Lessons From The ‘True Detective’ Season Two Finale: Oh My. Where To Begin?

In addition to our weekly recaps of True Detective this season, we will also be pulling out important life lessons that you, the viewer, can learn from the events of each episode. These lessons will range from helpful to very, very not helpful. You are welcome.

Oh, Jesus. Where do we even start here? I mean, how does one attempt to extract a single lesson from the finale of the second season of True Detective? There was just… so much. So very much.

Like, maybe the lesson should be “Don’t Take a Detour on Your Way to a Multimillion-Dollar Venezuelan Escape.” That would be a good one. Because, really, what the hell are you doing there, Ray? I get that you want to see your kid one last time, but think about this. Your face is all over television because you’ve been framed for at least one high-profile murder, you were just involved in a public shootout while wearing a cowboy hat, and you just stole a huge pile of cash from the Russian mob. This is probably the worst possible time to swing by a location where public records clearly indicate that a close relation of yours will be during a set period of the day. And it wasn’t even to actually talk to him! You just saluted from afar! You got caught and murdered moments from freedom over something you could have easily done two weeks later via Facetime from a luxurious South American estate you paid for in cash. Come on, guy.

(A brief aside: What exactly is the timeline here? Ray and Frank killed Osip at the house upstate at night. They then fled immediately and went their separate ways. Ray told Ani he was “40 miles out” as the sun was rising. And when he got to his kid’s school, the students appeared to be at recess already. I suppose this is a silly thing to nitpick given everything else that happened during the episode, but either traffic was really, really awful, or — even assuming this episode took place in December and the sun rose around 7:00 — those kids were at recess at like 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. That is too early for recess. This is why other countries are beating us at math.)

Or maybe the lesson should be “Don’t Vote for the Tanned Partyboy Son of the Corrupt Mayor Who Was Found Dead in His Pool Surrounded by Pills and Booze Outside an Opulent Mansion That He Shouldn’t Be Able to Afford on a Mayor’s Salary and Which Said Partyboy Son Also Lives In,” because this happened…

… which means the city of Vinci put Tony in office despite, uh, every single thing that happened this season.

But that’s a little wordy and specific as far as lessons go. Maybe we should zoom out and go with something more general and overarching, like “Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew.” That could work because it applies to a few different situations. Frank’s whole world came tumbling down because he tried to move from gangster and club owner into the upper crust of dealmaking, and when that came apart he proceeded to piss off the Mexicans and wage war against the Russians, all by his lonesome. He wanted everything all the time and all it got him were hallucinations of people making fun of him as he stumbled toward death in the desert. Not ideal.

And the lesson also applies to Nic Pizzolatto and HBO, who took a show that thrived on the back of two great characters investigating a murder and turned it into a sprawling tale of multi-decade corruption that had so many characters and moving parts that most of the audience had no idea what was going on half the time. I don’t know if the solution here would have been to simplify the story, or bring in more writers, or spread the whole thing out over more than eight episodes (maybe a Justified-style 13 episode season could have worked), or some combination of the three. All I know for sure is that this… didn’t work. Bless everyone’s hearts for trying, but nah.

(A second brief aside: I am prepared to forgive every last one of this season’s sins — the convoluted plot, the clunky dialogue, the heavy-handed 1980s cop movie foreshadowing where Frank did the whole “We’ll meet at the park wearing white” thing and Ray did the “Only 40 miles more and then we’re free, baby” thing that told everyone they wouldn’t survive the episode — if Nic Pizzolatto and HBO decide to turn season three into a wacky Three Men and a Baby-esque comedy that follows Ani, Jordan, and Nails as they raise the new baby in South America, with the whole thing narrated by Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of the baby. Just turn the whole thing on its head. Nails changing diapers! Ani opening jars of Gerber with a switchblade! Jordan… doing… something! Everyone in fancy floppy hats! Gilbert Gottfried as a profane baby! It could work!)

But that lesson’s kind of obvious, and I’m sure the second part of it will be expanded on ad nauseum by your various thinkpieces and postmortems and revealing behind-the-scenes Q&As over the next few weeks. There’s not much to gain from me hammering it right now beyond getting it noted and on the record so I can jump up and down and shout “I told you so” like an insufferable little snot at some point in the future, if the situation arises. So, keep an eye out for that.

All of which begs the question, “If the lesson isn’t about proper getaway procedure or local partyboy politics or swinging too hard and landing on your tuchus (or face-down in the desert with a pocket filled with blood-soaked diamonds, as it were), then what the hell is it?” Glad you asked.

The lesson from the final episode of True Detective is “Always Look Before You Mow the Grass Because Some Yahoos Might Have Heaved Their Jewelry into the Yard.”


Something to remember.