The eighth and final episode of True Detective airs tonight. I’ve been a fan ever since seeing the
first trailer of this series on HBO. I’ve enjoyed the masterful storytelling
and truly been in awe of the acting, particularly by Matthew McConaughey. For
someone I stopped being excited by around the time of The Wedding
Planner, his resurgence as an A-level actor
(dubbed “McConaughnnaisance”) has been remarkable.
So tonight, the world will watch to get answers. Who is the
Yellow King? Where is this Carcosa? How will it end? One could spend a whole
week reading all the blogs and online pages that have been devoted to talking
about these questions.
I want the answers, too. But I’m not watching the show for
them. I’m watching to see the journeys of two broken, messed-up men. I’m
curious how they’ll end.
I love stories like this. And anybody who knows my writing
knows I’ve written over twenty books about troubled souls like Rust Cohle and
So how would I end
the series? Let me share. Obviously this is all spoiler territory, so if you
haven’t watched all seven of the episodes, I wouldn’t read on (not that I’ll be
going into too much of those details).
The character I love and am fascinated by is Rust. We first
see him as a wounded and wrecked man back in 1995. His life has gone downhill
ever since his daughter was killed by a drunk driver and his marriage fell
apart. Seventeen years later, he’s fully broken. There’s no going back for this
man. There’s no hope left. Right?
I don’t think so. And I would have made this series about
the redemption of Rust Cohle.
Yes, sure. Maybe that’s hoping for too much. But I love
stories like this. And if you think I’m alone, just see where The Shawshank
Redemption rates on the favorite films of
all time. That was a dark film, but it had hope at the end.
But how could Rust be redeemed?
Let me share a few thoughts.
I think that Rust might have been the one to run over his
daughter. We know he loves to drink, and maybe he was soused when he had a
horrible and tragic accident. And that’s when his world ended. That’s when the
dark, bleak, black hole of his soul was created. The shell of a man who would
say something like this:
“I think about my daughter now, and what she was
spared. Sometimes I feel grateful. The doctor said she didn't feel a thing;
went straight into a coma. Then, somewhere in that blackness, she slipped off
into another deeper kind. Isn't that a beautiful way to go out, painlessly as a
happy child? Trouble with dying later is you've already grown up. The damage is
done, it's too late.”
So for Rust, we think and assume it’s too late. And for
many writers, they’d go with that, believing it in their heart. Ernest
Hemingway, for instance, certainly thought this. It was reflected in all of his
writing and ultimately in his own life when he took a shotgun and killed
I don’t think it’s too late for anybody, however, including
our beloved Rust.
What I would do is make this whole story—the whole
investigation and Rust’s involvement—be about getting him to the point of not
only finding who murders these young girls but allowing him to find forgiveness
for his sins. For his one sin of what he did to his daughter.
So some of the mysteries and the unexplained things would be
supernatural. We would learn that it’s his daughter that’s been communicating
to him from the grave.
Oh, yes, I know. A lot of people would roll their eyes and
picture Ghost or something like that.
To me, someone like Rust would have to go to the darkest of
places—to Carcosa—before finding redemption. And that’s what would happen in my
ending. I don’t see redemption for Marty. I see Marty discovering things have
happened to his daughters and those he know might be involved—particularly his
father-in-law—and Marty can’t take it. I see Marty killing others and then
ending his life. For Marty, I’d pick the Hemingway ending. Short, brutal, the
And then and only then, in the bloody aftermath when all
hope is gone, when the killers have been found but for what? Lives have been
burned up and blown away like ashes in the wind. But Rust stands there and only
then ends up realizing his daughter has been communicating with him this whole
I would end the show with another one of Rust’s moments when
he’s talking to someone and waxing poetic and sounding all crazy awesome. This
time he’d be talking about his daughter. He’d mention a time when she got angry
at him and lashed out and now was crying. (I’m picturing her about three or
four years old). Then Rust came to her and picked her up and kissed her and
told her everything was going to be okay. He said everything would be fine and
that he forgave her. ‘Cause that’s what fathers do. (I mean--picture McConaughey delivering this sort of final epiphany in Cohle's words--tears would be shedding everywhere.)
Yeah, obviously the story would serve as a metaphor. I would leave things like that, with
Rust still alive and with him finding some bit of redemption.
To me, life isn’t about solving a mystery. Life is a mystery. The baggage of our youth, the pain of
our mistakes, the people we encounter, the love we’re able to make, the joy
we’re able to find, the faith we might be able to discover.
For those who don’t end up finding faith, then what’s the
point? Life is hard enough with faith.
Without it, then go ahead. Become a Rust Cohle in 2012 who’s given up.
I love bleak endings because they mirror life. Again, not
all of my stories end with the whole “happily ever after” thing going on. And
with True Detective, no matter how they
end it, there is no happy ending for most of the people. Lives have been
wrecked and ruined. Our messy heroes—what kind of hope can they find?
It brings to mind the two thieves on the cross next to Jesus. Both were
criminals who deserved to hang there and die. One believed in the end, the
other didn’t and ridiculed him. This could apply to Rust and Marty. Maybe.
“Get busy living or get busy dying.”
In my True Detective, Rust
would finally be prompted to get busy living. And it would be his dead daughter
He wouldn’t have much time left. But you know . . . in light
of eternity, how much do any of us have?
Labels: Endings, hope, Television, True Detective