Let me just begin by saying that I do not subscribe to the True Detective’s Rust Cohle suicide theory, not because there’s a lack of context or foreshadowing for it. But because I think anything that ends in a suicide is a lousy conclusion. As they said in the first day of my college creative writing class (in the same program attended by Nic Pizzolatto), you should never end a story with a dream or a suicide.
Moreover, while I do think there may be a trick or two up Pizzolatto’s sleeve in the finale, I don’t think a straight-up suicide is in the cards. The death of Rust Cohle in the pursuit of the investigation (or a shootout)? Maybe. Will he sacrifice himself? There’s a good chance of that. But he’s not going to put a gun in his throat and take blow a bullet in the back of his brain or anything. He’s not going to solve the case, drive out into the sunset, and then drive his truck over a cliff.
And yet, there is some evidence to support the suicide theory, which is currently making the rounds on the Internet. First, he’d talked about it in an earlier episode, arguing that collective suicide is humanity’s only answer, but that he didn’t have the constitution for it, although solving the Yellow King killer mystery may give him that courage. He would, seemingly, have nothing left to live for, unless tending bar and drinking himself into a stupor every night is a reason to live.
Moreover, during this week’s episode, there was one line that could be interpreted as foreshadowing for suicide: “My life’s been a circle of violence and degradation as long as I can remember. I’m ready to tie it off.” Personally, I think he’s ready to tie off the “violence and degradation,” and not his own life, though who knows?
He also says that he has the Yellow King case to solve before “getting on to something else,” but why would that “something else” necessarily be ending his life?
I think the most convincing argument for the suicide theory, however, is the line he repeated to Marty after seeing the old woman, who exclaimed, “Rejoice! Death is not the end.”
“I sure hope that old lady’s wrong,” Cohle says to Hart.
“About what?’” Hart asks.
“About death not being the end of it.”
I think that’s just a sly line, but if he were going to kill himself, I admit it’s a nice piece of foreshadowing. But I’m still not convinced that Cohle would actually kill himself, although the odds of making him out of the finale alive? I’d say 50/50, though I believe that Marty is the one most likely to sacrifice himself. Why? Because his death is more fitting the terrible life he’s led, the philandering, and the shooting of Reggie Ledoux, which is why they’re in this mess in the first place. In other words, if anyone deserves to die, it’s Hart, not Cohle.