“True Detective” has been a big hit for HBO this winter — more than 10 million people watch the show each week once repeat airings and multi-platform viewing are counted. It has also been, hands down, the most discussed, dissected and debated show of 2014 thus far.
Expect even bigger numbers and more chatter for Sunday’s (March 9) season finale. Want to know what everyone’s going to be talking about on Twitter? Don’t want to miss out on the office talk on Monday? And don’t have seven hours between now and Sunday night to do a series binge? Zap2it is here to help.
In honor of the literary underpinnings of “True Detective, ” here’s a CliffsNotes-style guide to what you need to know ahead of the finale.
The show jumps back and forth in time, primarily taking place in 1995 and 2012, with some scenes set in 2002. In 1995, Louisiana State Police detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) investigate the death of a young woman, Dora Lange, whose naked body was found in a field, a spiral tattoo on her back and deer antlers tied to her head.
The investigation uncovers a possible conspiracy involving ritual abuse at a defunct religious school, and Cohle especially butts heads with the Rev. Billy Lee Tuttle, who ran the school and happens to be the cousin of a U.S. senator. It also leads them to Reggie LeDoux, a meth cooker for a biker gang and a former cellmate of Dora Lange’s husband.Cole and Hart track him to LeDoux’s compound, where they find one dead child and another on the verge of death. An enraged Hart shoots Reggie in the head, and his cousin DeWall is blown up by a booby trap trying to escape. Cole and Hart then concoct a story about a firefight to cover up Hart’s execution of Reggie.
The case is considered closed, but in 2002, a suspect in another case mentions “the Yellow King” — something that had come up in the ’95 investigation — to Cohle, which sets him on an unsanctioned investigation into other deaths. His off-book work rankles his superiors so much that he’s kicked off the force.
In 2012, another pair of detectives, Gilbough (Michael Potts) and Papania (Tory Kittles), call in both Hart (now a private investigator) and Cohle to interview them about the Lange case. It becomes clear that they suspect Cohle in a new case that’s similar to Dora Lange. Hart and Cohle, estranged for 10 years, agree to work together to close the case once and for all, and discover that the Tuttles and some other families with deep ties to the bayou region may be part of some sort of cult.
Cohle and Hart are unquestionably the center of “True Detective” — in fact, among the criticisms of the show is that the people around them are underwritten at best, one-dimensional plot-movers at worst. To a large extent that’s by design: “True Detective” is told from their point of view, and they are so well-drawn that the thinner characterization around them is excusable.
Cohle is … a piece of work. In both his past and present incarnations, he’s given to espousing a very bleak outlook on humanity, rattling off philosophical monologues that can be described as pessimistic and even nihilistic. “Time is a flat circle” is probably his most-quoted line — meaning we’re doomed to repeat things over and over without even realizing it. Prior to partnering with Hart, he worked undercover for several years infiltrating a biker gang. He was married, but it fell apart after his daughter was killed in an accident.
Carcosa Keychain from the True Detective
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