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True Detective S01E08: "Form and Void"

Going into "Form and Void," there were a lot of ways to describe the first season of True Detective: stunning, raw, philosophical, frightening, pretentious, ambitious, boobies, occasionally hilarious, gorgeous, and incomplete. And coming out of the finale, nothing really changed about those adjectives. "Form and Void" was a very good but not great ending to one of the better new shows to come around in a long time, but I can't help but think the show peaked around Episode 5—the mind-bending and perfect "The Secret Life of All Fate" that threatened to be the first major step in a new post-Golden Age of television renaissance—and since then has been merely a great detective show. That's probably not fair to True Detective to approach it in that manner, but I mean it when I say "great television show." True Detective was astounding television, even when it shifted away from what I thought was its strengths.

For me, it's impossible to look at "Form and Void" individually as an hour. True Detective was this idea of "event television" that other networks are chasing. It was eight episodes of a new property that made its viewers theorize and dive in headfirst into an empty pool of obsession. "Form and Void" was the end of a really long movie to me because Season 1 was self-contained with a beginning, middle, end, and no chance of more, unlike 22-or-even-13-episode seasons that contain filler and cliffhangers and could live on in syndication for your grandkids.

And because it was the end of the story rather than a regular season finale, I found it incredibly satisfying as an endpoint even if it wasn't the best part of the season. It ended about as perfectly as it could end. Hart and Cohle got their man in Erroll Childress, a man whose hygiene and sex life was just as frightening as his remorseless acts of murder, but they didn't bust up the bigger sex-cult child-pornography old man's club that was certainly connected to the Tuttle family and responsible for all these missing girls. True Detective was never a happy show, it focused on the worst of us in the worst of times. It's consistent with the show's theme that Hart and Cohle only put a Band-Aid on Louisiana's gusher of a declining young woman population, and realized they they "didn't get 'em all," and weren't going to get them all. But they did get the monster at the end of their nightmare, and the series portrayed this as a realistic victory.

For the viewer who demands closure, this probably didn't work. The idea that Billy Lee Tuttle is still out there and pulling up a van with no windows next to a schoolgirl right now is unsettling, but that's the point. True Detective wants you to leave Season 1 feeling that this battle between light and dark, good and evil, the Rust Cohles of the universe and the fat, incestuous Erolls of the universe isn't done because True Detective isn't afraid to show the harsh truth of the world. The paradox of the world needing bad men ("The world needs bad men," came straight from Rust's mouth early in the season) in order to have good men was all over True Detective, and watching those lines get reluctantly drawn is what really made the arcs of Hart and Cohle so interesting.

But it was the final minutes of "Form and Void" that saw those lines firmly etched into the ground. Our two men were still recovering from their battle wounds in the hospital when True Detective delivered an oddball of a twist ending that I don't think anyone expected. Rust Cohle went sentimental on us! Cohle's near-death experience had a profound effect on his psyche, and as Cohle sat in his wheelchair looking like he just got out of a meat grinder, he told Marty that he was looking at his night-sky metaphor (light vs. dark) all wrong. "Once there was only dark," he said, peering up at the faint stars. "If you ask me, the light's winning." Rust Cohle, the man who could look at a puppy and only see a trip to the vet to put the dog down in 12 years, had hope. HOPE! Cohle's words were captured on the season's final shot, a long hold on the night sky as stars shone brighter and brighter. It was almost enough to draw a tear. Almost.

I'm not entirely sure that ending worked, but I give True Detective an A-plus for effort and I loved how it broke expectations. When I think about how I will remember Rust Cohle, one of television's best characters of all time, it will be the man who amassed a beer-can-man army as his minions against his interrogators. It will be the man who spoke of flat circles, bad men, and suicide suggestions. His final revelation of hope will be a footnote in my memory even though it shouldn't be, and I'm not sure if it's because I'm enamored with the Rust Cohle of old (1995 and 2002, specifically) or if it's because I want True Detective to be that dark, Nihilistic show that thrilled me through the first five or six episodes. And maybe it's because I'm not entirely sure I even believe him. It could be the pain meds talking for all I know. It's just an abrupt turn to take everything we knew about a man—Rust was defined by that fatalistic attitude—and spin it on its head in a series' final minute. But gosh darnit, it still warmed my heart even if it was sudden and cheesy. I like to think Cohle took that positive attitude straight to the nearest watering hole and put down a celebratory six pack of Lone Star.

The ending may give us a little insight as to what's coming in future seasons. I'm just guessing here, but what if future seasons of True Detective all existed in the same universe, and really, there's no reason they couldn't, and told similar stories of how the job affected people in different ways? Did you ever read Cloud Atlas (ignore the movie, it's awful)? It's one of my favorite books, and I think True Detective could do something similar with its structure as it moves forward. Cloud Atlas takes place over several different time periods with recurring themes and images popping up in several short stories. It would make sense that Season 1 of True Detective, which focused more on existential themes rather than homicide investigations, would carry over similar ideas into Season 2's brand-new setting and characters. Cohle's last-minute ray of sunshine could just be the beginning of this war between light and dark. I'm not saying that every season will end with a formerly disenchanted detective saying, "If you ask me, the light's winning," but I could easily imagine it ending with another small victory. "We ain't gonna get them all, that ain't what kind of world it is, but we got ours," Marty said. Maybe True Detective really is a show about good prevailing over evil, about believing that the world isn't one huge garbage dump rotting away at the core, about understanding that you can only do your part to help the light. Maybe, when True Detective Season 14 ends and Zac Efron shares a sunrise with Ashton Kutcher, we'll see True Detective for what it really was: a show about changing your outlook for the better. That's the only way I can understand Cohle's sudden reversal of perspective fitting in with the rest of the series. (That, or another main character has the exact opposite trajectory as Cohle's and the two meet in a later season as a superhero and supervillain and we realize Season 1 was just preamble to a Captain Cohle summer blockbuster movie franchise.)

But I still call "Form and Void" "good but not great" because it didn't quite match up with the meaty and mysterious middle of Season 1, which I thought (and prayed) True Detective would take all the way to the end. Episodes 3, 4, and 5 were revelatory television that played with narrative structure, time, and character. Earlier in Season 1 I tweeted out that True Detective had consumed me, but once the interrogations with Gilbough and Papania ended, True Detective burped me up. I loved the idea of not knowing what was the truth, on relying on potentially unreliable narrators, of fitting the puzzle pieces together to figure out what had happened and what made Hart and Cohle who they were in the present. Episodes 7 and 8 shed that mystery so that all we saw was truth. I hate to penalize a show for being so great at one point, but that run of True Detective episodes were SO good that it made the last three hours look somewhat tame by comparison.

And tame is indeed a relative term, for "Form and Void" contained the scariest sequence of the series by far. Cohle's frantic gangland exit at the end of "Who Goes There" remains the season's pièce de résistance, but Cohle and Hart navigating Childress' twig maze was more intense given the uncertainty of it all. And that's what these last two episodes did have over the first six. We didn't know if Hart or Cohle would die because we were in real time. Even as soon as Hart and Cohle pulled up to Childress' hoarder house, the air in the room changed. There's a shot of the car facing us with that little shed in the background, and you just knew something horrible was going on in there. Cohle knew it, too, and immediately told Hart to call Papania for backup because "this is the place." True Detective does so many things so well, but my favorite is it's mastery of suspense and the way it can seamlessly transition into action. "Marty clear the house!" was our starter-gun for a 10-minute sequence of heart-racing in this one, and it was impossible to do anything but inch forward on the couch and be mesmerized by the backwoods labyrinth, the effective use and non-use of sound, and gorgeous cinematography. 

I've probably changed my mind on "Form and Void" a dozen times since watching it, wavering between various degrees of positivity, but I'm noticing that the more I think about it, the more I like it. Right now, it's very, very good, but tomorrow it could be three "very"s and by the time Season 2 ends, it could be the best ever as it finds another puzzle piece to snap into.



CASE NOTES

– Sorry for the delay on this! No screener plus a newborn baby means my schedule is all over the place.

– This show, more than any I've ever seen, was in grave danger of being ruined by the Internet (and some could easily argue that it was). I never understood why it was picked apart as ravenously as it was with viewers looking for clues to the case and theorizing twists and even a supernatural component. To me, it had always been a more straightforward show that understood that creating bad people who could live within the realm of our known universe was much scarier than anything supernatural.

– However, I do understand disappointment from those who needed every question answered. Online speculation created most of those questions though. I never cared about Marty's daughter's figurines or the picture of the Five Horsemen or even Carcosa and the idea of The Yellow King, but the Internet sure did. I think I saved myself a lot of frustration by not getting sucked into the conspiracy hunt and instead watching True Detective for the characters more than the case.

– And because True Detective was the focus of so much watercooler discussion, it felt like "Form and Void" almost hit a point of self parody at some moments, where I got sucked into over-adrenalized file sorting or digging into tax records, or watched just waiting for Cohle to say something weird instead of letting these characters be themselves. LIke Marty's "What's scented meat?" punchline, which made me think more of a buddy cop comedy than anything else.

– The big break in the case being a house that was painted green decades ago and Marty figuring out that the Spaghetti Monster's green ears were linked to it was pretty lame! Sorry, but it was! But an interesting investigation was never one of True Detective's strong points.

– Cohle might have the new outlook on life, but I worry for Marty. He's a broken man who has nothing left to do but go back to microwave TV dinners. However, he seemed pretty happy to be sucking on that sippy cup in the hospital.

– Speaking of that scene, that back and forth between Hart and Cohle was fantastic. Hart: "What's your problem?" Cohle, barely alive: "Nothing, what's your problem." Hart: "Don't ever change, man." *flips the bird* And Cohle responded in kind.

– I love the sequences of stitching together the gorgeous landscape shots to show how the land was all connected and spotted with sites of evil. Erroll's home, the bayou, the Ledoux meth compound, the river, the site of Dora Lange's murder. It all resonated as a complete landscape and nifty reminder of where we've been. And, if you're pessimistic, what might still be out there. 

– I don't normally do this, but a hearty thank you to all those involved in the series for making it such a fantastic watch. This was top-notch entertainment and an extraordinary effort from very talented people. 

– "Making flowers"? Did you perverts ever think that maybe they were referring to putting together some great bouquets?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/9/2015

Season 2 : Episode 8

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&The; idea that Billy Lee Tuttle is still out there and pulling up a van with no windows next to a schoolgirl right now is unsettling, but that's the point.


Not entirely true. Tuttle's involvement is mentioned on a news report (but he denies it), so he will be a target of investigation and he will not be able to go on like he used to. People are watching him now.

&The; big break in the case being a house that was painted green decades ago and Marty figuring out that the Spaghetti Monster's green ears were linked to it was pretty lame!

Yup. Some fine police work :-) I think it also was a sign of weakness in the script that we got a view of the monster in his own setting. It would have been better if the camera (and we ourselves) only knew what Hart en Cohl knew. This was too much explanation where it was not needed.

&To; me, it had always been a more straightforward show that understood that creating bad people who could live within the realm of our known universe was much scarier than anything supernatural.

Nah. It created so much tension that the monster (or network) needed to be larger than life, so a supernatural involvement would have been more justifying. That the crime in the first episode (with the grande show of twigs and antlers) was committed by some half-wit who normally just abuses kids in a very dirty house didn't stick. In that way, the initial killing is still a strange occurence when this man has killed so many people before and after this event who he didn't dress up like a moose.


&I; love the sequences of stitching together the gorgeous landscape shots t

Me too. And it makes me think about season two that will feature a very different environment. I hope that's going to work, but I have serious doubts. In season 1, the main actors (harrelson and Mcconaughey) where excellent but the landscape played a part too. The actors who are casted for season two are't that great and the landscape of california isn't as mystifying as the South.

I'll give it a chance, but I cherish season 1.

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I just want to say this the best bromance of the history of TV. I am going to miss Rust and Marty!

And I loved that at the end, Marty said something deep and pessimist (like all those Rust's quotes that Marty hated so much) and for the first time ever, Rust answered with a line about hope. That last scene was perfect!
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So, instead of just watching two episodes a night, I ended up with a whole bunch last night and finished it. I actually think I enjoyed the last couple more because I was watching them in order (I had a odd time envisioning what it must have been like to watch them once a week). I agree that the picture thing was random (though I was putting together that picture Marie Lefontanou gave to the police sketch artist did seem to be the man with the scars and when they were investigating Dora Lane's murder, the girls at the revival told them about Dora leaving with him but Marty thought they were covering. I guess the only thing that bugged me was the little glimpse into Erroll's actual life - I really didn't need that.

I wasn't so much surprised by Cohle's change of heart, as Marty was calling him on years ago he was so strident in his fatalism that I started to think it was covering for something. I feel better about Marty going forward though, because, well, he has Cohle.
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A belated congratulations on your newborn. I just finished watching the finale. This is such an awesome show. A battle of light vs. dark, set in the real world, is a great concept. Good people vs the bad people. I hope they continue the concept, throughout the series. I agree with your thoughts about Tuttle still being out there.

Throughout the season, i always like the Marty character, more than the Rust character. But in the end Rust won me over. The character development of the main stars, on this series is second to none.

I'll miss Woody and Matthew. It will be hard to replace them. but considering the quality of the writing, casting, acting, and directing of this season; they should be fine.
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I was thoroughly engrossed with this Season. Definitely my favourite show of 2014. Looking forward to the next season but can't help but feel it's going to be hard to match the characters of Cohle and Hart. Rust Cohle goes down as one of the best characters on TV in recent years...
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I thought the finale was mostly satisfying and creepy, but the final fight just got on my nerves. Why can't the "good guys" simply shoot the "villain" dead? Why should there be this useless, overdramatic "lost the gun, got the gun back" thing? The final dialogue was really disappointing too, I thought it was just this cheesy mumble-jumble that sounded incredibly overacted. I think they're great actors and did well throughout the season, but their final delivery fell flat to me. Thank God I rarely theorize about TV shows - 'cos most of the time I think things don't necessarily mean anything other than what they are - so the lack of explanation and the straightforwardness of the ending was OK with me. I didn't think there was any hidden meaning. It was a cult - in which crazy people did crazy things and gave things these magical meanings.
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The real question is : Why can't the "good guys" lose? The perfect end would have been if he had killed both Marty and Rusty, and life would have went on from there.
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Cohle was always a realist due to the events that happened in his life and not a pessimist per se. Except for the way they came to the conclusion of 'green ears', I loved the finale. I didn't expect this, but Matthew McConaughey was a tour de force. Tim, you once said that everybody in the same room as Rust would want to kill themselves, but I disagreed back then and I disagree even now. The ending with hope rising in Rust's heart (though its twisted since he believes that death would get him closer to his loved ones) was spectacular.
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Not sure if he believes the light is winning or he is trying to convince himself.
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i've been reading some reviews of this today.

yours is the one i resonate with. i, too thought that 1-3, and 5 were the best ones.
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What an amazing show!! If only there were more like this one on tv! I also was more hooked by the characters and the dark atmosphere than by the case itself and ok, maybe it seems a bit disappointing that Cohle, the ultimate cynical pessimist, found a ray of hope in the end, but it's the end of the season.I mean, I get it, it's already realistic enough how the case was solved and most of those perverts won't be punished, so maybe the writers wanted to give us a little hope in the season finale, so that we don't end up totally wrecked by it(not that I didn't absolutely enjoy all that misery in the show!) Anyway, even the least exciting episodes were 100 times better than any of the great episodes of most of the other shows!!

As for the next seasons, since each one of them will have a unique case and different cast, I want to face them as different shows and not compare them all the time. After all, if the same recipe remains (dark atmosphere, deep and intriguing characters), I'm pretty sure they'll be awesome and I look forward to them!!!
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A brilliant ending to an awe-inspiring television event.
Not sure why people moan so much.
Hats off to the creators.
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I agree. Though i'm still wondering, what was up with Marty's oldest daughter. She was somehow connected to the case. I wonder if her character, will be in a future season.
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billy lee tuttle is dead, dumbass
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In any case, great article Tim!

I love your suggestion for the following seasons.
Never read Cloud Atlas but I will now.

I really hope that season 2 gets another duo. It's the concept that is interesting. Hire great actors that are able to portray a duo of realistic cynical/two-faced cops and start over. It's risky, I know, but I think it's worth a shot.

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A great series finale and both actors should at least grab awards , the series is a example of how to tackle crime drama take note the following and Blacklist. It will be a challenge for Season 2 as the two leads could end up falling back in thier old habits or it could be better then season 1. We still don't know what will happen with the corruption in louisianna and their could be further repructions for rusty and marty.
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Im barely out of Breaking Bad's rehab and now im checking myself in for Cohle withdrawal.

Though I dont entirely agree with Tim's opinion, i must say that Tim was spot on about Episode 4-5 being godly that dampen the later episodes. These 8 episode fills me up as much as an entire season of orphan black/24/person of Int/house of cards !!

I too would like to thank all the cast and crew for a wonderful show ! Emmy please for Matt and woody !
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"However, I do understand disappointment from those who needed every question answered. Online speculation created most of those questions though. I never cared about Marty's daughter's figurines or the picture of the Five Horsemen or even Carcosa and the idea of The Yellow King, but the Internet sure did. I think I saved myself a lot of frustration by not getting sucked into the conspiracy hunt and instead watching True Detective for the characters more than the case."

That's pretty much what happened with those disappointed with the ending of LOST . But that's a sign of great storytelling! And if True Detective had gone on longer then 8 episodes, I'm certain we'd see A LOT more internet backlash from disappointed viewers. For me, I was very happy with both endings (especially in hindsight) and also very grateful that True Detective demanded such attention to even the most minuscule detail. A drama rarely does this, let alone as successfully as True Detective did.

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Don't insult True Detective by comparing it to Lost, I mean, come on.
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In a way yes. But you can't compare ANY show to Lost in regards to all the red herrings they threw out there. They ended how they did simply because they had to wrap it up somehow and there was no way they were going to address all the red herrings they threw out there, much less the fanbase theorized about.
I would have liked to see some payout regarding Marty's daughter but at the end of the day, I now know how to watch True Detective. A lot of the speculating outside the main case aren't really worth speculating on. It's a more straightforward story, but that's OK. Lost frankly became a mess it's later seasons because of all the side stories they created.
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Yeah you see, I hear a lot of that from people who were upset with how LOST wrapped it all up, but for me, it never became "a mess". I just didn't participate in online theorising when I watched LOST, so to me the story and the resolution was very satisfying. Sure, I had my own theories about certain plots but I didn't write about them online. I also stopped reading viewer commentary around Season 3 because it was getting ridiculous.

However, I still believe that if this seasons story of True Detective went on longer, those who were a part of the theorising would've been very unsatisfied. I mean just look at how much online theorising 7 episodes inspired. Now apply that logic to LOSTs 121 episode run! The internet went berserk with LOST theories. I don't think that the show threw out too many "red herrings" either. It told a very engaging and compelling story red herrings are a necessary component to good storytelling. But so is acting and plot and I think both LOST and True Detective did television the right way.
And just like Nic Pizzolatto kept insisting "people are looking too much into it, this is about the characters", LOSTs show runners Lindelof/Cuse were saying the exact same thing....just over a much longer time period. They also still to this day have to keep reminding certain people that "they were NOT dead the whole time". Just like Pizzolatto will have to for a couple of months keep repeating that Cohle was no more meta then any character and that True Detective wasn't about the supernatural despite its suggestions throughout the first 5 episodes.
It is for this reason I compared the two shows. You just have to look at it on a smaller scale when it comes to True Detective because it only ran for 8 episodes. 2 of which, a lot of the audience (and some critics) weren't completely satisfied with.
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"This show, more than any I've ever seen, was in grave danger of being ruined by the Internet (and some could easily argue that it was). I never understood why it was picked apart as ravenously as it was with viewers looking for clues to the case and theorizing twists and even a supernatural component. To me, it had always been a more straightforward show that understood that creating bad people who could live within the realm of our known universe was much scarier than anything supernatural."

I actually saw ^^this^^ as a strength rather then a weakness. This show pulled in viewers and fans of every genre. I mean, when a drama can hook straight-up sci-fi geeks - that's something!
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I'm a latecomer to the final ep critique chiefly because I came away a little disappointed and saw no point in bringin anyone else down.

However the same spruikers & shills who get the drongos to tune into the same lame network tripe week after week have jumped on the True Detective bandwagon all over the net, so I thought maybe some other points of view are still useful.

I doubt I'll watch this series next season. In the end the writers/producers went for form over substance. When ep 4 put more emphasis on a single take action scene than the actual plot of the story being told, the shows makers revealed themselves to be fanboi cinemaphiles more interested in showing off to fellow geeks than entertaining the viewers.

We discussed weeks ago how having a reveal of a virtual unknown as the perp in the final episode would detract from the dramatic intensity of the piece.
It meant that a big chunk of the final and most dramatic episode had its intensity dissipated while the perp was revealed to us in a really lame 'Silence of the Lambs iteration #157' sort of a fashion.

I'm no fan of procedurals that are little more than soapies with badges & guns, where some member/friend/cousin of the investigator/s is involved in every incident they investigate.

Want to rid Manhattan of sex weirdos? sack the entire SVU squad & send them & their friends & families to Peoria.
That way they'll be no pillow biters OR rock spiders left on the island.

True Detective did expend a lot of energy on Marty Hart's predilection for crazy pussy, his fucked up father in law and his children's seeming to show the symptoms of abuse.

All in a show that didn't have the time or space for irrelevancy - what changed?
Did the writers disagree or did the network jerk on the purse strings? Whichever it was the 2nd half of the season lost the impetus of the first four episodes.

Still the worst compromise was in that final scene reveal where a leading character who has up until that point made a great case for a rational universe does a 'Bones' and lapses into ignorance & superstition.

Why? It didn't add to the character of Rust other than to drag out the old 'no atheists in a foxhole' untruth making him out to be weaker & less focussed than his actions had indicated thus far him to be.

Nihilism is a rational response to an world bereft of purpose; is there some law that prohibits mass culture from depicting rational and capable cynics?
If not why do all TV shows eventually make every likeable character an irrational subscriber to cliched & logically threadbare old wives' tales?
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I agree with a lot of what you said (mainly the disappointment with how the killer was portrayed) but I don't think that Rusts monologue at the end was "out of character" like so many are suggesting.
Yes, on the grand scale TV goes for mushiness because human beings respond to positive (or relatable) messages but I don't think that that's what True Detective was aiming for. In any case, it isn't what Cohle was aiming for, that's for sure. And it was not a out of nowhere character 180.

First of, how come you straight away assume that Cohle having that moment in the end was him "finding God"? I simply saw this as him finally opening up to Marty.
But also Cohle was not who he claimed he was from day one - thus the line from the killer "take off your mask". That was the show letting us know that Cohle was wearing his nihilism as a mask. Which still doesn't mean that he was "religious" deep down , it just means he was more emotional then he let on. If you go back and re-watch,
- Cohle was always showing signs of being a different person on the inside then he was "on the outside" or then he represented himself to be. This is a man who cried in the pilot episode! A man who abused drugs and alcohol and used them as an escape to deal with the loss of his child and life in general. He was always emotionally fragile.

- Since Cohle was constantly dulling the pain with drugs and alcohol and that bit at the end was probably the longest time he had been sober in years. And usually, when people first get clean/sober emotions that were buried for years start to make their way to the surface.

- Also, Cohle only let Marty see this moment of emotion, no one else. So that hardly means that he is a 100% changed man or that he found religion. He simply, for the first time in years, opened up to someone.

- When we first meet Cohle, the death of his daughter is still "recent" to him. And his way of looking at the world is very common for someone who lost a child. Something like that will often turn even the biggest religious nut into an atheist. Or a nihilist. We spent most of the show with this version of Cohle. The 2012 Cohle in the interrogation scenes was also this way because
1.) as if he would be any different or show his true colours to a couple of rookie detectives who may be viewing him as a suspect and who he is trying to get information out of and
2.) he was drinking the entire time.

- Cohle was a man who had a death wish and drank himself stupid EVERY DAY. That is hardly an emotionally stable person. So his entire thing could've been a facade that he needed to put on in order to deal. If you recall, this guy couldn't even look into a mirror bigger then a coin. A guy who hates himself that much is CLEARLY in some serious emotional pain deep down.

So yes, TV does tend to gravitate towards giving the audience "a light at the end of a tunnel" but I really didn't get that with True Detectives portrayal of Cohle. I did not see his last monologue or phrase as him suddenly believing in God, I saw it as the sentiment of a broken man finally letting himself feel something. The show portrayed Cohle, as a guy who was:
- a father who lost a young child
- a man who looks at the worst horrors for a living
- an alcoholic and an addict
So the show told us from day one that Cohle was the way he was for a reason. Not because he was level-headed but because he was seriously fucked up. Sure he was very intelligent but he was broken and that's how the show always portrayed him. Plus, it was never specifically implied that Cohle was an atheist. He calls himself a realist in the pilot episode. That's it.
It is also in the pilot, when he starts the interrogation, that he says that the first murder affected him on a personal level because A. it happened on the anniversary of his daughters death and B. the victim was a young woman.
If Cohle was truly such a nihilist (or an atheist) then why did he ascribe this as meaning something? Why did he let it affect him more because it was on the anniversary of his child's death or that it was a woman?

Sorry for for the lengthy reply but I just wanted to point this out because I think too many people took Cohle on just face value ("he was what he said he was") and never thought to look at him as an actual person - with emotions. People are rarely what they claim to be.
So I don't only think that the show portrayed Cohle realistically and that last scene was very fitting for his arc. I think it only made Cohle a better, more complex character. But I dont think that he did a 180 or that the scene turned him into a religious guy. Not at all. His emotions were just very raw in that one moment. Plus nihilism or even atheism does not mean you are not emotional nor does it mean that you are immune to things that might occur while you're coming down of drugs or alcohol. Or whilst in a coma or a near death experience. But do I think that Cohle went off to read the bible or become spiritually enlightened? Nope!
Maybe he eventually found a way to cope without alcohol or drugs all the time and learned to like himself a little but that probably took another 10-15 years.
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A lot of people would say Cohle was an atheist and nihilist who "found god" , I think its a fair assessment and its pretty easy to see if you understand his diatribes on religion. This show was all about ''the problem of evil.''
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This is a reply to your comment below:

But that's just the thing, he could've let Erroll kill him but he chose not to. He fought back. So he had it inside him even before the "near-death experience" that restored his hope or faith or whatever you want to call it. It was there all along, he just kept it buried inside. Thus the nihilism and the drinking etc.
I see what you're saying but I'm talking about "finding god" within the shows context. You've got the religious fanatics on one end of the scale and Cohle on the other. So what I'm trying to say is that the emotional breakdown that we saw from Cohle was not him subscribing to any particular religion or particular religious beliefs - it was more an existential awakening, which the problem of evil speaks of.
Within the TD universe it was a lot more black and white on the surface. So that's why I wrote the lengthy explanation above, because the entire show asks the audience to look beneath the surface because it isn't as black and white as it seems and certainly not as black and white as was implied by the user in the comment above.
I don't think that Cohles "awakening" (call it whatever you like) came out of nowhere because he was such a broken human being, he was bound to either die or find some hope and reason to live. Nobody can live with that pain, guilt and self loathing forever. And since he didn't die - he's "unkillable" after all :P - and since his survival was practically a miracle in itself, he let some of that weight off his shoulders. I just don't agree with the people calling BS on his heart2heart with/to Hart. ;-) Or those who say that it was a 180. I don't think Cohle goes off to join a Louisiana church group! Lol

P.S. I hope you understand what I'm trying to say. It's much deeper (and smarter) then the term "finding god" traditionally describes.
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I see what you're saying, and it makes sense. there's no way in hell Cohle would join any church.
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I don't really agree with that. Okay, if by "found god" you mean he found some meaning to his purpose in life, then yeah I guess he "found god". But I don't think Cohle would subscribe to any religion.
This show was about religious fanatics and in a town where most people are religious fanatics, Cohle may have come off as an atheist but any person with higher intelligence probably would. That was the point of his whole attitude. In that part of the world, he was an outcast because he didn't subscribe to the fanaticism surrounding him.
More then anything, he was an intelligent guy who was broken inside and due to his personal painful experiences he became a realist and a pessimist. A man without hope for his future. In the end, what Cohle found more then anything was hope.
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Cohle stated he had no reason to live other than finishing what he and hart started. His purpose was in protecting children and women. He didnt need to believe in a god to feel that way. His 'near death experience' is what people mean in saying Cohle ''found god''. You don't have to believe in any religion to believe in an afterlife or a god.. Cohle did find hope. The reason people believe in gods and an afterlife, is because the beliefs give them hope. 'A hope that transcends death'. Religion is just something people use to deal with disconcerting realities and disturbing emotions. Thats why these realities and emotions where a big part of the series. If you're unfamiliar with "The Problem of Evil" look it up, and you'll see that this is what this whole story was about.
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WOW!!!
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you came away disappointed like quite a few others. the ride was better than the destination. a damn sight better. still a great season all in all.
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i agree and watching this episode I had not realized that it was a finale except towards its end, It took me by surprise, as I am still entrenched in the ten-episode or more episode season. Thinking of it later on, I have come to a different conclusion than yours: that we are not yet completed. This first season is just the foundation of the series and not an end in and by itself. It was never meant to be self contained or to answer all the questions and tie up all the loose ends. What the author and director wanted was to kind guarantee that their vision and format was going to work and give them the time and scope to bring it to fruition, thus the big name actors and the great effort to depict the Louisiana country side as a Shamanistic background.
You criticize the long shot at end of episode 4 as being pretentious, but it was there to be seen as a parallel to the entrance in the womb scene here seen in the finale. I will let you with your analysis, but surely you see that both contrast in their technical and content.
This is not about Nihilism, but about a completely alien culture taking root within the desolate backdrop of the swamps in Louisiana. All that narration by Cohle is directed at that. Most people think of shamanism in its positive aspects or even in its simpler aspects as the absorption of certain hallucinogens, but it something else. It is creepier and a lot scarier than you can imagine.
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I'm not arguing for shamanism or animism, although after lived among a clan of hunters & gatherers for an extended period I do have to say that the sub text of animism (that the god head resides in everything we interact with - animate or inanimate) seems more useful for enabling the day to day lives of hunters & gatherers than what monotheism appears to grant post industrial humanity.
My point was solely that mass media - pop culture - contemporaneous art forms or however we define that artistic expression whose purpose is set by the era or shared gestalt of the artist & viewer, is vulnerable to unspoken mores.
These can take the form of what we loosely call 'popular prejudices' or IMO even more disquieting, those concepts which an interested few prefer be promulgated.
With that in mind I was asking the question "why do TV characters who express their metaphysical outlook based upon logic always seem to find redemption by reverting from rational thinking to faith based irrationality?"

'Bones' is the obvious example of this where we see a character whose belief in logic is portrayed as being a form of dysfunction.
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I see your point and I asked myself the same.
Still thinking that it worked here and fits the character and story BUT some change would be welcome. It's interesting to muse about the necessity of irrationality in one's beliefs and actions to overcome an existential crisis - I would love to see more "alternatives".
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Thank you for this reply and I see your point more clearly now. I think the simplest answer is fear of the intellectual. We are living in a world where knowledge has become over-specialized and for many overwhelming. Most smart people have a working knowledge on several domains and a general expertise on one or two; but think of the "normal" population which will get its source knowledge from documentaries which however well made are reductive by their nature or through articles in more specialized science magazines which are even narrower in their explanations. There are very few people who will go for the university handbooks or the professional papers and understand them.So really what you are calling "rational" is so complicated that people, I gather, will take the easier route of the "irrational" which needs no proof or demonstrated hypotheses.
As for metaphysics, the holographic model now being constructed permits to posit the possibility of a God as a the "real" design versus our universe as the duplicate "unreal" which has been the long held views of most religions. Yet, this model has been mocked by Jay Leno, that profound thinker of our times, and people still find it hard to rationalize. Then, it is easy to revert to myths which do make sense not in content as much as in dealing with a "traditional" approach to Truth.
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The actual crime aspect really suffered in the finale. There was the obligingly stereotypical rural southern white man (inbred, mentally challenged or severely abused, pervert) who somehow (illegitimately) connects to a large and powerful family? That well-connected family will cover for the bastard Working Grunt (when they do not even have to acknowledge the family relationship) who is pegged as some sort of Bacchus / devil / avatar type figure that they seemingly have abandoned to some backwater no-man's land? He can't be the symbol around which these creeps flock, for which they spread corruption through all levels of government to fiercely protect, and the impoverished, marginalized family patsy at the same dang time. If he's merely the mentally deficient gatekeeper to the wicked garden, that would make more sense, but why then is he, specifically, connected with the Carcosa gibber gabber? If he's a crazy bastard, peripheral to the main family, "the worst of them all", and ultimately expendable, why go to such great lengths to protect him from the law? Might it not be easier to get him out of the way? It didn't add up, IMO.
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I have to say that I did think like you for a while, until I realized that , as Tim mentions in his review, Billie Lee Tuttle is still roaming the chaotic and Gothic vistas of Louisiana. Chlidress is not the Yellow King, but a kind of crazy Fool of the Court and the sophisticated murders , the visible aspect is finished, but the murders of the tapes are not. At least, nothing really has been substantiated that way, We are told that the Yellow King is a rich individual, perhaps a Tuttle, maybe even Billie Lee, but we really don't know,
Why protect him from the law to such an extent? Well, you say he is expendable, but he seems to have been an important member of the Cult, nevertheless. The Cult seems to worship the Yellow King and the Shamanistic gods of the Siberian Steppes, mentioned as the King of Fear or King of the World by the Asian tribes in the Far East: the Mongols,Buryats, Kalmuks,Kazakhs, and others as the Bashkirs.

So obviously, it is someone who has visited and studied these places and these people who is the real leader. The Horned God is not Bacchus or any god related to the West. These gods demand sacrifice, so someone like Childress becomes central to the cult, but not its leader or even its leadership.
I don't think we have seen the last of that if the series continues.
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Perfect! (Well almost, I'm still a bit shocked by the tape though, even if we don't see much, I would rather have skipped the extracts altogether, it's just too awful and disgusting.)
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Did we see anything shocking at all?
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maybe he saw a different tape. I didnt see anything awful or disgusting. in fact I didnt see anything other than an intoxicated woman with antlers and a guy walking towards her.
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I think the finale hit all the right marks. I do understand why some viewers might be a little frustrated or disappointed even - not a lot of questions got answered - but I like to think the True in True Detective was about the true lives of Cohle and Hart rather than the detective angle. I think it was an amazing season, I'll be sure to rewatch it all again and I'm very excited to see what kind of show we get next season.
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I did not liked it that they did not catch the Tuttle family. I was thinking they are going to put down the mighty ones. I was not really a big fan of the show. It is above average but not that great.

However I do like the final scene. People do change especially when they aged.
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From 'Maybe, when True Detective Season 14 ends...' to the end of the paragraph might be the best bit I've read from your reviews, Tim. Awesome.
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True Detective had a really BEAUTIFUL, CLASSY ending. 'Slight disappointment' was my first knee-jerk reaction, but repeated viewings have convinced me that it was just a very, very beautiful conclusion to the entire story.
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Solid!
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True Detective: stunning, raw, philosophical, frightening, pretentious, ambitious, boobies, occasionally hilarious, gorgeous, and incomplete.
Yep all of the above, than why am I so disappointed after the seasons finale
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all that buildup left you feeling bamboozled huh? it happens....
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Yes, like in real live!
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you're certainly not alone in that regard.
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All I could think at the end was "That was AWESOME!" They did have to pull me into the last few minutes because they could have just ended it many times (which I was expecting) with a simple fade to black & credits. When they kept going with little scenes for the next few minutes I was actually enjoying it even though I thought they were just filling time. Until Cohle started his "revelation" speech & I thought "oh no, here we go, they have to ruin it by having the guy who railed against religion the whole time have a near-death experience where he's now seen the light." But, McConaughey's GREAT performance of that sucked me right in & then Woody's look of "What do I say to that?" was priceless. Now that I was completely sucked in then the whole "light vs. dark" deep meaning ending was PERFECT! I do agree if you look at individual episodes then some were better than others but, I look at it with the analogy of one long movie with a beginning, middle & end. This series is perfect for binge-watching the entire season (which I am going to do) to really appreciate the whole experience. I also, LOVE that they are taking the AHS route of future seasons being new characters & a new mystery. That certainly opens it up for future seasons to have top-notch actors who would not commit to a TV series but, will do an 8 episode season. I already can't wait for the next season. VERY WELL DONE, HBO! THANK YOU!
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Felt the same way about it being able to end at any point yet still lingering and getting all my attention
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"oh no, here we go, they have to ruin it by having the guy who railed against religion the whole time have a near-death experience where he's now seen the light."

I didnt like that much either, but hey, it's american tv so what do you expect?

It wouldve been much better if Connaghey died, but people needs ta believe in life everlastin' just to make it through an ordinary day.
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Only thing on his wall was a JC in the cross...
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Didn't bother me. Cohle never sounded like an atheist to me. He sounded more like someone who's into some kind of new age mysticism.
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Only thing on his wall was a JC in the cross...
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yea and he was rather explicit about the cross being practically meaningless to him.
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i liked that rust didnt heisenbergit in the sniper thing, he actually hired someone.
i wanted to see more of the killer, cuz of the way he handled rust and hart. DAMN is a tough s.o.b.
but at least rust left us one last insight: that the world used to be a lot darker and that the light is winning
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Your review summed up everything I felt and thought after watching it. I plan to re-watch the series again because I feel like I missed some of the subtle nuances throughout, but yah the ending was...bittersweet. Also (and maybe this has been touched on in the comments already, I'm a little late to the party here) but what was the deal with Hart's daughter? I thought for sure that would tie in somewhere because otherwise it felt a little pointless to me.
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The scenes with his daughter were just a way to show us what kind of person he is.
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Actually, Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle committed suicide shortly after Chole's visit. It's Governor Edwin Tuttle and his multitude of relations that are still out there wearing animal masks and shooting home movies capable of making grown men scream!
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Hey! I liked Cloud Atlas (the movie), though probably because I have not read the book yet. Granted, the same actor playing numerous characters, with men playing women and what not, made it entirely unbelievable at times, but still.

But I digress. The ending of True Detective was the best it could be, and while I agree the show peaked earlier when it was jumping back and forth on the time line as opposed to linear time with the last two episodes, it was still damn good. I hope they can get as stellar a cast for the second season as they did with season one, or like AHS they recycle the same actors in different parts. I don't know how you'll top a duo of Harrelson and McConaughey in particular.
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Completely stolen from the Red Riding trilogy, which was better by far.

MM and WH were great, but the series on the whole wasn't. Good thing Lawn Mower Man got green paint on his ears/face (give me a break), or they never would have found him and his nutjob sisterwife. Good thing LMM got a degree in set decoration, or he never would have been able to stage that lair, which was completely unbelievable from a cracker nutjob like him. Good thing they needed to fill time in the finale, or we wouldn't have needed to see those disgusting sex scenes and dog murder for no reason. Good thing Hart and Cohle went into the LMM's outstandingly decorated lair with no backup or bullet proof vests and separated from each other, or there would have been no gore or revelations or Felix&Oscar end game. Good thing H&C are physically fit, or they never would have survived those wounds. Good thing no one really cared about any of the ancillary characters, including and especially Hart's wife and kids. Rushed, much?

Good thing this show is over.

The show would have worked better as a continuing narrative in the investigation room, which is where the best episodes were. Well, Nic, at least you tried. You almost made a perfect series.

Oh well. La di da.
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For all I agreed with you on that Hot Garbage they called Dexter Season 8 I Have to disagree with you on this one. Personally I would have written the last 2 eps. a little differently and had some of the side stories (ie Hart's daughter) tie in and certainly would have had HArt and Cohle discover the lair in a much more convincing fashion than "Green Ears equals Green paint job"...but otherwise the acting and the drama made this one of the best show to hit TV in some time.
BTW I dont think Erroll built Carcosa by himself, which does indicate that there's still baddies out there (more sophisticated ones) who got away with it.
Whenever you get down on a show just think back to Dexter, you'll feel better about the show you're watching! :)
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I am ultimately happy when TV Shows shit all over the Internet conspiracy theorists. Not everything is an Easter egg, not every number is a 4 8 15 16 23 42 (when even those numbers meant shit), not every colour is Marie's purple (which was, in the end, just a favourite colour). I love creating theories, I love discussing shows, but a lot of people cannot help to etch all those theories as expectations that will never (not they should) be met by the TV Shows creators and writers.
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Am I a terrible person for thinking - this was perfect ... please don't make Season 2?
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Let's make a compromise - I'd be happy if they follow the Sherlock production schedule, i.e. a season every two years, as long as it is as great as this one. It won't be easy to top that one, as the bar was raised very high, but who knows, the creators may have more great ideas. At least, they won't have casting problems, since after this season, every major film star would be dying to be a part of True Detective.
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Sounds fair :D
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the luxury of "true detective" is it's movie-like qualities: the cinematography is exquisite, writing for the most part is superb and the acting is just excellent. even though there are only eight episodes the show's pace made this seem like it were longer. this is actually complimentary and perhaps due to editing that didn't cut sequences into such tiny fragments to accommodate "fast-food" attention spans.

certain movies remind me of video games, especially those having more action than character development. the magic of "true detective" is the manner by which its video game-like qualities (the graphic clues; the labyrinth; yellow king legend of yore, etc.) were no match to the program's tension and character-driven plot. most of all, the relationship between marty and rust, characterized by two actors at the height of their respective games, was the glue that held everything together for me.

while the rust character was the more exotic of the two, in the final analysis it seemed to me that marty was challenged even more. his character was more of the "everyman," posed with facing his "sins of the flesh," his narcissism and selfishness would hurt those closest to him while causing great loss in his life. but his relationship with rust, albeit strained for the most part, would open him to a new empathetic understanding of others; marty's best virtues were taking personal responsibility and in being patient and open enough to realize that rust was on to something.

i agree that the green ears clue was disappointing. this was the most contrived element to the final episode, seeming to be a last-ditch plot devise used solely for purpose of rushing the narrative along for purposes of reaching the conclusion. but, what are you to do when all that you're provided with are eight episodes to showcase when it may have been that nine would have been the perfect number?

i don't know if "true detective" is presently the best program on tv but it is excellent stuff. but so are shows such as "game of thrones", "shameless", "weeds" and, in its day, the sopranos. i'm just grateful that excellent programming still exists among the majority of shows on television which are dehumanizing, cynical, cheap, shoddy and produced by people who are obviously idiots.

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This is what television should be, interesting thoughts and ideas, great characters, beautifully filmed, great acting, surprising and also touching at times. You cant ask for much more than this, if people want to complain about this or that fine but when the vast majority of tv is pure crap I appreciate something special.
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OK, I've slept on it, and I agree with you Tim. The finale wasn't as good as previous episodes, in fact, episodes 7 & 8 weren't as good as episodes 1-6, but, those final 2 episodes were still better than the best episodes of a lot of other shows out there.
Hart & Cohle are the best characters I've seen in a long time, and the actors deserve all of the accolades that will be thrown at them come Emmy time. As does everyone who worked on this show, the scripts and scenery were outstanding.
I have never been so creeped out as I was when Errol spoke in four different voices throughout this episode. I know the break in the case was pretty stupid, but the chase was incredible. I almost passed out from holding my breath.
It'll be tough to top this.
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I see an Emmy hands down for Matthew to accompany his Oscar and Golden Globe! Great show!

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If he can sing and dance maybe he could go for the EGOT
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Agree but seems only women so far has this honor. What happened to the guys? :)
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There are more male winners than female: see EGOT Winners
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Hundreds of clues & conspiracy theories.
Romanian folk stories & even books about the yellow king on amazon.
So how did a collective bunch of todays most talented writers solve the case?

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Maybe it was rather a story about friendship in the darkest of times, than solving a murder case? But just maybe...^^
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Nick Pizzolatto really wrote a gut-wrenching tale, but Matthew McConaughey's Rustin Cohle character grabbed you and pulled you in. Conflicted in a kind of inner battle between his own light and dark, Cohle's only release was to try to defeat an external darkness with a hope it would lighten his own. That's exactly what the end seemed to underline. Finally, it made sense of his demeanor and psychobabble.

Tim is wholly correct in the earlier peaking of the series, but the slowing up certainly set the stage for the eight or nine minute hell-like battle to slay the demon. Then the hospital segment was anti-climatic, but it was also a set-up for a most satisfying outro of Rust rising up as a survivor with much more than a sliver of humanity. He had beat his own inner darkness it would allude to. Even more than solving the crime, this gave a decent ending to a remarkable performance.
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I was so surprised when Rust told Marty about his near-dead experience. It was really touching and incredible to see, how hope and faith unfolds.
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Isn't it disgusting that each time someone does an awful, degenerate, evil thing they say that it was because of the "chain of command". Since Eichmann used it, every single law enforcement scum and all-time asshole have used it as an excuse, and I for one am sick of it. I think that sniper guy should not only have shot the car but overkill that SOB.
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I thought it was a really, really good show with great writing and brilliant acting. Still I have to agree that the optimism of Cohle felt a bit forced, a bit less would've been probably better - a smaller glimmer of hope, especially when the stars and darkness metaphor is a bit old. It was surprisingly lazy writing for this show.

And while I really liked it up to the ending - which I thought was still very good and moving, I've no problem with open-ended stories - it's kind of shame it turned away from the characters and into a detective story. Like the genre suddenly was changed.
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Great review. I'm really gonna miss Rust Cohle, especially his metaphysical ramblings in the car with Hart. I'm looking forward to see anything with Pizzolatto's name on it.
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I liked all the episode but the end itself...I am not sure. I am cheesy enough to love a happy ending, but that optimism in Rust, is too unnatural. I am not sure I like it. I was perfectly ok with nihilist Rust. Also, I didn't care for all the theories, but I really thought there would be something involving Hart's daughter. I know think that all that story was a cheap redherring. True Detective didn't need such a thing.
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I love happy ending too but True Detective wasn't that kind of show. That's why i didn't like the ending.
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This show is a huge middle finger to all that other crap that is on TV right now (and there is A LOT OF IT). Brilliant work, True Detective! Can't wait to see what sort of darkness they drudge up for Season 2!
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There's always mostly crap on TV.
That's what makes it worth while to seek out the rare gems, like True Detective.
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I do not think one could say there was absolutely not a supernatural element to the show.
The way the characters belonging to the sect reacted specifically to Cohle for one. What Dewall tells him about his soul, what Reggie told him when he was on his knees. They didn't act like it towards Marty. Say if it was just stoned Reggie that would be another thing.
In the chasing of this last episode it was as if Eroll became omnipresent in Carcosa and he also called him little man (like Dewall) and little priest.
Hell even Cohle's visions (birds forming the spiral just when they arrive to the burned church) and his strange abilities to know if a man was guilty, feel the taste of ash in the air when he is near that kind of places and his synesthisia. His last vision of a black hole just in front of the altar where he was lured to die with Eroll who said was near final stage at the beginning of the episode and could see the Infernal plates some mornings.
It is pretty subtle but from what I read The King In Yellow was about it also seemed that way. The Yellow King was more of a presence that was always there in the short stories.
It was as if darkness was present throughout the whole series and could distinguish Cohle as an agent of light who had his own set of special abilities.
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INTENSE! the finale justified the slow paced build up in the first half of the series. It felt like an epic ending of a very very long series when it's only one season long! Rust often sounds like a pothead reading the tibetan book of death which is funny because woody harrelson would have been the perfect fit for that kind of character.
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Btw, congrats for the newborn.May he or she live a full life of great joys and greater discoveries.

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The first thing to say is that both actors were at the top of their game, and as far as I am concerned played even better than in most of their other projects. Both were simply perfect,. Really.
While it is yet to be seen f the Yellow King etc... mythology will survive to the the second season, we cannot avoid the fact that the series made efforts to show Cohle as a Jesus figure, especially at the end while he was lying in his bed. His name means "people's victory" in its original Greek and this is what he represents here. He is the Christ after the crucifixion, he is resurrected and to make the point more forceful, he is made to enter a terrible womb of death and decay and survive it, because of the obviously named Hart. We even had Cohle turn the other cheek.
Both men are the opposite sides of the same coin. They fought each other and respected each other and made peace with themselves and the world together. To me, the best scene was the discussion they had in the car, going towards their final journey, where their egos died, but they were reborn. Even the knife wound looked like the Roman's spear at the crucifixion, and Hart wound was as significant.
I am truly sad that we will not see the same actors again, but the idea is a sound idea to make the series viewed under different angles.
This first season is a triumph.
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