'True Detective' Theory: Evidence Suggesting Rust Cohle's Fate In The Finale

I would like to reiterate that I do not subscribe to the theory that Rust Cohle is intentionally planning to commit suicide in the True Detective first season finale this Sunday, but I will admit this: once that seed is planted in your head, it’s hard not to see all the evidence favoring that outcome. Yesterday, I rounded up some of the evidence from the series itself supporting such a theory, and today, more evidence has surfaced from Matthew McConaughey himself suggesting not necessarily a suicide, but certainly the death of Rustin Cohle.

Over in Rolling Stone, McConaughey talks about the preparation he put into his role as Rust Cohle, revealing that he wrote a 450-PAGE GRAPH to help him inhabit the role in each stage of the series, which spans 17 years. Basically, he broke it down into the “Four Stages of Rustin Cohle,” outlining what his character should be like in 1995, the Crash, 2002, and 2012.

Here are a couple of choice quotes via Rolling Stone:

1995 Cohle:

He needs the regimen of the homicide detective. He needs the case to actually survive. One, because he’s great at it. And two, because it’s going to keep him from killing himself.”


“He knows he may die sooner living this life, but there’s a freedom and peace in that knowledge for him.”

2002 Cohle

“But the case is still his lifeline. He has some small hope that there’s going to be a way out of his being and pain and criticism, so he makes an effort into domesticity, a la the girlfriend. Only to prove that he was not made for it, and there is no way out. So what does he do? He resigns to his nature, once again.”


“This guy lived longer than he hoped. Fallen prey to his own beliefs. More cynical, angrier, he’s had to endure the existence of this shitstorm called life … He’s a guy who’s resigned to his indentured servitude of being alive. But he despises the sentence and the penance. He will not accept defeat. He’s not going become a madman, he’s not going to kill himself. He wrestles the devil every day, and he realizes that this may last a lot longer than he ever hoped for.”

The thing in common with all four stages of Rustin Cohle is that the case seems to be the only thing keeping him alive, that he doesn’t much care for living, and that without the case, there doesn’t seem much reason to continue existing. Does that mean Rust Cohle is going to blow his brains out?

I doubt it.

Will he die? I think so.

Look: Nic Pizzolatto has written that the series will come to a naturalistic end. In other words, everything that happens in the finale will flow naturally from the character arcs. A premature death seems to be a natural end point for this character. I don’t think that, in the end, Rust Cohle is going to solve the case, have his debt erased, and join Marty’s PI firm and live happily ever after. Rust Cohle has nothing to live for beyond the case. What does he do at the end of the day? He “goes home.” What does that look like in 2012? It looks like this:

When he’s out there at night in his lawn chair drinking cheap beer, I imagine the only thing that keeps him from thinking about his dead daughter, his ex-wife, and his inability to live peacefully with someone else is the Yellow King case. It’s become his identity. Without it, he’s got nothing left.

So, no: I doubt that he’ll hang himself, but will he put himself in harms way? Will he sacrifice himself? Will he take a bullet to take down the Spaghetti Monster? You’re damn straight. The case will be the end of Rustin Cohle. Without it, he has no voice. When he dies, who will shed a tear? His mind will always be lost in Carcosa, his last and final resting place.

From the play called The King in Yellow:

Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa

RIP Rust Cohle.