“In the beginning there was only darkness. If you ask me, the light’s winning.”
God, what an amazingly tense, creepy and ultimately beautiful ending to one of the best seasons of any television show in history. I, like many of you, was concerned that 60 minutes simply wouldn’t be enough time to sufficiently wrap up all of the show’s loose ends. I should have put more faith in Creator/Writer Nic Pizzolatto and Director Cary Fukunaga, as well as cinematographer Adam Arkapaw who consistently crafted a hauntingly gorgeous Louisiana Bayou landscape that was extremely easy to become immersed in. Also, I can’t forget about the tremendous performances from the two leads: Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. I didn’t think it was possible, to top his work from the previous seven episodes, but I think McConaughey stepped his game up to an even higher level especially during the concluding scenes at the hospital. They should just give him the Emmy now (unless they count “True Detective” as a series and not a mini-series in which case he’s going to be going up against Bryan Cranston and his work on the final season of “Breaking Bad”. I wouldn’t envy those voters). Anyway, enough of my shameless fan-boy yammering, let’s get to the finale itself…
We kick the action off with the Tall Man With the Scars/Green Eared Spaghetti Monster Errol Childress, who it turns out is a nightmarish combination of Hannibal Lector/The Red Dragon and Norman Bates. Not only is he doing unspeakable things to the corpse of his father, but he also apparently enjoys whistling and speaking in an extremely unsettling British accent while he struts shirtless around his house that is filled with HOARDER AMOUNTS OF CREEPY DOLLS AND VHS TAPES OH JESUS WHAT THE FUCK? Oh and he also “makes flowers” with his sister/half-sister/someone that shares his fucked up DNA. This horrifying opening sequence cements “The Lawn Mower Man” as one of the all-time creepiest characters to ever grace the small screen (or the big screen, for that matter). What’s even more disturbing is that later on we see he that he is working as a painter AT A SCHOOL, SURROUNDED BY INNOCENT YOUNG CHILDREN STILL FUCKING WHISTLING AND SWITCHING UP HIS CREEPY ACCENTS. Rust and Marty are literally in a race against time to prevent the next Marie Fauntenot.
Speaking of which, we pick up where we last left off with the detectives: out on the boat with Sheriff Steve Geraci. Steve is what Cohle would endearingly refer to as a “company man”; the type of man who blindly follows the chain of command without question, even when something seems fishy. Unfortunately for Marie Fontenot and countless other victims, something WAS extremely fishy and failing to follow up on her missing person’s report despite the fact that he was told that the report was “made in error” because Sherriff Ted Childress “knew the family” Steve made a nice career for himself at the expense of innocent lives: “Follow what the big man says. That’s how this all works.” After being subjected to viewing the twisted tape of the occult sacrifice of an innocent child, maybe he’ll have second thoughts the next time he runs something up that chain of command. Inattention to detail, as Marty can attest to, can lead to nothing but bad things.
After threatening to blackmail Steve with the videotape of the missing girl that he said wasn’t missing, as well as threatening his life by calling his attention to the sniper (Cohle’s buddy, the bar owner) who starts to shoot at his car to prove that they’re not kidding (“I strike you as more of a talker or a do-er, Steve?”), Marty and Rust continue on the trail of their Monster. Once again Marty comes through with some clutch detective work (Just imagine what the pair could have accomplished if Marty was this dedicated back in the day!), this time noticing a fresh coat of paint at the site where the first report of the “Green Eared Spaghetti Monster” first took place way back in 1995. They interview the previous owner of the home, do a little digging into tax records and voila, the house was painted by none other than Childress and Sons Maintenance (despite the fact that there are no records, possibly due to flood complications destroying medical records, of Billy Tuttle ever having a son).
With that, Marty and Rust start out on the long road to Carcosa. As soon as they arrive at the desolate site, Cohle instinctually knows that they are finally at the elusive place that they have been chasing for so very long. With Errol breathing quite heavily over the remains of dear old daddy in his murder/rape shed of sadness and tragedy, Marty attempts to gain access to the house by asking Errol’s (let’s just call her) “sister” to use their phone while Cohle scouts out the premises. Marty, who unsurprisingly has no cell service, forces “sister” Childress to get him a damn phone so he can call Detective Papania and the rest of the reinforcements. Meanwhile, Cohle is chasing his Monster through a surreal occult maze all while Errol is, with yet another accent/personality, chiding him on (“Welcome to Carcosa”). Eventually, with Marty trailing mere minutes behind, Rust comes to a clearing with a circular hole leading to the sky; a sky that turns, in what is seemingly one of Rust’s hallucinations, to a vortex into another dimension/the afterlife. Errol seizes this distraction by cutting Cohle deep with a knife as well as hitting Marty square in the chest with a hatchet. I must admit that at this point, I had resigned myself to the fact that Cohle was a goner and briefly even thought that Marty might die as well. Thankfully, I was wrong and after Cohle finally slays the Monster and the two men are badly wounded, but alive.
In the final scenes at the hospital we see just how much this experience has changed the two men, both of whom are brought to tears. Marty, a “family man” who once viewed his wife and daughters as nothing more than peripheral, one-dimensional compliments who existed for little more than to complete his image as the alpha bread-winner, is reduced to tears by the fact that he gets to see his family together for the first time in several years. Perhaps the fact that it took a near death experience for that reconciliation to happen was a bittersweet realization for Marty. He’s alive, but he’ll never truly have what he once let slip through his fingers again. Regardless, he has clearly come to appreciate his family and hopefully he can maintain meaningful relationships with his daughters and even with Maggie.
Rust, on the other hand, is driven to tears by what he experienced by the immediate prospect of death. When face to face with his own mortality, all of his cynicisms and theories are thrown out the window in favor of “letting go” into a “deeper darkness” where he could FEEL the presence of his lost daughter and father. He TRIED to give himself up to the afterlife, and yet he woke up. In a way, he was brought BACK to life by the light. Seemingly no longer feeling completely alone in “giant gutter in outer space”, he even goes so far as to end the season, and in all likelihood his character’s run on the show, on an optimistic note. If Rust Cohle showing a little bit of sunny disposition doesn’t constitute a “happy ending”, then I don’t know what does.
-My mouth was literally open until 46 minutes in when Rust asked Marty if he was watching him sleep and he told him to go fuck himself which made me laugh. I’m not entirely sure I was breathing consistently up until that point. Greatest tension breaker ever.
-The sheer volume of viewers was so high for this episode that HBO Go actually crashed. Luckily I was parked in front of my TV, because if I saw a loading sign for more like like 5 minutes I may have thrown my laptop against the wall.
-Cohle didn’t watch TV until he was 17? No wonder he’s is such a wacky ball of M-Theories. If I had to walk around the desolated Alaskan landscape making up stories about stars instead of watching “Hey Arnold!” I’d be pretty quirky too.
-Marty called Rust his “friend”! That made me happy. Also his present of unfiltered Camels, ribbon and all was just adorable.
-Only Cohle would have the balls to blame another man for the fact that he fucked that man’s wife. God bless you, Rust Cohle.
-“Everybody judges, all the time. Now you got a problem with that you’re living wrong.”
-The detectives got their monster, but ultimately the larger evil remains at large as evidenced by the news report that any ties between Errol and Governor Tuttle were discredited by the police AND BY THE FBI (We knew that this conspiracy went high, but Jesus that’s terrifying and sickening). This clearly eats at Cohle, but it’s evident that he finally comes to an acceptance of sorts that the bigger, institutionalized evil is a foe that cannot be brought down by the work of two lone detectives.
-Good to see that Maggie and the girls (Yes, even Audrey!) end up perfectly fine and healthy. Looks like all of those theories were for naught. At least until Season 2!
-Speaking of Season 2, I know this is wild speculation that has been done to death but let me put my own personal choice for the duo to replace the irreplaceable out there: Michael Fassbender and Idris Elba. Make it happen, Nic! Also, when it comes time for the casting for the Season 2 leads, the entire internet might crash. I can’t think of another example of a more anticipated casting decision for a TV show.
-Thank you for all guys who checked out my recaps, it’s been a pleasure to be able to write about a show that I was so incredibly invested in. I plan on doing weekly recaps of “Justified”, “The Americans” and “Game of Thrones” for now (with more to possibly be added in the future) so if you enjoyed my ramblings definitely be on the lookout for those!