Last night, we were all true detectives. Nic Pizzolatto's crime/philosophy/spaghetti monster caper finished its eight episode run, leaving viewers to bask in the cold, hard revelatory light of the truth. We did it, guys. We solved True Detective.
How did the finale of the most talked about show of 2014 wrap up? What questions did it leave for us to blog about? Did it cap off the McConaissance? Did Marty and Rust get what they deserved? Was there enough trash in that serial killer's house?
The Complex Pop Culture extended family—deputy editor Ross Scarano, staff writer Angel Diaz, staff writer Frazier Tharpe, contributing writer Brenden Gallagher, and deputy editor Justin Monroe—sat down around the campfire one last time, as men, as brothers, to talk it out.
Ross: Anyway, happy belated International Women's Day, everybody. Let's talk about True Detective. I'd like to hear from the fans first about the finale.
Angel: Do you like the show now, Ross?
Ross: Kanye shrug?
Brenden: Mad Men comes back soon, Ross. It's okay.
Angel: About the finale, I wanted one of them to die. It had too much of a happy ending.
Frazier: I'm mostly yay. I was prepared for one to die but I'm not mad at the optimistic ending. That was kind of a twist in and of itself. We were all expecting Rust to just blow his brains out then fade to black.
Brenden: I really enjoyed it. I put this season with the great drama shows. It's a notch below The Big 5 (The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Mad Men, Breaking Bad) but above the pretenders (House of Cards, The West Wing, Weeds).
Frazier: Definitely above the pretenders. Way too early to talk about its place next to the Big 5.
Angel: I would agree with that. The first couple of episodes were tough to get through. I had to rewatch them because I kept dozing off.
Frazier: The only sleeper ep was two, I think.
Brenden: To me, TD is on par with Battlestar Galactica. Yes, there were campy, indulgent moments, but goddamn it, the show owned that and I loved it. I don't know if two actors of any lesser ability could have pulled off that dialogue at all. I laughed out loud at some of McConoughey's lines to the very end.
Ross: You have to laugh during True Detective.
Brenden: That's kind of the Southern Gothic thing. I laugh when reading Williams or Faulkner as well. Not to say this is as good as that, but it knows its genre, and pulpy undertones come with it.
Ross: I guess to be doing Southern Gothic in 2014 (even if your story is set in the distant time of the 1990s), you have to bring the camp/embrace the camp.
Justin: I didn't struggle through any of the episodes. The finale was perhaps the closest to a struggle because the inevitable reduction of possibilities can be disappointing, even if the actual chosen path is a good one.
Brenden: I'm not going to front. I was on the edge of my seat since the tracking shot heard round the world.
Frazier: I was surprised it went full serial-killer movie climax. I expected Matt's theory about never seeing Young Spaghetti tha God again to be spot on.
Ross: It really did go full serial-killer movie climax. To an alarming degree. Incest. House full of broken dolls without faces.
Frazier: But I wasn't mad either. A lot of critics and fans alike were derisive of it boiling down to a creepy house chase scene/shootout and a straightforward ending, but what mystery thriller doesn't? Furthermore, almost all mysteries have endings that are anticlimactic to some degree.
Brenden: I'm not sure what else people wanted.
Ross: People really wanted Marty or Rust to be the killer. If only to validate the struggle arguments that the show was some kind of critique of masculinity or misogyny. Arguments that I don't think hold up in the face of that resolution.
Brenden: Yeah, I don't think the show is a critique of masculinity, but I could buy it as a critique of power as seen in Christianity/politics/the patriarchy, but it isn't as nuanced as what some folks want it to be. It comes at the system without about half as much thought as The Wire.
Frazier: It's not as nuanced as some folks want it to be and it's not as twisty as others did.
Ross: It's about as nuanced as McConaughey's final speech about light vs. dark. And I think that's why I don't get what the fuss is all about. It's a pulpy thriller with killer production value and good acting.
Frazier: So many fan theories popped up in the last week even though it was so obvious Nic Pizzolatto had no interest in that type of narrative.
Justin: Regarding the dialogue, it was never the protagonists who were problematic for me. I could generally buy both of them and their exchanges. The "scented meat" bit was great, for instance. I did, however, raise an eyebrow at the odd word or at a random yokel's eloquence. Sheriff Geraci, for example: "Your psycho bit don't cur me, boy!" Cur you? Really?
Frazier: Everything about that guy sucked. They were done with him within five minutes; he was such a pointless lead.
Ross: The show did not want for detours from the main line of action. I can't help myself. Guys, I really, really disliked this show. I can't help it. I can't go in for something with such a cropped imagination that all it can muster for the peak of drama is two macho-macho men crying. But I guess that's just staying within the confines of genre?
Justin: Missed opportunity for them to die in bloody embrace in Carcosa and elevate to the black hole of existence or whatever the fuck Rust was babbling about.
Brenden: I'm kind of thinking Game of Thrones is an apt comparison. People enjoy it and in the age of "prestige" we have to believe that everything is more than it is. It isn't enough to say "I like action with interesting dialogue and pretty shots." I hate Twitter, Buzzfeed, and Slate trying to crown the show with antlers.
Ross: I did like that shot of Rust floating in the black hole of his hospital window.
Brenden: I liked every shot of the landscape.
Justin: And the CGI cosmos shot at Carcosa. Imagine if the fight had taken place in OUTER SPACE in Rust's hallucinatory mind!
Frazier: The hallucinations often provided the show's most gorgeous shots.
Ross: Does anyone care that the Carcosa stuff wasn't delved into more deeply? Or is it better that it remained the babble of crazy rednecks?
Frazier: Insight into whatever the fuck the Yellow King and his disciples believed in would've been nice. But it always would've boiled down to crazy rednecks.
Ross: That's only because we can't see the entire sprawl, Frazier. The sprawl...
Justin: I did want more from that. I'm sure that was not ultimately the point, but goddammit I like there to be a real story to the savagery.
Brenden: I find that cult shit when explained becomes what it is: crazy and stupid.
Frazier: Am I the only one who's really mad at how little of the 2012 murder that sparked the interviews we saw.
Ross: This show was never about the serial killings, says the show's creator in all his interviews, giving himself an out to those kinds of questions. It was about men. And not just men, but Real Men. (He actually described them that way in an interview.)
Brenden: I was okay to believe "time is a flat circle" means that all the murders are "the same" which is of course fuel for Ross's POV.
Frazier: If there's one thing I hope he takes away from what worked and didn't this year, I hope it's that you can flesh a case out while still focusing on the people. And you know, three dimensional women.
Justin: Yes, even without his saying so, it's clear this was not about the murders and the psychology or meaning of them. It's more about Real Men and how they deal with this gruesome, fucked up world.
Brenden: I mean, I think there is room for show's like this. Just make more Orange is the New Black and Broad City. Eight episodes of dudes being dudes is fine in a world where that is half the content not 90%.
Ross: You read Mo Ryan's piece on who makes HBO shows, yeah? Reading that and then watching True Detective... I don't know, man. Maybe there isn't room for a show like this right now?
Brenden: See, Ross, that is hard for me to swallow. If there is an audience presumably these shows pay for themselves. HBO theoretically has infinite spots in its line-up and the creative team behind this created something I liked more than so much. Take House of Cards, take Black Sails, take The Following. And when we use the culture to silence voices rather than nurture new one's what does that say? this isn't a zero sum game. Jill Soloway isn't going to get another show just because they don't make True Detective.
Ross: I think the network perspectives on whether there's an audience has probably calcified, though. But you're right, it's not a zero sum game, and I'm being totalitarian when I suggest that we should not make True Detective. I'm just annoyed that this show became such a smash.
Brenden: People need to anoint a Sunday night drama. We crave water cooler.
Frazier: Crime is just such an easy draw, too.
Ross: It is. This show just had all the right elements. It was technically polished, but it felt like it could've been made in a fucking lab to get people to watch it. McConaissance plus Lost-type mystery plus serial killers plus antlers plus boobs.
Frazier: I feel you. I had the same overrated reaction to House of Cards. It's not enough for a new show to be good, if it's good it's THE TRUTH.
Brenden: House of Cards is not a good script.
Ross: It's just how the Internet reacts to stuff. I blame the Internet for all the hyperbolic glee around this show. The dominant voice of the Internet is so often all or nothing. And everyone got all in for True D.
Brenden: I mean how many think pieces can their be. "Oh shit, a show written by a novelist had literary references"—yeah dog, so does every show ever.
Ross: And a handful of literary references does not automatically fucking make a show a literary object. Like, just because you talk about a thing or allude to a thing does not mean you are doing serious work with that thing. Christ. But I had a great time watching McConaughey's face. So there's that.
Frazier: And Woody was no slouch either.
Ross: Yeah, Woody just had the less showy role. So he won't be discussed as much. Always looked like a cow chewing cud.
Brenden: McConaughey is Jennifer Lawrence for men. I giggle with glee no matter what he does.
Ross: Closing thoughts?
Frazier: Great new pulp show and enabler of the dope anthology resurgence, if wildly overrated by Internet mass hysteria.
Ross: Props to the anthology/miniseries format.
Brenden: So is our takeaway that we're split on the show, but we all hate the Internet? For real my last thought is that I enjoyed the show for what it was, but all the people who found more than was actually there soured my experience a bit. I was drunk on this show and every Monday I woke up hungover on think pieces.