The finale of True Detective is this weekend, concluding the debut of the undisputed best new show of the season. The murder mystery goes far beyond the usual trappings of the genre, and has proven to be a masterwork of not just TV, but long-form filmmaking in general. Performances from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson have been top notch, as has the directing and editing, which famously produced one of the best action sequences in TV history.
But I’m not here to talk up the show, as that’s been done a zillion times all over the internet. Rather, I want to focus on what may or may not happen during the finale.
A lot of the fun of True Detective hasn’t just been the quality of the series itself, it’s been the depth of the central mystery. The two detectives appear to be tracking a satanic cult that abuses and kills women and children around the country. Each week we learn a little more, and fans pour through each episode looking for clues as to possible incoming twists. Theories include minor characters that are huge masterminds, or even the potential guilt of the two leads themselves.
But even though creator Nic Pizzolatto enjoys the conspiracy theories, he’s dismissive of them:
“I’ve enjoyed reading people theorize about what’s going to happen because it’s a sign that you’re connecting,” Pizzolatto said. “But I’m also sort of surprised by how far afield they’re getting. Like, why do you think we’re tricking you? It’s because you’ve been abused as an audience for more than 20 years. I cannot think of anything more insulting as an audience than to go through eight weeks, eight hours with these people, and then to be told it was a lie—that what you were seeing wasn’t really what was happening. The show’s not trying to outsmart you.”
So far, the show appears to back up his claim. More and more information is uncovered every week as to the nature of the cult and killings. Slowly, a picture has formed showing the corrupt Tuttle family as the main participants, which include a pastor, a senator and a twisted, long-lost brother.
All throughout the show, the detectives have been trying to pin down a man with facial scars who keeps being described as involved with the killings. At the end of this week, the man is revealed. It’s a Tuttle family member with facial scars. That’s it.
He’s certainly a chilling character, given what we know about him and how he acts in his brief appearance, but there was no grand reveal. Marty didn’t detach a fake skin mask to reveal HE was the scarred man all along or something.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with plot twists. They’ve created for many incredible, shocking moments in movies over the years, especially in many murder mysteries. I don’t agree with Pizzolatto’s statement that such endings are “abusive” to audiences, but I do think they can be overused.
Which is why, if True Detective’s ending doesn’t include any crazy or major revelations, it’s perfectly fine with me. All this time, the central mystery has been intriguing, even if it’s been presented as relatively straight forward. In a way, it’s reminded me of Lost. Not that Lost didn’t have its plot twists, but it was mainly just a long series of mysteries that were eventually explained. The answers weren’t necessarily shocking, but they were interesting and often well set-up (at least in the early years). The fun of Lost was in the journey, not the destination, and I think it’s the same with True Detective. The show has been so good, we don’t need some mind-blowing reveal to shock us into saying it was awesome. Practically no matter what happens this week, the show will be remembered as incredible.
I have my own theories about possible minor twists we could see in the family, like Marty’s daughter having been abused which has been hinted at pretty strongly. But I don’t think we’ll see any grand reveals like him or Rust being the cult ringleader all this time. I predict a violent showdown with Mr. Scarface Tuttle, and I don’t think everyone will be making it out alive. But that’s not a twist, it’s just a ending. And that’s okay.