True Detective Season Finale Review: “Form And Void” (Season 1, Episode 8)


The wormhole-like maze into the cave of this human Carcossa is an astounding piece of set decoration – a labyrinth of bark and branches cluttered against each other, some standing atop piles of girls’ shoes and dresses. A trembling score and slow, slinky cinematography makes Cohle’s journey into this dark place even more eerie. It builds up beautifully into a nearly breathless (and also very quick) scene of brutal violence, with flinging axes and headbutts galore. (The setting of the final confrontation also reminded me of the pit from this week’s Hannibal episode, especially with the small circular hole at the top.)

As gripping as the violent, climactic finish is, it is not even the episode’s finest sequence. To our pleasant surprise, we close on some of Cohle and Hart philosophizing, except they are not just babbling about their own existential miseries. Their words are touching and direct. Just out of the hospital where they spent a few weeks being stitched up and recovering from stab wounds, Cohle talks about being “under in the dark” during his coma. “Beneath that darkness, it was a deeper warm, like a substance,” he says. “I knew my daughter waited for me there.” Cohle came so close to reaching the other side, but after feeling her love touch him in that abyss, he resolves to let the darkness go.

McConaughey won an Oscar last weekend and I will expect nothing less than an Emmy added to his mantle in six months time for Best Actor in a Mini-series. And I expect his speech in the series’ final moments to be his awards show clip. The actor crumbles into cries midway through talking, shedding tears of both relief and sadness. Hart can do little more than to pat his partner on the shoulder and lift him up from his chair, musing about how the stars in the sky show how tiny flickers of light can illuminate the darkness in the world. “Once there was only dark,” Cohle mumbles. “You ask me, the light’s winning.”

Does a show as sprawling and substantial as True Detective seem cheapened at the close by some rather procedural investigative tactics and some plain mumblings about the relationship between light and darkness? Yes and no. Yes, as the show’s happy ending seems like a bit of an anti-climax to the grit, gloom and grumbling that pervaded through previous hours, which hinted at an unquenchable darkness. No, as it closes off the anthology with humanity, exploring the relationship between its protagonists and what they have learned from their 17 years of correspondence than at the lurid details of the crime they investigated.

The anthology began with sin, crime and nihilism, yet ends on a hopeful note. I imagine some may be frustrated at the lack of morose qualities from the final ten minutes, but just as many (if not more) should be moved by these final moments. As Marty tells his partner, “We ain’t gonna get them all. That ain’t the kind of world it is.” Yes, we would have liked to know more about the killer and the methods of his madness more clearly – but the show is not about Errol Childress. It is about Martin Hart and Rust Cohle. They have each other, they have found some light within the darkness, and that is a good way to go out.

PS: I’m looking forward to season two of True Detective – which will have women investigators, this time – with great anticipation. Tell us, do you have any casting suggestions for next season’s anthology? How about Diane Lane and Ellen Barkin? Geena Davis and Carrie-Anne Moss? Melissa Leo and Margo Martindale? Sharon Stone and Laura Dern? Jessica Chastain and Julianne Moore? Man, there are so many combinations you can make. Feel free to share yours below.