'True Detective' Discussion: 'The Light's Winning'

Last night I was talked into watching the True Detective season one finale at a home that was not my own. I was leery about doing such a thing. Deep down, I really just wanted to watch the finale sitting alone in the dark and sipping booze from the Big Hug Mug that someone had recently given me. This one…

Now, going into this I fretted more about watching the finale with other people (too many possible distractions) than I did about the possibility that HBO GO, the vehicle of delivery for the finale at the host’s home, would sh*t the bed, but sh*t the bed HBO GO did. Spectacularly, I might add! I could feel my blood pressure rising with each text and email I received about the show that I couldn’t watch — helplessly watching the “loading” wheel spin round and round over and over again to no avail (the endless flat circle?!) — so I eventually excused myself, ran home and watched it on my DVR. Moral of the story: never watch important episodes of television in an environment that you don’t control. There are just too many things that can go wrong.

With that out of the way, let’s get right to it, shall we? Here are a few notes I made during last night’s True Detective about characters, scenes, etc. I found interesting for one reason or another.

– I have to say that I went into last night’s finale completely at peace with whatever happened. That feeling of inner peace was reinforced when I read Dan Harmon’s thoughts going into the final episode of season one. In case you missed it, here’s the gist of what Harmon said…

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.

Yes, exactly. For the past two months I have been absolutely riveted by this show. It has consumed my thoughts when my mind has had idle time. I’ve dreamt extensively about it. It has interrupted my normal sleep patterns. Because of these things, True Detective has been a show that has affected my life and, no matter what the outcome of the final episode, I am grateful and appreciative for it.

With all of that said, after watching the finale last night I didn’t know how to feel, but I leaned toward feeling a bit disappointed in it. I sat down and tried to write some things about it but just came up empty. So I decided to go to bed and sleep on it to let it all marinate with me a bit further. The result: I still feel a bit disappointed. A number of things just don’t make sense to me.

– Here are my two biggest issues with the finale…

1) I don’t see how a house in Erath being painted green led Cohle and Hart to Errol Childress. I’ve thought about this a lot and it’s just too much of a stretch for me. The dots seem impossible to connect. Even the most basic aspect of this — that a man who paints something is sure to get that paint all over his ears — is extremely far-fetched. I’ve painted many things in my life and never have I managed to cover my ears in paint in the process. Granted, I’ve managed to get paint in a lot of unintended places when painting, but never have my ears become so slathered in paint that a child would take me for some sort of monster with ears the color of whatever paint I used that day. “Maybe [the killer] painted that [freshly painted green] house,” Marty suggested. No. Just no. It’s too much of a stretch, especially for a complex show that has been presented to us so perfectly meticulous up to this point. It felt like something forced straight out of a network cop show. I understand that writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto had to get from point A to point B quickly in this final hour (insert your own “he painted himself into a corner” puns here), but it would have made much more sense to me for something leading Hart and Cohle to Errol Childress to come out of the interrogation of the sheriff on the boat, an interrogation that, in the end, proved to be utterly fruitless and a complete waste of time. (“Chain of command!”)

2) Cohle seeming to find God at the end. I don’t buy it. I don’t see such a hardened athiest/nihilist just up and finding religion like that. Sure, he’d just been through some sh*t, but Cohle has spent his whole life getting kicked in the gut repeatedly by life, only to have his beliefs reinforced along the way. Further, while the moment outside the hospital between Marty and Rust did have some touching aspects to, it felt a bit, well, cheesy to me. Like, a little rom-com/buddy comedy cheesy.

– Another minor issue I had last night: how did Marty alert the police so the cavalry would come calling and save the two of them? I thought the phone in the house he found was dead?

– What I liked about the episode: the chase for Errol Childress through “Carcosa” was genuinely terrifying in a pants-sh*tting sort of way. I found myself at various points talking to the TV, usually going “No, no, no, NOOOOOO DON’T GO IN THERE GET OUT OF THERE!”

– The job the set designers did throughout the series was incredible, but the job they did constructing “Carcosa” and Errol Childress’ demented hoarder paradise was above and beyond.

– A couple of years ago I had a friend who had a cat she could no longer keep because she started dating a guy she really liked who was unfortunately allergic to cats. So I took her cat in until we found it a good home. After a few weeks of screening people who responded to ads on Craigslist, a man adopted the cat. That man was J.D. Evermore, the actor who played Bobby Lutz, the cop who gave Hart access to unsolved case files in exchange for a bottle of scotch in last week’s episode.

You may have also seen him on Rectify, The Walking Dead and/or Treme, among other things. He’s been in a lot of stuff, often portraying southern cops.

– The teacher on the playground at the school who offered to get Errol lunch was none other than Veronica Hunsinger-Loe, who we featured last week for the Cohle/Dora Lange Mardi Gras costume she and her boyfriend Nat dreamed up.

– I’d love to know where that abandoned Civil War fort is that was turned into Carcosa. I’m kinda shocked that I don’t. (UPDATE: As pointed out by a few commenters, it was filmed at Fort Macomb, a 19th century fortress just inside the New Orleans city limits.)

– Last night’s episode has killed referring to sex as “making flowers” for me. I can never do that again without feeling like inbred mass murderer.

– In need of some True Detective art to fill the sudden void in your life? I kind of like this set, especially with it only being on $25. Olly Moss, whose work we’ve featured previously around here, is the artist. Also, BEER CAN MEN!

– Here’s Pizzolatto discussing the finale in a video HBO posted to YouTube last night…

– And here’s an interview he did with Alan Sepinwall this morning, along with a tweet he posted today

– Final thought: to reiterate, if I were to rank the eight episodes from the first season of True Detective from best to worst, episode eight would most certainly place last. But the show captivated me in ways that few ever have, and for that it stands as one of my all-time favorite seasons of television, right there with the third seasons of Breaking Bad and The Wire. The destination may have disappointed me a bit, but the journey was one hell of a ride. I’m going to miss the hell out of Hart and Cohle. Thanks for the memories, boys.

Your own thoughts/feelings are welcome in the comments.