After the jump. Spoilers abound.
I mostly get what happened and the meaning of the show: It was about the transformation of two very different men doing their part in the fight against evil, the fight against darkness. Rust goes from a pessimistic lunatic to someone who, in the final line of the show, displays unexpected optimism. Cohle and Hart wanted to bring down the whole pedophile cabal, but instead all they were able to do was their part. Time is a flat circle, and they got Errol just like the got Ledoux, almost in the same manner. Time is a flat circle, nothing is ever solved, and what happened with Ledoux happened with Errol and will happen again with another person involved in Tuttle’s ring. But the light is winning, however slowly. Before the screen faded to black, stars populated the night sky. Cohle and Hart are just one tiny star, one little speck of light fighting the good fight. That’s cool. There was a subtext of the damage men inflict on each other, on women and on nature, too. Good stuff. The show was always way deeper than just a detective story.
Except it wasn’t.
It was actually terribly straightforward– two detectives, over time, get their man, who turns out to be just a small pawn in what is a much larger evil plot. The first scene of the series was presumably Errol carrying Dora Lange through a field. The final scene was Hart carrying Cohle. From light to dark and dark to light. It all came full circle. The problem is that in between those two bookends was a fantastic mystery told with great acting and great writing that, ultimately, was meaningless. I’ll readily admit that Reddit and online postulating about the show created expectations that could never be met and discovered hidden clues that could never all be explained. [Off the top of my head: Which detectives were involved in a cover up? Why did Hart’s daughters have five men surrounding a Barbie doll? Why did the same flower painting that was on the wall of the asylum hang in Hart’s bedroom? Why did Maggie’s parents even exist in the show? Why spend so much time and effort unraveling a sordid tale to only conclude it with the most basic outcomes?] So I blame Reddit. I blame my buddy who kept texting me at 2 a.m. during his seventh viewing of the series. I blame myself for allowing all the theorizing to ruin what, through six episodes, was an intensely engrossing show. I spent the last two episodes waiting for closure on all the clues. Except there wasn’t any. We found a killer and nothing else. This show created such a deep, thought-provoking tale and then left us with the most simplistic of endings– the killer was killed and characters were transformed.
On the whole, it was a great, great show. With great acting. And Matthew McConaughey should win an Emmy. But all that is part of the reason why the conclusion was so dissatisfying. There will be a Season 2 with a new cast and a new plot. We’ll never have answers to the questions the writers spent six hours asking. Maybe Reddit and other discussion of the show unearthed more of those questions than the writers intended (I’m fairly certain of this). But the first six episodes were so good, so smart that we all rightfully assumed this would go deeper and deeper. But it didn’t. We got a demented killer who was presumably abused as a child. We got Cohle’s transformation. That’s all good stuff, but the storytelling was too good to ultimately have the final episodes turn into a police procedural with absurd leaps that led to the most unfulfilling of conclusions. There were way too many loose ends. Maybe that’s because we were all looking too closely.
And did it bother anyone else that after the entire show was shot so beautifully, the final scene was in front of a poorly lit hospital and I think shot in front of a green screen? Gross.
UPDATE: I just feel like the way they ended it, without explaining anything, was one step above declaring the whole thing a dream. Like, I’m slightly offended.