I could start this review with the Internet chaos that happened Sunday night when the HBO GO server went down, leaving millions without a way to watch the final episode of “True Detective” until after midnight, including myself.
But I won’t do that.
After watching the episode I laid in bed with the windows open, my girlfriend’s legs intertwined with mine. I thought she was asleep until I heard, “We’re safe, aren’t we?” in a half-asleep tone. That’s when I knew it. We just witnessed some great television. I told her that there was nothing to worry about, but I knew it was a lie.
I kept thinking about the last lines of the episode. Cohle had just finished talking about touching his dead daughter and father while in the hospital room and says to Hart, “There’s just one story. The oldest … light versus dark.” Hart responds by saying that the dark has a lot more territory. “Yeah, you’re right about that,” says Cohle. “You know, you’re looking at it wrong. The sky thing. Once there was only dark.” And with that, our detectives walk off the screen for the final time with Hart aiding Cohle in AWOLing from the hospital.
The last episode, titled “Form and Void,” opens with our killer, Errol Childress, in his world — the world of Carcosa. He talks to a dead body he calls “Daddy” chained to a bed in a shack. He lives in a two-story home filled with filth, straight out of an episode of “Hoarders,” except Childress also has a half-sister who sits on his lap asking to “make flowers” while Childress runs his hand under her sweat-stained dress.
Some of the most beautiful scenes in this entire episode are in the car with Cohle and Hart. Looking back on the first few episodes that mostly took place in ’95, the two could not stand each other. The car was a place of silence. Now we see, almost 20 years later, how close they have become after being so far apart. They discuss the fistfight, Hart’s divorce and Cohle having sex with Hart’s wife. The macho cop persona is completely shed and all we see is two great friends who are haunted by a man who is running through the swamp killing little girls.
Hart and Cohle make a break in the case and begin following clue after clue, like any old “Law & Order” episode. It makes you realize how much the cop procedural formula is not needed when in a story involving characters just doing their best to survive. This whole season did not involve finding clue after clue. It involved two men trying to find each other.
Finally our heroes arrive in the land of Carcosa. In the acreage behind Childress’ house there is an abandoned fort covered in overgrowth. The decrepit fort resembles the wooden pagan bird catchers they have been discovering throughout the entire season, except this one is large enough for humans and intertwines from tunnel to tunnel. Cohle begins his descent down the rabbit hole on the hunt while Childress echoes premonitions like a phantom through the tunnels:
“Come on inside … little priest. This is Carcosa. You know what they did to me? What I would do to all the sons and daughters of man? I am not ashamed. Come die with me, little priest.”
The hunt ends in the altar room where a stone slab sits, upon which so many young boys and girls had brutal acts done upon their bodies. Both our detectives are wounded by Carcosa, Cohle more so. But luckily for Cohle, he gets the final say in whether they will be hunting Childress for another 20 years. He ends that decision with a slug that takes off half of Childress’ face.
True Detective ends with Cohle and Hart in the hospital. All the proper denouement is provided with the murders, and even Hart’s daughters and ex-wife make an appearance — then we have that final scene. The discussion of light versus dark, and if either side is winning. There is no definite answer, and that is what makes the ending so strong. The two main characters, who were oftentimes enemies, walk off the screen, Hart’s arms keeping Cohle from falling down, both men working endlessly at keeping the other alive.
Cohle’s lines kept going over in my head while my girlfriend fell back to sleep, feeling safe. The only thing I could see from my window was the North Star.
Rating: 5 stars