Digesting True Detective’s Shockingly Unshocking Finale

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I said last week that it likely didn’t matter if True Detective ended with some grand twist, and all indications seemed to say it likely wouldn’t. Though fans agonized over every little detail onscreen and in the dialogue for the duration of the show, there were no grand revelations in the end. Not even one.

That isn’t to say the True Detective finale was bad, though it’s taken me a day or two to fully digest it. I have to say throughout the course of the evening, I found myself saying “this is it?” and felt somewhat let down by the end.

I suppose it’s contrary to everything I’ve said up until this point about how twists don’t matter and the fun is “in the journey, not the destination” a-la-Lost, but in the end, True Detective seemed to conclude on a relatively hollow note for me, and I’m trying to understand why.

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While the atmosphere was certainly tense, the finale was a bit too straightforward and hurried for how carefully balanced and paced the show had been before it. Marty and Rust catch a break when they figure out the “green eared” man likely painted a house green at one point, and through a relatively boring bit of policework, eventually locate the man’s house. A chase ensues through a surprisingly un-booby trapped underground labyrinth, “Carcosa” and in the end Rust and Marty get their man, but not before sustaining major injuries.

I didn’t need Rust to die. I didn’t need there to be some great twist, but I feel like I did need more than what was given. There were certainly great moments in the night, Carcosa was creepy as shit, and Rust’s U-turn out of nihilism in the end was certainly moving and will secure McConaughey his Emmy, if that was ever even in question.

But there just seemed to be too much left on the table. The Marty-Rust-Maggie relationship was nowhere to be seen, and she simply shows up with her kids after years of estrangement, all forgiven because what, he’s hurt and a hero again? It seemed odd, and like a waste of the character, not to mention the built-up plotline of Marty’s longstanding issues with women.

Similarly, the endless amount of hints dropped that Marty’s daughter had been sexually abused ultimately led nowhere, like the show simply ran out of time to explore that further, or just had that in there as a giant flopping red herring the entire time.

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No one will doubt the overall quality of True Detective’s first year here, but I have to wonder what this means for fan speculation about future seasons. This year, fans drove themselves crazy (in a fun way) trying to guess all the grand plotlines and twists and reveals that could take place by the end of the season, but the final product didn’t really require any guessing at all. Tuttle was indeed as guilty as he looked. The bad man with the scars was just that, a bad man with scars. They found him. They killed him.

What happens next year with a new cast and story? True Detective’s ultimate twist was that there was no twist, but can you play that same card twice in a row? While not every story needs Shyamalan-level twists to be compelling or interesting, there’s something to be said about not being predictable either. Despite the quality of the writing and acting, the past few episodes of True Detective felt like the writing was more or less on the wall, and there was no point guessing any more. The show’s creator explicitly telling people “you are wrong, there is no crazy twist” the entire time certainly didn’t help the suspense either. The only question appeared to be a coinflip predicting who would die in the end. And again, the biggest shock was that no one actually died, other than the guy who was supposed to.

I don’t want to take anything away from True Detective, because when viewed as a whole, I think it’s a monumental achievement of television, and a paragon all other shows should aspire to. But that doesn’t mean parts of it didn’t bug me, and I’m sad that literally none of the conspiracy theories panned out to any degree. It’s sort of like finding out the Island was just a regular tropical paradise on Lost, and the Smoke Monster was rogue cloud formation.

I’m exceptionally curious to see how the show will start over again, which stars it will attract, and what new mystery we’ll find. I wonder if it will be worth guessing at the outcome, or if it will be laid bare for us once more.

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  1. The real plot of True Detective was about Marty and Rust. Everything else was just there to move it along. How did you manage to watch all of it and not realize this?

    I’d prefer for a show to not fell like they don’t have to lie to me.

  2. “and she simply shows up with her kids after years of estrangement, all forgiven because what, he’s hurt and a hero again?”

    I wouldn’t necessarily say all was forgiven. I certainly didn’t get the feeling that they were getting back together or anything (her wedding ring was fairly prominent in one shot). The father of her children was almost killed in the line of work. I don’t think coming to visit him in the hospital is terribly unreasonable.

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