WOW. What a season. This show brought story telling and acting to a whole new level and the finale certainly didn’t disappoint. I know there were so many wild and crazy theories out there about how this was all going to go down. Ultimately, I didn’t care. And I don’t say that in a dismissive sense. I say it in a respectful sense. Nic Pizzolatto has told such a glorious story from start to finish that I wasn’t concerned with where it was going because I trusted that it would end as it should….and it did.
With so many people speculating as to who the Yellow King was and how all this tied together, it’s easy to get caught up in the prognosticating. But in my humble opinion, the point of the narrative is lost if people only focus on the “who done it.” This show is not Criminal Minds or CSI or even Castle. It’s not about solving who’s the killer at the end of the arc. It’s not about trying to put the pieces together to figure it out. It’s about the story of these two dark, broken men who are solving this crime and how this case has impacted their lives and their journey together as partners and eventually, friends. Now don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to know who the damn Yellow King was and why/how this all happened. But I wasn’t as curious about that as I was to see how the resolution impacted Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey.) I wanted, more than anything, for this story line to come to a resolution for their characters. To wrap up their characters’ arcs. See, when you look at this show, they could have been anything….truck drivers, CPAs, tennis pros, salesmen…it didn’t matter. Whatever their profession, the story revolved around how these two men came to be both as individuals and as partners. It just so happened that they were detectives solving a crime that personally connected with both of them (for different reasons) and that was the catalyst to help them work through their inner demons and move away from the darkness and towards the light. And they needed each other to do it.
Marty’s biggest issue was trying to be, in the most benign of descriptions, “the man.” Both at work and at home, Marty wanted to be everything to everyone. Master of his domain. And the harder he tried, the more he went in the opposite direction…whether by his own doing or as the result of someone else’s decisions. At work, he was the guy everyone liked, but maybe not always respected. When he partnered with Cohle he wasn’t happy about it but to appease him, he was told he was the lead, the point man for all cases. Eventually, after several years, that really just became a title with no meaning behind it because everyone knew that Cohle was the one solving the crimes, getting the confections, making the arrests. Marty was just the paperwork pusher. Instead of being the lead dog, he was the ultimate lap dog. Reduced to nothing more than administrative assistant to Cohle. At home, his daughters couldn’t stand him and didn’t want to be around him and his wife (because of her own frustrations at being married to a man with such little inner strength) could be quite the ball crusher when she saw Marty asking and speaking in ways that were less than authoritative. He could be meek and timid and that frustrated her. Marty’s solution? Start banging all these younger versions of his wife to make himself feel like a man again. In the end, albeit way too late, Marty realized that he pushed away the one woman he really loved, destroyed his relationship with his daughters, and is now left with nothing. Or is he?
Rust is the complete opposite of Marty. He never cared about being “the man.” All he cared about was justice. No one liked Rust. No one understood Rust (no one cared to.) And Rust didn’t care. He was on a mission…to seek justice for Dora Lange and the other young children who were kidnapped, raped, and murdered. And he could go after these thugs with reckless abandon because he doesn’t care if he loses his life in the battle for truth. It was that way when he was undercover (and probably why he stayed as long as he did), it was that way when he went undercover again with the Iron Crusaders, and it was that way last night when he went after Eroll Childress. Why did he value his life so little? Because that meant he would be closer to his daughter. If he dies, he’s back where he belongs…with her. I think that’s why Rust was moving around like a breathing corpse because nothing mattered without his little girl and her mom. His soul and spirit died the same day his daughter did. And even though it’s pretty much assumed that’s why Rust is the way he is, you never really understand his level of grief and pain until last night when the walls come down and the vulnerability shines through and we get our first look at the real Rust Cohle.
The best part of watching this season, was watching the partnership/relationship of Marty and Rust evolve into what it became…friendship. These were two men who really didn’t like each other. Actually, I would say Marty didn’t like Rust. Rust’s feelings were buried so deep I don’t think he felt anything. I think it would be fair to say that these were two men who didn’t understand one another. But over the course of the season, as each man grew to know the other better (whether they wanted to or not), an understanding developed. Eventually, that understanding grew to kinship. Because at the end of the day, all they have is each other. They came to learn that the only people who really understood them, were each other. These were two dark, broken men. Whether they were broken at someone else’s hand or their own, their inner selves were destroyed in such a way, it was no wonder they couldn’t have a normal life. Marty and Rust both suffered losses. Rust lost his daughter to God and his wife to grief while Marty lost his daughters and wife due to negligence and self loathing. Either way, their families were gone. What was left? A lot of shattered pieces to be picked up and put back together and inadvertently and painfully, that what Rust and Marty did for each other. Now they needed to shatter those pieces just a little bit more (with Rust sleeping with Maggie) and those pieces were left there for a long time before someone picked them up. But this case brought them back together and as mad as Marty was and as guilt ridden as Rust was, they teamed up to finished what they started. Years later, even when Marty was forgiving Rust, in his own way, Rust wouldn’t have it. He would let Marty let him off the hook. Hell we knew Rust hadn’t let himself off the hook because he never fixed his tail light that broke when they fought in the parking lot. It was his reminder of his weakness and betrayal. And I think that’s how Marty was able to start to forgive him. But once they had their man and they went after him to finally get the justice those victims deserved, you really see how these men grew to trust, respect, and care for each other. When Cohle was being gutted by Childress, Marty came in to stop it and save him. Then when he turned his attention to Marty (after throwing an ax into his chest) Cohle mustered up all his strength to kill Childress. Then Marty crawls over to Rust and holds him in his lap until help arrives. He never leaves his partner’s side. Even in the hospital after he wakes up and Rust is banged up but ok, Marty is still by his side. And even though Rust doesn’t show it to Marty, after he kicks him out with his one finger salute asking him to never change, a smile comes over his face. The kind of smile you get when your friend has made you laugh over something that should be painful. That comfortable acknowledgement that no matter what, they are there for you. That satisfying feeling that you have someone in your corner. It’s confirmed even more so at the end of the show when both men are outside and Marty gives Cohle a present (his Camels) and then rolls him away to enjoy them. We see Rust, not just break down his wall, but throw grenades and set off bombs to bring it down. After everything they’ve been through, he lets Marty inside. He beautifully and tearfully gives Marty what Marty has wanted since the day he met Cohle…and understanding behind the psyche of a disturbed man. And boy does he paint a clear picture. You see it in Marty’s face as he watches him explain how he never felt like he should be here because with each dangerous scenario he put himself in, it was one step closer to reuniting with his little girl. Because at the end of the day, Rust wants happiness and peace. And in his mind, for the longest time, only death could bring that because he would be with his daughter again. But as Marty explains to him that while there is much darkness out there, there is also great light, he lets Rust know that he can find the inner peace he so desperately seeks if he focuses more on the light than the dark. For the first time, since probably his daughter passed away, Rust believes him. As such, he makes Marty take him away and arm and arm they go off into the darkness to seek their light….with one another.
What did you think of last night’s finale and the season overall? Will you be back next year because I sure will! And who would you like to see as the two main leads next year? Let me hear from you!