I think I’m starting to truly understand how it must feel to be Stephen King, at least when it comes to the subject matter he writes about. Folks question his sanity for a predilection for things that go bump in the night.
I’ve had people wonder why I write about crime.
It’s because it’s fascinating to me. That’s the only way I know to explain it. I write about the criminals because we’ve got more than enough stories out there about the cops. And my two areas of particular interest are the drug trade—both the Cocaine Cowboy days of the eighties and the modern Mexican wars—and serial killers.
In both cases, I ask myself this: what makes them tick?
Why do we have folks like Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, and their ilk? Why are there people like Pablo Escobar and Joaquín Guzmán who know their lives will likely be short and violent, or end in long prison terms? Sure, they live a life of riches till then, but what’s the motivation there?
Most serial killer stories are told from the POV of the cops, and True Detective is a good example of this. But this show is different. We’re not talking about clean cut cops like you see in Silence of the Lambs or Red Dragon. While they may be physically clean cut, they’re far from upstanding moral compasses.
And the world they live in is dark. It’s reflected in the way the show is shot. Every scene seems to take place under a haze, as if the clouds have moved into Louisiana permanently. And that’s fitting, because it’s a dark story. Rust Cohle and Marty Hart don’t live nice lives, and it seems the way their jobs intersect with those lives is telling. How can you investigate crimes like this and not have it seep into your personal life?
I won’t go into too much detail about that part of the show as I covered it just a couple weeks ago. And if you’ve seen the show, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
What I’m gonna talk about now is that I’ve finally seen the finale, so I can give an impression of the series as a whole, and I have to say I liked it. Yes, Episode 6 was a bit of a fall-off, but it was something of a transition episode, and transitions can be difficult to pull off at times. True Detective didn’t quite do it.
Still, if Episode 6 is the worst of the lot (and it is in my opinion), it’s only crappy compared to the rest of the series. It’s still a good part of the overall story and gets us where we need to be for the wrap up.
And what a wrap up it was. If we thought the original suspect from 1995 was a sorry example of humanity, the real culprit deserves a place at the top of the serial killer Hall of Fame. Creepy, non-human (I hesitate to say subhuman, as it doesn’t quite fit), he’s different from many who’ve come before him while still being recognizable. Yes, he probably had a messed up childhood, but as Rust says, we all make choices as we go through life, and our killer made a choice to be what he was. We can only blame the past for so long before others get tired of hearing it and do something about it.
And then, after the climax, the first shot we see of the Lafayette General Hospital is in bright sunlight. The darkness that haunted the show has passed, the true culprit is dead, and this is reflected by the changes made in both characters, especially Rust. They’re friends now, good friends, and Rust has had a life-changing experience, a near-death encounter that told him there was more out there than he believed for so many years. As he tells Marty at the end, in the beginning there was only darkness, but now there are a lot of stars out there, and the light is winning.
Yeah, it’s a little sugary, but from a storytelling POV, it’s pure gold. This was a story about change, and both characters changed over the course of the series.
In the end, I have to say this was one of the best shows I’ve seen since Breaking Bad. I was sucked in from the beginning and couldn’t wait to see how it all turned out. It took a direction I didn’t expect, and the surprise was pleasant.
If you haven’t seen it, get on Netflix or Hulu or wherever you can get it and watch it. I know I’ll be buying it when it hits DVD. It’s well worth another viewing, as I suspect I’ll see things I missed first time around.