Recently, Rachel Syme wrote this:
As the dust settles on the “True Detective” finale, and the adventures of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart fade into the television firmament like the distant stars they found so meaningful, at least one thing is clear: it didn’t quite end the way we wanted it to. There is no doubt that the writer, Nic Pizzolatto, and director, Cary Fukunaga, pulled off a midseason coup, giving us a show in the January doldrums that caused temporary mass insanity. Like one of Rust’s intoxicating philosophical koans about sentient meat, “True Detective” cast a kind of spell over its viewers, convincing them that no matter what it was they were watching it was at the very least something worth the hours of debating, clicking, parsing, and comment-section feuding.
Moreover, the gorgeous cinematography depicting Louisiana in the gloaming, the delectable short-anthology format, and the movie-star bona fides made us believe that we were watching something novelistic, even approaching the level of high art. The comments that Pizzolatto gave along the way helped that interpretation: he asserted that the show was not interested in genre, in being a typical cop procedural. So the loyal waited, and withheld final judgment. About halfway through the season, critics like Emily Nussbaum began to poke holes in the series, calling into question its shaky use of women and its dorm-room rhapsodies. Fans and skeptics hurled Twitter bile back and forth; no one budged. It was up to the show’s finale for one side to be declared triumphant. Then the finale happened.
No matter what camp you were in when the show started (and I was in the camp that wanted to believe up until the bitter end), it is hard going to fully praise the series finale. After all the Googling about Cthulhu and eighteen-nineties horror stories, we were left with a fairly maudlin buddy-cops-take-down-a-psychopath-and-bond-for-life story.
When I heard pleas from several friends in the week leading up to the last episode that “True Detective” would “stick the landing,” it wasn’t just out of a hope that the narrative would tie up in a satisfying catharsis. The statement was filled with more anxiety than that—the need for a tangible return on obsessive investment.
The disappointment of the “True Detective” finale suggests how we are entering a confusing and precarious time in television’s evolution: we approach a show as an artistic achievement with all the privileges and responsibilities that this brings, when we may have done better to embrace it instead as pleasurable genre trash. (Trash in the purest, most joyful Pauline Kael sense of the word.) If we had accepted “True Detective” as a gothic procedural (albeit one with snappy dialogue and an undeniable woman problem) instead of as the latest incarnation of highbrow TV, then the last episode may not have felt as deflated (or defining) as it did. ("True Detective and the art of the television final," New Yorker)
The show associated practitioners of child rape/murder with genuine mystery, a past that grows bolder as we perhaps thin, maybe not just out of our cowardice but for its peculiar righteousness -- the same people having their go with that were still united to symbols we might just be stupidly being ruled by. And we were reacting not so much like Richard Dawkins -- what total garbage! magic twaddle and swamp primitives and there was ostensibly some option other than to take it as gothic procedural?! -- but more ... this sounds maybe about right: hope the genius anthropologist cop and the cop with overall a decent compass can brace their truths, because we can credibly muster that! There's something out there demanding above all sacrifice, of the most innocent and vulnerable, and who's legitimacy can make thorough devotees out of multitudes; and even if we stand apart we may not quite have it in us to confront it. I think that was part of the draw of the show -- it seemed somehow to maybe address our own world; and I think would have drawn our riveted attention however we'd prepared ourselves to engage it.
To me it dodged the mysteries it first had the instinct/courage to reveal, and this should inflate their power if some other show wants to take it on -- Cthulhu 1, our best 0. The best of us were hoping to be left after the eighth episode maybe not so much high-fiving over the sweet perfect landing, but a bit stunned -- taking some time to take in what we might have been shown about our world, ourselves.
What's going on with Putin and the Ukraine? Geopolitics? Or has some powerful tribal spirit -- back vividly into the universe -- taken possession over him, demanding oppression of the guilty weak? And us maybe -- if that's Her will maybe we should just let Her have it.
I'll follow that up just by saying that our age is of two motives -- one, to eek forth significant new progress; and two, to destroy swaths of the young, weak, and vulnerable. If someone were to argue the latter part was Cthulhu's work, this would be a lie -- but yet I think closer to the truth than the prosaic self-interest and greed we're determined to see as responsible; and our response to shows like this shows we at some level know it.