A look back at the final episode and the entire run of the first season for True Detective…
By Duane Finley — Staff Writer
Let me start by making it clear I have been absolutely obsessed with True Detective.
From the first episode all the way up Sunday night’s finale, every minute of HBO’s latest hit series has gripped my psyche and captivated my attention. As the story of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart’s nearly two decade investigation into a series of cult killings along the bayous of Louisiana unfolded, I was “all in” all the time and tortured those around me who weren’t caught up on the latest episode of True Detective.
While I could cast out a few thousand words on the jagged twists and turns the story took over the eight-episode arc, that wasn’t the mission I was charged with. The great and powerful leader of Nerdcore Movement Damon Martin—knowing my addiction to this show—asked for a reaction piece to the finale episode of the show. That was the task given and this is what shall be delivered.
Although there were many leads that splintered and wrapped around like the creepy “devil catchers” left at the crime scenes by The Yellow King, the thumping pulse of the show was always the relationship between the characters played by Mathew McConaughey and Woody Harrleson. The lead up to the finale had fans guessing if they would finally catch the backwoods maniac they had been chasing for 17 years and blow the lid off the mystery cult that had been sacrificing women and children for generations. Would Cohle and Hart expose Senator Tuttle’s involvement in this grisly ring and get their men, or would the show take some crazy turn no one saw coming?
Although the answer to these questions are mild tempered, what the show did pull off in the final episode was perfection in the eyes of this particular fan. As referenced above, the story was always about the lives of these two men—lives that have spun out of control and landed two previously hot blooded men in separate realms of isolation and loneliness.
The two episodes leading up to the finale reunited the team as they attempted to finish the job they had left undone in 1995. As the storyline slowly burned toward its conclusion, the bond between the two detectives not only recovered from the previously shattered place it once stood, but started to take on a different shape.
While the finale saw the two men nearly meet their demise as they put down the hillbilly psychopath, the last 15 minutes of the show was the real pay dirt in my opinion. We see Marty visited by the family he once carelessly lost, but the tears he sheds in the hospital bed are because he fears he’s also lost Rust—who is lying in a coma. Marty knows he’ll never get his wife and kids back, but his long time partner is the one thing that broke the chain of loneliness and emptiness in his life. We find out Marty needs Rust, but at that point of the episode, we are still unsure of what condition Cohle is in.
Once the tattered Cohle does come back to the world of the living, he’s shown staring blankly out of his hospital window. The next scene shows Marty sitting in a wheelchair sipping water as Rust comes around to which he promptly launches barbs at his partner for being there. Something is clearly eating at his soul and for a man who we’ve come to know as extremely tortured the way Rust is, that is saying something.
The final payoff came in the last scene of the series when Hart is taking Cohle for a spin outside of the hospital. While he starts to have a cigarette, Rust breaks into the details of his experience while teetering on the verge of death. Suddenly, a man who has believed for years the human experience is a painful accident, reveals the storm of emotion he felt underneath the darkness. From feeling the warmth of love from the child he lost years ago to the affection from a father he parted ways with 25 years earlier, Rust finally realizes there is so much more to the universe than he had battered himself into believing.
In a crucial turn of dialogue, Rust makes a reference about letting go in the final moments. During a scene—one of the most powerful in my opinion—from early in the series, Cohle talks about how spending 14 hours staring at photos of DBs (dead bodies) showed him that the women welcomed death in the last instance. How letting go became easy and they took comfort in not having to hold on so tight anymore. Sitting outside the hospital with Hart, Cohle describes how he finally let go, but rather than floating off and fading away, he woke up. It left him sitting in the reality that he wasn’t meant to be there in the present world and threatened to restart the endless cycle of torture—which can be tied back to another powerful moment where time being a flat circle and all things are repeated is mentioned.
Nevertheless, rather than allow Cohle to sink back into himself, Hart does the one thing he’s never done in the history of their partnership and stepped in as a friend. He talked Cohle out of his own head and put his attention on the stars above and Rust’s memories of the sky in Alaska. In that moment the two men were no longer partners investigating a crime, but friends whose bond was forged in fire. And that is why it was the perfect ending to the show.
The mysteries presented along the way were certainly compelling, but the haunted relationships of both men individually and combined, finally yielded to a bit of sunshine.
“It’s the oldest story….light versus dark” is what Cohle said and I stand in agreement with McConaughey in the idea that “light” won out at the very end of True Detective. And in a world where nothing is truly solved….this is all we could have hoped for.
If you enjoyed the final song in the series check out the full version below. “The Angry River” by The Hat, Father John Misty and SI Ishtwa –>