True Detective - Two Points of Light

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” 

I thought it only fitting that TV's favorite Nihilist should honored with a quote from Nietzsche.  It is especially appropriate because as Rust Cohle reached his moment of triumph he was also reaching what could be defined as his nadir.  In defeating the monster he pursued he was also in danger of becoming that monster.

At the very least, Rust Cohle harbored thoughts of suicide.  In his quest to find "The King in Yellow" or as he is known by his more pedestrian name, Errol Childress, many of us thought that Cohle would also find his own end

I was foremost amongst them.  I felt for sure we had seen the last of Rust Cohle.  His trajectory seemed to be the one of a downward spiral despite his diligence and dedication.  There were many on the internet that felt True Detective betrayed itself with it's "sunny" ending.  How could a series that was so dark in nature be so uplifting in the end?

I for one was relieved at the end.  I had prepared myself for the worst.  It did seem a little odd at first but the more I think about it the more I am able to accept it and agree with it.  This particular post will be in defense of that ending and of Rust Cohle in particular.

Some had guessed correctly this series was one of stories or better yet the stories we told ourselves.  I can't disagree with that but I think this was a tale more of transformation or better yet transcendence.

It's been observed how much Christ like Rust looked as he sat in his hospital bed and as he gazed across the cityscape and out into the stars.

That's close, but I submit instead of a story of resurrection this was more of a story of rebirth.  I don't think Rust came back from the dead.  Instead I think he found the place where he could reject his Nihilism and become transcendent.

It was not for Rust Cohle to display tears but at the end he did.  Rust recounted to Marty the story how he was slipping into the darkness.  As he did he could feel the warmth of love surround him.  It was the love of his daughter he felt and as he was consumed by it he could feel the love of his "Pop" also.

"Darkness take me, yeah" to paraphrase Cohle at this point. He wanted to give in, he wanted he wanted to join them and end it all.

He wanted to let go.

And he did.  At this moment Rust Cohle had reached his moment of transcendence.  He did let go.  He let go of all the pain, all the misery and guilt that held thrall over him for so many years.  Rust cried when his eyes opened.  He felt as though he had lost.

No Rust you won.

He went back into the light and let go of the pain.  I don't think Cohle appreciated it at the time but he was finally free.  What better way to honor the death of his daughter than to keep on living and preserve her memory every waking day.

I suppose the clues were always there in True Detective.  How many allusions, references and images did we get about the stars?  Here is what the foremost transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Ermerson said about the stars.

"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!  But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile."

Rust Cohle stared into the black firmament that was the series long theme of True Detective and was reborn.  As he said to his friend Marty as they walked away,  "You ask me, light's winning."

Pretty Ironic that TV's foremost Nihilist could become a champion of Transcendentalism. 

  I don't mean to ignore the value of Woody Harrelson's Marty Hart in this piece.  I titled this post, "Two points of Light" because of what the two stars meant to this series.  Two stars, two points of light raging against the dark.  I'm pretty sure we saw Mary and Rust as two falling stars blazing across the night sky only to disappear a moment later.

Instead they endured.  Two points of light that are winning.


 I have this fantasy where in a few years we revisit the work of Detectives Gilbough and Papania.  It will be their series and they will have their own crimes to solve.  But as they pursue their prey we'll see them driving along and if you look real quick you'll see Marty's PI storefront in the background and through the glass will sit Marty and Rust, feet up on their desks, sharing a beer.


You don't like the way True Detective ended?  Maybe you weren't paying attention.  Because it was written in the stars.


Next up, part two of my finale review.  Evocative images and their meaning.




  1. Dave, I have to say that I agree with everything you have said. I thought for sure that Rust was going to die in pursuit of 'the man with the scars'. I felt as though, in pursuing this case that it was his way of achieving his goal of dying.
    Rust said that he came back (to pursue the case) because they had left it undone. The real killer was out there .... it was unfinished. I always had the impression that he felt that this was his way to die. He could hunt down the killer ....and die in the process. I know that sounds weird ....but he gave me the impression that he wanted to die .....he just couldnt do it himself.
    Personally, I didn't think the happy ending was a 'cop out' as some fans have said. Even though Rust felt the love of his daughter and Pop ..... he just really couldn't let go fully. Something in him wanted to live .....and that part came through. I think that had a lot to do with Marty ....and their friendship. I thought it was a fantastic ending. To me, the easy way out would have been for him to die ....because everyone expected it. Im glad he didn't.
    Im looking forward to season 2. I hope the scripts are as dynamite as season 1. I loved every minute of it.

    1. Lyn, it seems we are of like mind. I'm glad you embraced this series much like I did. I daresay if you liked Fringe then this show should appeal to you. It certainly had it's surreal and dark moments and it wasn't afraid to go places that were both capricious and bizarre.

      Rust's will to live was stronger than we thought. Or as I stated, stronger than even he realized. He just had to get over that thump and let go.

      Good to see Marty have a good cry too. He claimed to be in touch but he really kept people at arms length. Living a lie must be extremely burdensome.

      Well, it's over now and like yourself I'm looking forward to their next season. This one will be hard to top. I've got a couple of more ideas for True Detective topics so keep an eye out!

      Thanks Lyn!

  2. I loved the way it ended Dave! I would have bet money that one or both of them would die. But I guess I should have been looking at the stars better.

    1. Me too J-Pan, I especially thought Rust was going to get it. I read somewhere that Nic Pizzolato has these two characters in a book called "Galveston" so we might not have seen the last of them.

  3. The ending was completely satisfying to me. I didn't really care about the grand conspiracy of it all, although I can see how some fans got caught up theorizing about it. What captured my attention was these 2 men and how they challenged each other. To see them trust, connect and save each other, their very souls, in the end was incredibly emotional. Fantastic performances and a riveting first season. I can't wait to see what season 2 will be.

    I think it would be great if there was at least a shout out to Rust and Marty in the next season. Even just an oblique easter egg somewhere.

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