Guy’s post finale thoughts: No Girl, we didn’t break the case

So here we are True Detective fans, the story is over, the minatour at the heart of the labyrinth is dead, and we can all descend back into sanity once again.  You probably came to this site in the first place because like us, you were enthralled with the growing mystery which seemed to be at the heart of the show.  Of course, there was supurb acting, amazing directing, great writing, and everything else that goes into making quality television, but there was that pesky mystery, which grabbed ahold of us and wouldn’t let us go, which seemed to dare us to dive deeper into the rabbit hole (even while the writer, in increasingly desperate interviews all but begged us to come back up for air).  So, if you are reading this, you must be wondering how Girl and I felt about the finale?  I mean, we’ve obsessively put together a blog in less than two weeks with over 33 articles attempting to tear our ways to the center of the tootsie pop, only to find that the show we thought we were watching wasn’t that show at all.  I’ll let Girl voice her own thoughts, and I’ll just inflict you with mine.

I happened to see the show before Girl, so I was nervously awaiting her reaction after she finished.  I had hastily texted her, having finished it myself, and knowing she was about to start:  “I watched it.  Please fir the move of all that is holy, forget everything you know and just enjoy it.”  Aside from the joys of autocorrect on my phone coining the wonderfully poetic term “fir the move” in place of “for the love”, I was hoping to ease Girl into an utterly amazing hour of television, which had absolutely nothing at all to do with the web we’d been spinning for these last few weeks.  My spirits lifted when she wrote back, just off the heels of her viewing:  “That was…..Gorgeous.”

Sigh.  Thank goodness.  I too found that to be gorgeous.  And, what is probably best of all, Surprising.  By not being surprising at all, for being a straight trajectory for our two heroes, the show managed to completely take me by surprise.

The performances in this were impeccable, and there is the sappy part of me that is incredibly satisfied that these two men were redeemed, and allowed to walk off into the starry night.  Carcosa was suitably creepy, and Erroll is a villain that will live on for years as one of the creepiest in a long while.  And, as one fine commenter pointed out, I GOT ONE RIGHT, I GOT ONE RIGHT!  Rust’s visions did come back into play, at a key pivotal moment, as I was certain they would.  I loved that moment, and in my own True Detective universe, where the story will always live, Rust’s sensitivity to the crenelated edges of reality allowed him a peek at the whirling gyre of madness and despair that Erroll and his family had been cultivating for generations.  Or, it was another flashback, in which case, ok?

I am happy with the ending.  I loved the extended pan into Rusts face, still deeply in coma, when we are clearly meant to see his as christ, with the long hair and peaceful expression, and the quite clear white cross which pops out on his face as the light fades and the highlights remain.  I was moved to near tears by his vision of reuinting with the Love at the heart of things, in the form of his daughter, and the revelation that all of his nihilsm was only masked dispair, a mask which covered up a soul which felt deeply, too deeply, but finally touched the real wellspring of existence, that warm dark which is outside of the flat circle of time.  So, I’m grateful to Pizzolatto an company for spinning this tale, and am interested to see what comes next year.

But, it’s not all peace and happiness, now is it.  Some of us have some darker thoughts about this episode.  Since I don’t want to voice them myself, I think I’ll let my Id, Mr. Cthulhu have the last word for me:

{Cthulhu:   Oh great, so you as good as kick me to the curb for more than half the blog, and now suddenly when you have some things to say that aren’t so nice, you’d rather stick them in my noodley maw than have the courage to say them yourself!?!?!?  Well I’m not playing along, dickwad.  Forget it.  Nope.

Oh jesus, ok fine. What in the hell.  Lost 2.0?  Ok, so not that bad.  But certainly that ending rendered every single thing on this blog irrelevant.  The internet can come to this little corner and point and laugh now, are you happy?  Millions of viewers chased down a mystery which wasn’t all that mysterious after all.  This site in particular got obsessed on the Hart family, and the glaringly (GLARINGLY) obvious connection of Audrey Hart to the cult.  Only, not so much, huh?  I mean, there isn’t even a little bit of ambiguous wiggle room which would allow that to be true.  So, was Nic messing with us?  That’s what you call a Red Herring I guess?  Well, Red Herrings serve a purpose in story telling, in my view.  They distract you from another thread, call your attention away from more important details, so that when you finally see the tapestry as a whole, you are taken by surprise, and thrilled that you missed the real story.  This red herring was just….what?  Nothing.  Just nothing.  I do hope Mr. Pizzolatto is asked about this thread, and I hope he responds with something interesting and intelligent, because if 1)  He put that out there in order to mislead us, I fail to see how that improves the story, or comments on the story in any meaningful way (demonstrating to viewers their own tendency to overanalyze our entertainment is not original, and by the way we already learned that lesson by watching Lost thank you very much) or 2) He never intended that meaning to be gleaned, which then means frankly he is a shitty filmmaker, because that little clue was so obviously set up that it was about the only thing we True Detective obsessives could agree on).

Granted, Guy and Girl did read way too much into the art direction of this show.  That much is very clear to me now.  Yellow fishing lures, pictures of the girls in nets, spirals on the walls, mirrored paintings in bedrooms and asylums…all meant nothing apparently, or at the most were vague thematic touches about the decay which enters families when the fathers act badly?  But the barbie rape scene?  Frankly this is the one thing I’m pissed about.  That was mirrored in the beer can men, and the in the VHS tape…and yet it had zero purpose.  Am I meant to find value in this moment of realizing that I was making connections THAT WERE CLEARLY RIGHT THERE FOR ME TO MAKE only to realize I’d read to much into it?  That is the meta lesson?  If not at this point not sure what to make of it.  It feels very cheap, and dishonest, and the faith I’d had in Pizzolatto has vaporized, at least in a certain way. I can only imagine Nic’s dread as he saw the obsessive gyre of the fan base spin theory after theory, knowing what he knew.

For eight weeks I’ve absolutely adored this show, clearly.  Why else create a blog like this?  But now I am looking back at the entire run with new eyes, and realizing that so much of what i really liked about this show was either projection, or admiration and excitement for red herrings which were made to make me feel like an asshole when I realized they weren’t going to go anywhere.  In one of the posts, Heavy Meta, guy talked about Fractal filmaking/story making, where themes and clues to the overarching narrative are scattered throughout, so that all of the mysteries, all of the set dressings, all of the philosophies and misdirection all serve to paint the larger image, which reflects and contains all of those smaller elements.  Turns out, that wasn’t happening at all.  The sets in this show are still amazing, the art direction still very cool, but the part about it I loved the most appears to have been in my own head.  Same with much of the writing.  So, when I watch this all again (and I will) I wonder how much of that great feeling I had while watching it will be left, knowing now that some of the most thrilling moments of discovery are hollow and point to nothing.  That can never take away from the phenomenal performances, and some of the great writing.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that, as many out there were warning repeatedly, I was falling in love with a different show than I was watching.  But, much like lost, I don’t feel like I got there on my own, I feel I was led there.  Will we EVER get a show that is this brilliant, well acted, and directed, where the whole adds up to more than the sum of it’s parts?  Where the mysteries and philosophical underpinnings bear satisfying fruit at the end, and we don’t have to sit back in our seats and tell ourselves “well, it was really about the characters all along anyway, the rest was just window dressing.”  Today I’m one step farther away from believing that is possible.

None of the mysteries we worried over, pondered over, obsessed over, were addressed in any way this episode.  The cult, it turn out, really does just extended to one twisted family.  So the ‘men in power’ who are involved are only family, and nothing outside of the reach of that family is involved in any meaningful way.  Carcossa was an actual place.  An old underground bunker of some sort turned into a generation spanning satanic temple.  As an elder god, I can’t tell you how disappointing that is.  To use The King in Yellow as the heart of the mystery, knowing that the very nature and appeal of that source material is about a cosmic horror so abstract, even touching it’s outskirts will drive you insane, only to turn it into a stick maze…well.

But, although I sit outside of time and could rail against this for eternity, you, human cattle, have better things to do.  So now this blog can fade away into obscurity, since there will be zero reason to revisit it as all of it’s musings have been so much pouring from the empty into the void.  Live lives of darkness and despair folks, the Darkness is winning!}

Ok Cthulhu, thanks for giving vent to my deeply buried spleen.  Glad to have gotten all of that off our chest.  For all of that ranting, I did find this whole story beautiful.  And the ending was excellent, for the story they wanted to tell.  Do I like the story that was in my head a little better in some places?  Yes.  Is that part of the point of the show?  I won’t go as far as to say that.  Although we all look up at the stars and make up our own stories right?  And I’m grateful to Nic, in the end, for letting the light gain a little ground.

Also, even in the hours I’ve been awake and pondering this show, new appreciations are dawning in me that I think will certainly overtake my disappointments.  The moment of realizing Erroll is simply parroting and mimicking characters he is watching on TV was the series most brilliant meta moment ever, and one of the moments Nic tips his hand and lets us know that yes, this really is a story about stories.  And now I see that spinning glowing spiral as Cohle seeing the unwinding of the cinema reel.

Finally, a little meta note.  While my feelings on this show are a little mixed in the end (although don’t let the Cthulhian rant lead you to believe I feel any real hostility to the show), the creation of this blog has been an utter joy.  Working with my good friend Girl, seeing our readership blossom from a few hundred reads at first, to over 51,000 by the end, was thrilling, particularly for someone who has never blogged before.  So thank ALL of you, sincerely, for taking the time to read our obsessive rants, and a particular thank you to all of the great commenters who joined in the conversation.  You gave Girl and I a really fun few weeks, and I know I’ll miss it.  Peace.



22 thoughts on “Guy’s post finale thoughts: No Girl, we didn’t break the case

  1. Ok. So, 1st, thanks for this blog. Ive been reading and learning and having a lot fun along with True Detective. I think I understand why you would feel “cheated” or “disappointed” about the finale. Here goes my take on Ep. 8:
    * I found Erroll too well-spoken and cultivated for my like. Maybe it makes sense, he should have somewhat studied family’s rituals and backgrounds, but I was expecting him to be more like the “half-sister”.
    * Why did he kill the dog? He wasn´t very fond of him, but the dog was in good shape, he wasn´t abandoned. It didn´t make any sense. To avoid being followed? He was already showing there in the open? Unnecesary.
    * I didn’t like him whispering cult-stuff to Rust when he was searching for him in Carcosa. It was unnecesary and a clichè.
    * Erroll’s house was creepy. Papers and stuff all around, you don’t need bodies hanging from the ceiling or lying on the living room to feel completely alienated in that scenario.
    * Carcosa was an extraordinary set. I was freaking out in the dark in front of the TV. Every hole he went in, it was suffocating. The setting and the Yellow King was a homerun for me.
    * I hated the change in Rust’s world and cosmovison after his coma but I completely hated the last sentences from both men in Ep 8. I think it was cheesy, good and evil, wrong and right, hollywood-esque american propaganda. I can understand why the writer decided to do it, but I think it had nothing to do with the flavor and atmosphere of the past Episodes.
    * It’s been 15 or 20 years since I left all the Lovecraftian literature behind and I thanked so much True Detective to make me go back and get hooked again.
    * There were a lot of loose ends, most of them you discussed them here, which I appreciate it. Perhaps we are frustrated because “our ending” didn’t happen. Well, it is not our story, it is like life itself. Our ideas about life, our plans, don’t mean too much because things are going to unfold in another way. If the series would have ended the way I suspected, I would have hated it. Hahaha.
    * The ending of the whole case is weak: “his fingerprints all over the victim”, “DNA”, blah, blah, blah. No way he was alone hanging that girl from the bridge. Not even lifting Cohle I believe that.
    * The scenery of the Dora Lange’s murder is, please don’t get this in the wrong way, beautifully set. And the killer lived in a shithole?

    Well, that’s it for now. Hey, a role playing game should be in place, right?

    • I think Erroll’s british accent he acquired after watching Cary Grant for a moment is representative of his family’s former southern plantation heritage. The Childress family via the Tuttles were old plantation money, ie the creepy, dilapidated house, the portraits, expensive china dolls mixed in with plastic ones. Also, wasn’t the brick “Carcosa” site an old-style sugar cane refinery?

      More questions: 1. Was Reverend Tuttle a pedophile or was he just holding those pictures and tape because of the family? I think he was a pedophile or else he would have destroyed them. 2. Did “Mr. Sam” Tuttle/Granddad, molest both his Tuttle and Childress offspring or did he limit it to just the illegitimate Childress line and anybody else he could get his hands on? 3. Was Erroll’s “Daddy”, Billy Childress, already dead when we first see him?

      • Hi Cherrypie girl,
        Those are all good questions, and one’s I would have been asking myself if the finale had been different than it was. Now, my taste for thinking about concrete answers to the puzzle are near nil, because I’m realizing that the genius of this show wasn’t where I thought it was, but really was in the ‘meta’ layer so to speak. I think I could spin some good ideas to your questions, but honestly I don’t feel the story was rewarding to those of us who dived into the mystery itself, so I’ll take some time to reorient myself in how I appreciate the series.
        But, yes…I think Erroll’s “daddy” was already dead. Just like Norman Bates’ mother. Which I think was blatantly intentional, and yet another external tale being references in this story about stories.

      • Chances are we won’t be able to either! Given a little time, I imagine I’ll start chewing at it again. Check back every once in a while to see if we’ve gone in a new direction, or to tell us your new thoughts! We would both love to hear them!

  2. John,
    Thanks so much for reading, and following the blog. We did have a blast. And I have to admit, the farther I get from the finale, the more I actually like it. For instance, with Erroll’s voice…that to me was a great meta-comment on the fact that this is a serial killer standing in for all serial killers, he couldn’t even have his own voice! That ending sequence was fantastic, to be sure, but we’ve also seen it in tons of other crime shows/movies, which I’m pretty sure is the point. And I can’t get over the image of the descending spiral, which looked like the unwinding reels of a film canister falling into their world….

  3. The scene with Rust in the hospital as Jesus and was even more meaningful because of the organ music soundtrack. It was the same organ music that played when Rust went back to the school and found all of the twig traps. The sunlight shone in on him as he held a trap and examined it – another point of revelation for him.

    I decided early on that Audrey was bi-polar and was not molested or exposed to the cult. The barbie doll rape scene, however, now seems pretty gratuitous by Nic and I wonder if he wishes he cut it after he saw how we all connected it to the very clear dots.

    The relationship between Marty and Rust is probably one of the best ever and it was beautiful. But remember when in the hospital Rust said to Marty there’s more out there, I think it led the door open for another series of episodes with them down the road. That would be beautiful too. It breaks my heart that these two characters are as Matthew M. put it “finite”.

    By the way, I loved all of Girl’s obsessive examination of the “clues” and that made it all the more fun for me.

    Thanks for making this special series even more so.

    • ” But remember when in the hospital Rust said to Marty there’s more out there, I think it led the door open for another series of episodes with them down the road. That would be beautiful too.”

      Yeah. People like the too so much. It can be done, like a spin Off. And there’s an interview where Nic tells that he owns the rights of the characthers, so, it’s possible…

      And even if we find a lot of things we don’t link in the ending, just the fact that it will generate so much discussion, and that the series has only 8 episodes, means that we watch a GREAT, GREAT show.

    • I’ve read that Nic owns the rights to the characters, so while I don’t think we’ll see them in film again, we might get novels or something. Although any incarnation of Rust that isn’t Mathew isn’t really rust!

  4. I don’t think cthulu got it quite right up there. First of all, the conspiracy is no smaller than we was. It’s just that we were directly dealing with the aftermath of it’s behavior. So in that way, your guess about cracking the case last week was.partially right. Errol himself WAS a victim of the cult in a way.

    Also, we don’t need Hart’s daughter to have been directly affected by the cult for it to be important to the story. I still think she was abused.

    • Well, that is true, and I can see your point, about the conspiracy. But overall that part of the show will remain unsatisfying to me.
      As to Audrey, after reading some post show interviews with the director, and the actress who played Audrey, it is clear they had NO intent to link her to the cult or abuse of any kind, and instead of commenting on Marty’s poor fathering and lack of attention. That is all well and good, but for a filmmaker to not see such an obvious parallel (or parallels if you lump in the racey drawings) to the main plot is weak, and kinda pisses me off to be honest.

  5. thank’s a lot for all the great work from an israeli reader who still tries to figure out how he fells about all this. the last episode wasn’t a “blast” as the former ones but i still i have the felling of watching something very unique. i don’t know if i would watch the 2nd season with the same enthusiasm but i think i would definetly watch it.

    • Thank you e.e. How great to have a reader from Israel! We’ll be back for season 2, so bookmark the sight and come back and share the experience with us! Nic has said next season will be about “Hard women, bad men and the secret occult history of the american transportation system.

  6. We can still love the series and appreciate the great performances and writing and the top-notch contributions from everyone involved – and we can even love the last episode and the ultimate wrap for the two, once-in-a-decade characters – but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to be pissed off, let down, and somewhat betrayed as fans of this show. NP could have included just 5-10 extra minutes (the show ended at 54 minutes) and included the sewing together of the 3 or 4 major threads that HE fed us over the past 7 episodes. We did not introduce, and continue to play out, the sequences concerning the 5 Horsemen (and especially the horrid video); the 5 Man Barbie act/cry for help; the 5 Tin Men in Rust’s interrogation; the ENORMOUS amounts of Black Stars; the Flowers/matching flower paintings; AUDREY (poor Audrey); and the dozens of other smaller clues that now we are supposed to believe were, WHAT??? Red Herrings? Plot enhancers? Coincidences? Come on, man. NP and his crew built the whole show around these plot lines – that’s a fact. As fans, we connected with the WHOLE PACKAGE – the acting; the directing; the atmosphere; the (fill in the blank – way too much good stuff to list). A great detective show/movie connects with its audience and draws them into SOLVING the mystery and Rewarding their investment. As we invest, we expect a return on our investment – and NP did not deliver. Didn’t even try. And all this was – for some bizarre, yet unexplained reason – his plan all along.

    At the end – the climax of this unbelievably awesome, solidly put together entity called True Detective – we are supposed to be satisfied that our heroes get the bad guy and walk together off into the sunset – The End. WHAT??? With an extra 5-10 minutes (sprinkled throughout the show) he could have stayed true to his vision – and wrapped up most of these themes. He wussed out – took the lazy train home – and didn’t want to risk anything during his landing of the finale. Too bad – no risk, no reward. What a shame, and so surprising, considering all the risks that this show had successfully delivered on. This could have gone done as one of the top-ten television events of our lifetimes. Instead, NP will be known as another one of those guys who knows how to write a good story, but couldn’t/refused to go all the way with his narrative and take the risks needed to create a classic. The road to greatness is littered with “good” intentions. Too bad NP didn’t have the guts to deliver on all the greatness he promised (and delivered) through Episodes 1-7.

      • Oh, I don’t know. let’s see…, for example – How can any rational person accept that all the numerous, directly connected clues involving Audrey were just coincidences? Really? So this little girl just happens to create a rape scene with 5 men and a girl/woman on the floor of her bedroom with Barbies and Kens; draw pictures depicting graphic, horrible rape scenes which also contain a drawing of a man with facial scars, and an angelic figure with no arms that resembles other cult-related found drawings; she also draws a picture of a pregnant girl being abused (and now we believe that Marie Fontenot was pregnant, amongst other young girls); she becomes sexually damaged to the point of having a three way at the age of 14 with two older teenagers; and as she becomes a woman that is so mentally hurt she needs to be on prescription medication for her condition, AND; she now paints and sells pictures, one of which is of a veiled women with black stars all over her face as well as wearing a gold and purple sashed veil, which coincides with the “crown” colors/design found on the sacrifice victims throughout the show. Now here is the kicker. As far as coincidences go, for all of these “coincidences” to happen to one young girl in the midst of these crimes happening is bad enough – but for these to be happening to the daughter of the LEAD DETECTIVE on this case, and then for all of this to be sold to the audience as “coincidence”, is mind-boggling. And insulting. And infuriating as a fan. And this is just one of several threads (The 5 Horsemen; The Tuttles; 5 Tin men; The Black Stars) that I won’t waste anymore time on trying to explain.

        I loved this show and was expecting an honest addressing of the facts as they were presented to us. I am already tired of all the posts insulting those fans who “read to much” into all these clues. For most of us, we only read into the clues that were presented and expected an ending that had as much thought and honesty as the first 7 episodes. To not deal with/explain how all these pieces fit into the puzzle that was so beautifully crafted has led to my frustration. I didn’t expect them to fully explain every single nuance and mystery associated with the story – but to leave every major mystery unsolved (except the obvious, fully expected Errol reveal), and for most of it to have been thrown away in the “coincidence” shredder is unfathomable.

      • David, I’ve got a lot of the same feelings, although they’ve calmed down considerably. I’m putting them all into a post soon, to try and move past this one point, which does seem to be dividing us ‘fans’ into opposing camps!

  7. Hey David, Girl here… I wish there was a like button for comments because I LOVE this comment!

    So well put: “Oh, I don’t know. let’s see…, for example – How can any rational person accept that all the numerous, directly connected clues involving Audrey were just coincidences? Really?”
    and “To not deal with/explain how all these pieces fit into the puzzle that was so beautifully crafted has led to my frustration. I didn’t expect them to fully explain every single nuance and mystery associated with the story – but to leave every major mystery unsolved (except the obvious, fully expected Errol reveal), and for most of it to have been thrown away in the “coincidence” shredder is unfathomable.”

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