Editor’s note: Alyssa Rosenberg is PostOpinions’s new culture blogger. Her own blog will be launching in the coming days. This post discusses the season finale of “True Detective” in extensive detail.
As the final episode of the first season of HBO’s hit anthology series “True Detective” approached this Sunday, the show’s obsessive audience puzzled over what might happen when former detectives Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) caught up to the serial killer they’d been chasing across Louisiana for almost two decades. Would Marty, the genial Louisiana native, turn out to be the killer, hiding his brilliant scheme by playing the dummy to his more philosophically inclined partner? Would Marty and Rust finally learn that the secret they’d repeatedly missed had been obvious all along to the women they routinely abuse and ignore? Or, in keeping with the show’s many references to the Carcosa mythos, a concept shared among horror and fantasy writers for more than a century, would monsters from another world appear on the shores of the Louisiana bayou?
In an interview before the series finale, series creator Nic Pizzolatto suggested something even weightier than an interlocking literary game. Explaining the stakes that Rust and Marty were facing as they reached the end stage of their quest, Pizzolatto told BuzzFeed’s Kate Aurthur: “I think given the amorphous nature of the evil they’re pursuing, its historical roots in culture and government, they would have to be willing to die to fully pursue their absolute justice.”
Sussing out the “historical roots in culture and government” of sex crimes and the biases that let them go unprosecuted is a fascinating goal for any show to set itself. And it would have been a particularly strong mission statement for “True Detective.” The show was shot in Louisiana, and in its early episodes it showed some real signs of interest in what happens to the working poor when they become disabled by accidents or exposed to the compounds produced in the region’s chemical refineries. And Pizzolatto has described this season of “True Detective” — any that follow would have different characters and a different case — as “a close, two-person point-of-view show.” That’s an interesting opportunity to explore how two white, middle-class men might have been hobbled by their perspectives into blaming poor men for rich men’s crimes and coverups. A confrontation between two such men, the forces they’re aligned against and their own views of the world would be a fraught and original encounter.
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