(Spoilers ahead!) Was there any way for last night's True Detective finale not to be disappointing on some level? For those of us who have been caught up in this series, obsessively poring over every episode and endlessly theorizing about what every single nanosecond of screen time meant, I'm not sure creator Nic Pizzolatto could have delivered anything that wouldn't have been a tiny bit of a letdown.
Plus, unlike other season finales, we knew this was the end of this particular story. This show has resonated with viewers in such a big way, it was going to be hard to bid farewell however it resolved itself. Personally, I enjoyed this last episode -- but it definitely wasn't quite what I expected.
Here were the 5 final True Detective moments that surprised me the most:
The killer was … the lawnmower guy. The End.
If you were hoping every dangling plot thread and hinted-at visual clue would be addressed in a mind-bending unravel that would shock us to our very core, well, this wasn't that episode. Nor did it delve into the supernatural territory some had predicted, despite a teasing moment when Rust hallucinated a great swirling vortex while hunting through those nightmarish catacombs.
Instead, we reinforced what we'd already suspected: the murderer was Errol Childress, a monstrous but non-mystical man who had been kidnapping, raping, and killing children in ritualistic ways for years. Other reprehensible men had been involved, but as far as revealing a groundwater-deep Yellow King conspiracy involving the Tuttles, various clergy-members, and surprise figures from the Louisiana upper class (such as, for instance, Marty's father-in-law), the show didn't go there.
What was more interesting to me is that both these men are left in a place of deliverance, a place where even Cohle might be able to acknowledge the possibility of grace in the world. (…) I think it would have rang false to have Hart and Cohle suddenly clean up 50 years of the culture history that led to Errol Childress, or to get all the men in that video. It's important to me, I think, that Cohle says, "We didn't get em all, Marty," and Marty says, "We ain't going to. This isn't that kind of world."
The investigative path that led them to Errol was a SERIOUS leap.
I realize this is nitpicky, especially since I pretty much gave the show a massive pass on the way things were resolved in favor of enjoying the character study that I deemed far more important than specific narrative details, but come on, Marty tying the painted green house to the green-eared spaghetti monster? I have to echo Rust's marveling "Fuck you, man" on that one. Even the rabid conspiracy nuts on the Internet had a better theory about Errol. What makes more sense, a pair of green noise-reducing earmuffs, or a worker who managed to slop housepaint all over his EARS?
Also, that was a mighty sharp memory on the elderly lady in the nursing home. I had the interior of our house painted 18 months ago and I couldn't tell you who did it or how much it cost.
Marty’s daughter Audrey was a red herring.
If there was one gaping hole that was left completely unaddressed last night, it was Audrey and the sexual abuse we all assumed she'd endured as a child. Here's how Erin Moriarty, who played Marty's daughter, explained the unanswered questions about her character:
The investigation becomes Marty and Rust’s life, and somehow, when Audrey is younger, she must have gained access to something involving the case. You don’t know about that kind of thing unless you’ve been exposed to it, which most young kids haven’t at that age, and she and her younger sister have been forced to grow up very quickly due to the circumstances at home, so I think it’s clear that somehow she’s become aware of—or gained access to—the circumstances of her father’s investigation. So she’s exposed to something like that when she’s far too young, and is seeking attention from her parents and draws those inappropriate drawings.
Woody Harrelson made us cry.
Well, maybe you didn't find yourself unexpectedly choking up during his hospital bed scene, but I sure did. When he was surrounded by Maggie and his daughters -- surrounded by all that he'd lost (note the lingering shot of Maggie's new wedding ring) -- and he spluttered, "Fine, I'm fine. I'll be fine," before breaking down completely … I mean, damn. McConaughey's been incredibly well-deserving of the many accolades he's received for his performance on this show, but Harrelson's been knocking it out of the park in his own way. You get an Emmy. And you get an Emmy! Everyone gets an Emmy!
The most important line of the entire series was almost impossible to hear.
"Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light’s winning." Tell me I'm not the only one who had to rewind to make sense of McConaughey's drawl-which-occasionally-lapses-into-straight-up-mumbling. When a line is that critical, I feel like the script shouldn't have read "Once there was only [INAUDIBLE]," you know?
After a million theories, the big shocking twist in True Detective was that after all the nihilism and darkness, we were left with a sense of hope. And maybe, just maybe, a slight readjustment of our overly-active imaginations for next season. As Pizzolatto put it,
To me, if there's one governing thing in "True Detective" that encompasses everything that is happening in "True Detective," and that the show is telling you — constantly, the show keeps telling you — is that everything is a story. (…) The show was never concerned with the supernatural, but it was concerned with supernatural thought, and it was concerned with supernatural thinking to the degree that it was concerned with storytelling. So if there was one overarching theme to "True Detective," I would say it was that as human beings, we are nothing but the stories we live and die by — so you'd better be careful what stories you tell yourself.
I have to say, this rather nicely echoes Marty's line from one of the early episodes:
You got a chapter in one of those books on jumping to conclusions? You attach an assumption to a piece of evidence, you start to bend the narrative to support it and prejudice yourself.
Yeah, I think many of us ended up building this show into something it was never quite meant to be (down to off-base assumptions triggered by the gloriously complex set design: "I didn’t even notice that one. None of us put it together that there was a spiral in there"), but in the end, I don't really care. I absolutely loved watching it, from beginning to end, and I can't wait to see what Pizzolatto brings to the table next season.
What did you think about the True Detective finale?
Image via HBO