SPOILER ALERT: I'm covering the big reveals of the 'True Detective' season finale. You've been warned.
Sunday March 10 was an evening of mass anticipation. After a riveting seven episodes, 'True Detective's' season finale was at hand. And in both a refreshing, and slightly frustrating move, it was quite an abrupt change of pace from the previous episodes.
The finale 'Form and Void' starts off in a bizarre manner. We finally get up close and personal with the 'Yellow King' (Errol Childress) and it's as unpleasant as one would expect. In a house that looks ripe to be on 'Hoarders', we see Childress lost in thought, going from watching Hitchcock's 'North by Northwest', to having sexual relations with his developmentally challenged sister.
To make things even queasier, we see just how arrogant and out-of-balance Childress is all at once; imitating the droll English accent of James Mason's Hitchcockian villain, before lapsing into an Irish brogue. He spoke in riddles that befits the insane, and set the tone for a frightening showdown with the detective duo of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart.
Cohle and Hart narrowed Childress as the culprit (showing that Hart is far smarter than he appears, even if his deductive reasoning was a tad too on the nose). Cohle told his bartender friend to mail out all their damning evidence to major media and law enforcement offices if they don't return. And then they set chase.
Arriving at Childress's home, the episode was full of bleak dread. Last week's episode set the tone that our (anti) heroes likely wouldn't make it out alive, and it was heightened in a surreal and disturbing showdown between Cohle and Childress. The Yellow King lured Rust through a creepy tendriled maze, taunting him in a voice that sounded supernatural in tone. Meanwhile Marty searched through the house, demanding info from Childress's sister. After realizing she was a lost cause he ran after Cohle.
Cohle finds himself in a truly creepy piece of architecture. It's at this moment, that the Lovecraftian horror references that have peppered 'True Detective' took hold in a substantive way, as Cohle had a hallucinatory sequence, gazing into a galactic vortex. Is it a druggy flashback, or does this chamber indeed hold a supernatural charge?
It's never fully explained, because it's interrupted when Childress lunged and stabbed Rust. He mocked the mortally wounded detective; 'Take off your mask!'
But Rust replied with several violent head butts instead. Hart then appears, and shoots Childress, but not before he gets stabbed himself. It's up to Rust to deliver the fatal gunshot.
It is at this moment, that the two men come together as never before. Both wounded, fearing the end, they cling to each other before help shortly arrives.
In the final scenes, we see that the endgame of 'True Detective' wasn't about condemnation, or Rust's nihilistic viewpoint getting confirmation. It was the opposite.
While both men recoup in the hospital, they undergo changes far beyond physical rejuvenation. Marty's ex-wife and kids visit him. He's at once thrilled and deeply saddened. It's markedly clear how they all keep a safe distance around him. He knows he's never going to get them back. But perhaps he’s made peace.
And Cohle? He's the capper. In a final touching scene, the two men sit outside the hospital, gazing at the starry sky. We realize that his cold, grim exterior has been the mask that Childress spoke of. It was a suit of armor protecting him from a world he’s too sensitive to deal with.
He breaks down, telling Marty that as he was dying he felt a connection to his dead daughter and father, a sense that they were somehow still out there. He openly sobs in both grief and with solace. It's another shining example of Matthew McConaughey's growth as an actor.
Hart looks up at the stars and says that in the battle of good and evil "the dark has a lot more territory." Unexpectedly, Cohle counters, “Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light’s winning.”
And that's it. No other big reveals, or deeper conspiracies. No dark past of Marty's family to explore. An open and shut case.
But it seems like whether it's 'Twin Peaks', 'The Killing', etc. the finale can never satisfy our expectations.
So in that regard, 'Form and Void' felt anti-climatic. But this was a show about subverting cop show clichés. About exploring the journey to middle ground from two partners from vastly different playing fields. About bad guys working their way towards being good guys. Reconnecting to their humanity. And two actors, Harrelson and McConaughey at the height of their craft and powers.
I have no idea where the show will head next. It'll be with a new cast and storyline. But next time around I'll be content to watch the characters journeys, and not for any crazy plot reveals. Creator Nic Pizzoloto is a master of the former, not of the latter, but that's a victory in and of itself. And he has the literary rights to the characters, so Rust and Marty's friendship may continue somewhere down the line.
So what did you think of the 'True Detective' finale? Tell us in the comments.