An Important Discussion About Tonight’s ‘True Detective’ Season Finale

As you may have heard once or twice over the past week or so, tonight is the Season 1 finale of HBO’s True Detective. This is both excellent and terrible news. On one hand, it means we’ll probably get answers to a bunch of the questions we’ve all been batting around since the show premiered back in January. On the other hand, it means this iteration of True Detective will be over forever in a few short hours, as showrunner Nic Pizzolatto plans to start fresh with a new story and new cast in Season 2. No more Rust Cohle philosophizing between five-second drags off of Camels, no more Marty Hart making pained faces every time it happens (both inside a government-issued car in 1995 and inside a storage shed turned conspiracy bunker in 2012), none of it. Poof. All gone.

But that’s all (a) kind of a bummer, and (b) an issue for tomorrow. As of right now, we’ve still got one episode left. Let’s savor it. And talk it out a bit. I assume you have a few questions. Please, fire away.

Are you, like, so excited?

I am. It’s been a hell of a seven-hour ride to this point, and I’m really interested to see how it all wraps up. Although I’m a little concerned that two solid months of build-up and theorizing may have put the expectations at an unreachably high, unfair point for a lot of people.

How so?

Well, I’m worried that some people are expecting a MIND-MELTING, EARTH-SHATTERING, MEDIUM-CHANGING conclusion tonight, and if what they get instead is a well-constructed finale that ties up loose ends without turning the whole universe on its head, they’ll flip all the way out about it. That would be a shame. Community showrunner Dan Harmon actually touched on this at SXSW recently, while promoting his new documentary, Harmontown:

I don’t care if they just walk into a warehouse and it’s a birthday party that the chief was throwing them. Like there were never any murders and this was all part of the surprise. […] There’s no way for the finale to do me wrong because what’s for sale with that show isn’t the pay-off, it’s smelling the roses along the way. […] It’s just sort of unfolding like a flower and, at this point, enough of the flower is unfolded that if the last petal is a kazoo, I’m not going to go “this is a bad flower.” I really enjoy it.

I don’t know if I’d go quite that far (unless, like, Boyz II Men is playing the birthday party, in which case, yes, fine), but it is a good thing to remember going in. It’s been super fun for the past two months. Nothing that happens tonight can change that part of it.

So, wait… are you saying you’re expecting it to suck?

No! I’m expecting it to be great, because everything up to this point has been great, and nothing done by anyone associated with it has given me literally any reason to expect otherwise! I’ve just spent enough time on the Internet to know that — even if the ending is perfectly fine and does everything the show has promised us it would do — there’s still going to be at least one whiny contrarian who’s going to wake up tomorrow and write 2000 words about how he or she was disappointed because it didn’t live up to the unattainable standards inside his or her own head. And then I am going to scream.

Fair enough. So, about that two-month ride. What were some of your favorite parts?

I’m glad you asked. Here are a few, in no particular order:

I think those were the big ones.

Wow, that was a totally shameless amount of links.


So, what do you think will happen tonight?

I honestly don’t know. Any number of things, I suppose. I’m kind of hoping there’s a hailstorm of bullets during a midnight raid on some evildoer’s compound, because I’m a “hailstorm of bullets during a midnight raid on some evildoer’s compound” kind of guy. But pretty much anything grounded in reality that provides a sensible conclusion based on the evidence we’ve seen so far is fine with me. How about you?