Thoughts on True Detective

The season finale of HBO’s True Detective is in less than an hour, and I thought I would share my thoughts.

I heard the show get rave reviews but didn’t know until Friday night that I have a three-month HBO preview so I caught up with its seven episodes in short order. Its first three episodes put me to sleep more than once, but in the show’s defense I was also very tired. It picked up in episodes four and five then finally kicked it in gear for six and seven.

Really, the show hasn’t done very much for me. I like the Rusty Cohle character a lot and enjoy his odd interpretation of human existence. But I’m not buying that he’s some sort of savant detective. I’m not buying that Marty Hart is much of a detective either, especially not if it proves out that his daughter was victimized by The Yellow King and he had no idea. Arranging five male dolls around a naked female doll, drawing lewd cartoons in her notebook with flying things and a giant wearing a mask yeah that didn’t spark a thought in his mind.

Maybe I missed out not having to wait a week between each episode reading all the theories on who or what The Yellow King is. Frankly, if I didn’t know it was a big deal I might not have caught onto it until they were sitting in Rusty’s storage shed.

And a note on theories. I spent six years studying freeze frames from Lost like many others did and in the end had nothing to show for it. True Detective is much tighter than Lost on account of about 116 fewer episodes but the larger lesson is this: Forget about them once the finale begins.

Chances are the first seven episodes didn’t give you enough information to make the right guess. Sure, it could be the lawnmower man who was mowing in spirals at the end of episode seven and it could be Marty’s father-in-law (which would probably grind my gears) but really we don’t know. I spent so much time of The End waiting for the answer to unfold for some big theory that by the time it was over and no answer came I missed out on what the show really wanted me to experience.

So when the finale starts in about 20 minutes, forget about screen caps and what letter was obscured behind Marty’s head in episode seven and all of that. Just enjoy it whatever it turns out to be.


I’m going to talk about the finale. But first I’m going to issue a SPOILER ALERT because HBO had major problems with its streaming service and many viewers weren’t able to watch it live. Do not consider this precedent.

Click away now.

Really lackluster finale, I thought. I like to view them through this frame: What the finale showed matters and what it didn’t show doesn’t matter. So what did it show?

That the yellow king was the lawnmower guy. Okay. Why was he a serial killer? Well we don’t really get that. Because he was messed up, I guess is what we’re to go with. It’s hard to explain a character when he’s not introduced until the last episode. I can’t explain why what they did choose to show us was him with a bunch of different accents. The yellow king was basically the bad guy who was there because there had to be a bad guy. Shallow character building, in my opinion.

I always believe that any shows final scene represents the most important story the writer(s) want to tell. In True Detective that scene belong to Rusty.

It showed Rusty having a brush with death and a brief emotional breakdown for the love he felt toward his daughter. It changed him as evidenced by what he said to Marty as they walked away from the hospital. If you want to reflect on what True Detective was ultimately about, look no further.

Forget what wasn’t shown. Marty’s daughter and what drove her to draw those disturbing pictures didn’t matter and wasn’t addressed at all in the finale. Black stars and “kin” and all that wasn’t either. The yellow king was but that’s because it had to be; it was done with 20 minutes left.

True Detective was about Rusty Cohle’s journey from pessimism to optimism. I just don’t think it was told very well.

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