he might as well be speaking to the audience. They’re hooked on the show by this point, and Ledoux’s ramblings just start to get interesting when a furious Marty Hart walks up and blows his brains out all over the bayou.
This moment seems to sum up exactly how series creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto feels about serial killers. The former literature teacher has gone on record stating that he has no interest in serial killers. This is the story of our two detectives. This is their journey.
Despite Pizzolatto’s intention to focus on the show’s heroes, the audience became swept up in the weird fiction that the show used to give their villains a different angle. Discussions raged about just who the king in yellow might be and where this particular rabbit hole might take us. A familiar refrain going into the finale was, “I’m worried they won’t have enough time to answer all of the questions.” This wasn’t the expectation that he wanted to build for the finale, but it happened anyway.
The series is built like a novel, and this is most apparent in how it winds things up. The big conclusion happens about midway through the episode, and is followed by an epilogue of Rust and Marty assessing life after their 17 year pursuit of Dora Lange’s killer had finally come to a close.
I was struck by the hopefulness of the ending. What does it say about me that I was initially disappointed that we received an ending like this? I wanted Rust Cohle to float into that lovely darkness that he told Marty Hart all about. As a viewer, that seemed like the logical outcome. He had waxed on cynically about the vile, animalistic side of mankind, the foolishness of hope, humanity and religion. He had gone on near suicidal benders, and did the bare minimum to keep himself breathing for over a decade.
Rust himself couldn’t believe that he was still drawing breath from this world in the season’s final moments. Death was the easy path for Cohle. It’s what he wanted at the end. “I sure hope that old lady is wrong…about death not being the end of it. ” What does he do with yet more life? Maybe that’s the final surprise that the show was going for. That the universe isn’t solely a place of despair and misery, that there is hope out there.
The more I think about it, the more this contemplative ending seems appropriate for this show. Could the story of these two men have ended any other way than a discussion of the forces at work in the universe? No, probably not.
I discussed the season as a whole with Nick Dobrowolski on the Untied Podcast.
Also, be sure to check out and support his indiegogo project!
Blah blah blah
I’ve written quite a bit about Nic Pizzolatto’s influence on this show, but director Cary Fukunaga is a key part of this show’s success. True Detective is masterfully shot. Louisiana looks insanely creep through all 8 episodes. There are countless stellar shots, the highlight of which is his 6 minute tracking shot of Rust Cohle escaping the riots in the projects with Ginger in tow. Another shot that really stood out was Cohle’s busted taillight as he went to meet up with Marty after 10 years apart at the end of the 5th episode. It shows that while these two have been separated for all of these years, they haven’t forgotten each other and their wounds may not yet be healed.
The set design was outstanding. The Carcosa set in particular was amazing, creepy, and claustrophobic. Few shows have ever established a sense of dread like True Detective.
I want to call this season True Detective: Hart and Cohle or True Detective: The King in Yellow, because I don’t feel that calling it True Detective Season One does it justice. It’s a self contained story, and will most likely have nothing to do with season 2.
There were a number of complaints about the characters beyond Cohle and Hart being one dimensional, but I thought Michelle Monaghan did a great job portraying Maggie Hart.
I sure hope HBO starts selling beer can men. Merchandising, merchandising!
What’s the best line on the show? I’m still pretty partial to, “You’re the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch.”
In that regard, The constant ragging on Lost in comments sections for shows like True Detective drives me insane. Was Lost perfect? Absolutely not. But, Lost was a well made tv show for most of the ride, with some wonderful characters and moments.
If you were wondering about the “spaghetti monster” and his weird English accent, Nic Pizzolatto explains in this interview with Alan Sepinwall that “he learned how to enunciate properly through watching all these old VCR movies.” That’s an interesting back story and I’m surprised that I hadn’t picked up on that.
Everyone has started discussing potential detective pairings for season 2. I’m actually interested in when season 2 will be taking place. I’d love to see a throwback season, or even something weird, like a futuristic setting. There are no limits as to where this show can go and what this show can do.