The Dim-Post

March 10, 2014

Intial thoughts/questions on the True Detective finale (spoilers, obviously)

Filed under: tv — danylmc @ 10:10 pm

If I have this right – and I think I do – the big clue that blew the case is that Errol William Childress chased a girl through the woods wearing green ear-guards, and Marty remembered that a house they visited while investigating the Lang case was painted green, and got a hunch that the guy who wore green ear guards might have painted that house green.

That’s what happened, right? Or do I have this wrong? Did the mystery with some of the best writing I have ever seen in a TV drama NOT have the absolute dumbest, worst plot development of any crime show ever?

Also stuff that I don’t think was in the finale, but surely I missed it because how could they leave it out: why was Dora Lang positioned so the police could find her? Why wasn’t she buried at Carcosa with all the other victims? Who lit the fire? Why? And what was going on with Marty’s daughter? Y’know, that major plotline that ran throughout the entire series except for the final episode?


  1. I was all set to agree with you and then something occurred to me. The themes of sacrifice, the flare/star and Rust ending up looking exactly like a stained glass jesus at the end are uses of imagery too obvious to worthy a mention. But while we’re in the realm of massive blobs of religious imagery, then a guy with green on him, affectation for green, being beard and living in the woods has form. That would be The Green Man A symbol of paganism and nature worship, often depicted with the *head of an animal* and a symbol of unchristian elements which lived on post european conversion.

    Following that, the reason this “lead” of the green man with the green house occurred to the detectives seemingly out of the blue is because they’d spent the past couple of episodes in the present-day timeline getting their affairs in order, showing forgiveness and just being bloody well noble goodly knights. Rust doesn’t stop jabbering philosophy, but it’s polar opposite to the (cool) stuff he was saying in ’95 – now he’s all about choice and responsibility and the like. Then, like any good grail quest, once our heroes are pure of heart the way becomes clear and they get on to the battle of light vs dark, humanity vs nature, christianity vs animalism (not without massive doses of sacrifices/longinus-esque wounds) before one of them literally turns into Jesus and talks about heaven for a bit.

    I think this explains it. What it doesn’t do is make it any good.

    Comment by Dave (@theegonomist) — March 10, 2014 @ 10:38 pm

  2. Green paint on his ears. And given the repeated references to the “detective’s curse”, it being right under their nose from the start is kindof appropriate.

    And there were no answers. No King either, or even contagious madness. Basicly, it didn’t deliver on its premise – its as if the writers chickened out at the last minute and decided not to take it where it had obviously been going.

    Comment by idiotsavant23 — March 10, 2014 @ 11:26 pm

  3. Have you never painted a house? Step one is to paint your ears so you can’t hear the house screaming.

    Comment by Matt — March 11, 2014 @ 12:37 am

  4. Yeah, green ears from the paint. Of course it could have simply been a monster with green spots, which would have made more sense and had zero downside as far as I can see.

    The finale was pretty much a total fail for me, though I seem to be in the minority. The bad guy was just a cliché nutjob. Hero manages to fight off a guy 1.5x his size even though he has a knife sticking out of him. No explanation for the cult that had been alluded to. No answers as to why his extended family chose to protect the Errol rather than just let him take all the blame. I could go on…

    Comment by wtl — March 11, 2014 @ 12:50 am

  5. @idiot: Burned that it didn’t turn out to be set in the Lovecraft mythos, huh? I think you were seeing what you wanted to see, guy.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 11, 2014 @ 5:05 am

  6. The finale was pretty much a total fail for me

    From The Prisoner right through Lost, TV fails to deliver the anticipated secret of the cosmos flopping about on a shovel. The owls are not what they seem, duh.

    Comment by Joe W — March 11, 2014 @ 7:11 am

  7. You shouldn’t watch TV, it is bad for you. The weather is still good. Go for a walk instead.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 11, 2014 @ 7:40 am

  8. @kalvarnsen: Chambers, not Lovecraft. And its not just that. Like wtl, I was expecting something bigger than a lone psycho, especially when they’d been pointing at an organised cult.

    Comment by idiotsavant23 — March 11, 2014 @ 8:36 am

  9. The terrible secret of True Detective is that Nic Pizzolato is a hack and an idiot who was carried by amazing acting and cinematography.

    Comment by Trouble Man — March 11, 2014 @ 9:33 am

  10. The terrible secret of True Detective is that Nic Pizzolato is a hack and an idiot

    If you go watch episode five again – the writing in that is pretty dazzling. The way it suggests that the killer was a lone psychopath and then pulls that suggestion away, revealing that there are vast, powerful forces at work and that the past lives of the detectives themselves are caught up in the mystery. That is just amazing writing, or at least it would have been if any of it had panned out or meant anything.

    Comment by danylmc — March 11, 2014 @ 9:46 am

  11. That is just amazing writing, or at least it would have been if any of it had panned out or meant anything.

    Isn’t this what marks out the “truly great” TV series from the “promising, but ultimately weak”? I’m thinking how shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad, State of Play, etc have a narrative arc that is ultimately satisfying (not necessarily “ties everything up” in a neat bow, but manages to bring the threads together in a way that doesn’t rely on audience insulting gimmicks and that doesn’t conveniently forget a whole lot of plot development that occured along the way). The Sopranos sneaks in there for me, albeit that it abandoned a whole lot of episode-long storylines that kind of seemed important at the time (the Russian in the Pine Barrens? Massive Genius’ beef with Hersch?).

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — March 11, 2014 @ 10:01 am

  12. The New Yorker tears it to shreds… Which is a pity, cos I was thinking of downloading it for a rainy Sunday in winter.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 11, 2014 @ 10:36 am

  13. @Idiot: I’m sure you know what the ‘Lovecraft mythos’ is, so I won’t waste both our time by explaining it to you. It’s clear that there was in fact a cult, but it’s beyond Rust and Marty’s abilities to wrap the whole thing up, so they have to be satisfied for getting rid of one of its most important members. They all but explicitly say so. And honestly, I’m more interested in a relatively realistic story than yet another ‘Bla bla Cthulhu bla bla Yog Soggoth’ thing.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 11, 2014 @ 10:36 am

  14. Anyway, for the record, I rather liked it, mostly because it partly countered what I felt was True Detective’s biggest flaw, Rust’s self-satisfied, performative undergrad nihilism.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 11, 2014 @ 10:37 am

  15. @kalvarnsen: Oh, I know exactly what it is; I’m also aware of the subgenres within the Mythos. And while I wasn’t expecting “Bla bla Cthulhu” etc, I was expecting a something a little more.

    As for Rust: compare his statements to the sorts of things you get in a Lovecraft wrapper-story: he’s a perfect post-encounter Lovecraftian protagonist, the sort of person who has correlated the contents and been broken by it. Except he’s like that at the beginning. I can see how that works with his personal backstory, and it was a nice hat-tip.

    Comment by idiotsavant23 — March 11, 2014 @ 12:25 pm

  16. If you watch Twin Peaks, all will be revealed.

    Comment by Ross — March 11, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

  17. @Idiot: I see what happened – you saw a couple of tropes that are prominent in the ecology of Mythos derivative works (nihilism, incest, cults) and one thing that is explicitly part of the mythos (King in Yellow) and your expectations clicked firmly into Mythos mode. So when it turns out to be a relatively realistic story with no Mythos influence, you felt cheated. That’s your problem, though, not the writers’. Personally I found True Detective more satisfying than anything Mythos related, and I find it revealing that you presume that the addition of more Mythos elements would be “something more”. To me it’d be something less.

    I don’t think Rust’s nihilism was at all intended as a hat tip to the Mythos. Nihilism is an extremely common trope across all types of fiction – seeing something so commonplace as a nod to such a microgenre is a sign of a pretty shallow reference pool, frankly.

    To me, the atmosphere and presentation of the show was more evocative of a mid period Nick Cave song than anything with squid gods, but I don’t feel annoyed that Nick Cave didn’t get a cameo or anything silly like that.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 11, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

  18. (And before somebody tries to inform me, yes, I did spot ‘Honey Bee’ at the end of episode four)

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 11, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

  19. Realistic story? What about whole “green ears” thing?

    Comment by wtl — March 11, 2014 @ 10:18 pm

  20. Honestly, if I write a TV series where the baddies are anti-Semites and draw swastikas on the walls and spout extracts from Mein Kampf, and the audience is like “oh right Nazis”, I’m not a good writer if my ending is “no that guy just cray-cray lol”.

    Comment by Trouble Man — March 12, 2014 @ 9:19 am

  21. @Trouble Man: You mean if it had a guy like this in it?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 12, 2014 @ 10:43 am

  22. I still loved the series.

    And I think people are reading too much into the intent of this massive conspiracy vs lone nutjob ‘inconsistency’. Presonally I think the setup was great and tied in a connection to The Reparier of Reputations theme for all the Chamber’s nerds out there, which the plotline is heavily imbued with.

    The whole Marty’s daughter deal does leave a lot hanging over though.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 12, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

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