So the Yellow King isn’t a supernatural being and Carcosa, LA won’t bend you into some time loop, but that’s OK, because a crazy zealot that could exist in reality is scarier than any fantasy creation. A murderer like Errol Childress probably has, or still does, exist in our world and he was/is probably motivated by similar delusions and fantasies to validate his urges. That is scary, and that is what Nic Pizzolatto ultimately wanted to explore with True Detective. After the thrilling, almost unbelievable, ending to episode 4 (single take drug deal) the show has slowly come back down to earth and narrowed its focus on the terror of reality, both big and small. It’s not the stories that we make up to try and make reality less scary that will ultimately haunt us, it is the behavior of people that we can’t understand that should make you lose sleep at night.
For all of the satanic rituals, wooden statues and secret sacrificial temples these villains built, they were still kidnapping, abusing and murdering children for pleasure. Marty and Rust know they only got a small piece of these horrible crimes, but this story is over and our heroes can do nothing else but lick their wounds. Sure, they helped truly close their most notorious cases, discovered evidence of dozens of missing persons and brought Louisiana’s most notorious killer to justice, but the grand conspiracy lives on as the Tuttle’s involvement in all of this has been swept under a rug and many high powered murders run free. Childress just collected the children from all I can tell, and Louisiana’s most powerful did most of the rape and murdering. None of them are anywhere near the justice they deserve. Rust is optimistic that the light is slowly winning, but if you look up into the night sky the dark has quite the advantage. I imagine people are going to be upset with the lack of closure here, but even the best detectives can’t always get all the pieces, in fiction and reality.
The finale was executed marvelously and even if the Carcosa conclusion felt a bit too far on the side of buddy cop trope over buddy cop deconstruction, that’s fine. We want our heroes to get out of this at this point, they both need the win, and neither of them deserves to be punished by death for any of their actions we have seen. Plus, that sequence running through the Carcosa maze was just as intense as about anything else the show has done, and this has been a season full of intense sequences.
People hooked on finding some supernatural connection will try to read Rust’s vision as the Carcosa cosmic plain opening up, but I think those thoughts are unfounded. This was a wicked place where wicked things happened, but all of it was perpetrated by mortal men capable of doing unimaginable things. I also greatly appreciated that they were able to keep the humor intact through all this grim material, as the first thing I did after Rust and Marty were reunited was to laugh at their exchange.
Both of the leads, Harrelson and McConaughey, delivered some of the best works of their careers over the course of these episodes and I am moderately intrigued at the moment that both Rust and Marty are alive and kicking when this was all over. If these two guys ever decide to come back and do another season down the line, I don’t know if they would get thrown in the same case or what, but it’s nice to have the door open. Waiting to see what Fukunaga does next is something I don’t look forward to, but am glad he has a series of projects lined up on his plate. This guy is going places and he used True Detective to flex his muscles for everyone to see.
True Detective never again reached the high it did at the end of episode 4, but that was kind of thematically appropriate for the show. That too was the peak for our heroes and watching them ebb and flow like they did over their careers is something we rarely get to see on television. Season 1 was some absolutely great filmmaking, but I am intrigued to see what Pizzolatto does next season with more experience under his belt. True Detective has already established itself as a show to be remembered, lets hope that there is still room to grow.