How Do You Think True Detective will End?

“The police do terrible things to people, with impunity.” These are the words from Rust (McCoanughey) in episode two of the HBO series. That is probably the key to the whole thing.

If you have watched the show up to the last episode, coming Sunday, some of the things I’m about to write might make sense. Otherwise, they could be a spoiler depending on what it is you’re looking for. True Detective is not a typical television show where things happen that can get spoiled – unless you’re talking about episodes 4 and 5 where the filmmaking itself is so surprising knowing anything about it going in could be a spoiler. But I don’t think either of those episodes have much to do with how the story turns out.

All of the clues you need to figuring out the plot is is, according to writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto. After watching the episodes many times and going back to episode one there are a few things worth noting.

First, an overview of what I think it all means. My reading of True Detective does not bog down in the particulars, not the Yellow King or the books or any other distraction that adds to the mystery. I’m sure there will be plenty of time to dig into those particulars – there are many and they are all vague. They are open to interpretation. There is a lot of weird symbolism throughout each episode. But there are also broad themes.

Trust is, I think, a Christlike figure (pure atheist, however) who is above the law. He appears to have suffered the sins of humanity and it’s destroying him. The institutions of religion and law enforcement are hypocritical, corrupt, not to be trusted. His life has been plagued by murder and torture of innocents. He has little humanity left. He is an avenging angel here to bring justice to the perpetuators by going outside the law.

The show operates on narration. The narration is kind of key to figuring out how it will go — I THINK. This is hinted at in episode 5 where we see Rust and Hart telling a false story to the police while the action plays out. This action was — justice taken into their own hands, going above the law. Why would they be doing this? Well, because the law is likely involved. We find this out in episode one and in episode 7 when the cop (Tate) is arrested. IN episode 1, Tate has deer heads with antlers mounted on his wall. It seems to be obvious to think there is a correlation but there likely is one.

Hart represents, I think, human foibles. He isn’t morally pure as Rust is. He lies and takes advantage of women. He blames everyone else for his misery. He is nowhere near as smart as Rust. His name — Hart — is about modern life, fresh blood pumping through. Rust is dead blood, perhaps the blood of Christ (?).

Those weird little structures are called “devil catchers” and they’re put at the bedside of children to catch the devil. This show is a battle between good and evil, and “good” and “evil.” You can’t trust people in power, not the church, not the government. Those shapes that keep appearing could be either for protection against the evil perps or it could be the evil perps using them to paint the victims as evil spirits. Either way, they probably come into play when the whole things wraps up.

So this is what I think will happen.


I believe that Tuttle – the governor and/or the religious leader – will be involved in a kind of “purity” of evil. That includes sacrificing of children and prostitutes. The details of which are likely to unfold in a semi-complicated way. The overall plot conclusion I think will include Rust and perhaps Hart murdering all of them. We then flip back to episode 1 where Hart is telling this story to the police, an unreliable narrator lying about what happened. The (flat) circular nature of it is confusing, even when you watch it back many times.

How do you think True Detective will end? And what are your thoughts overall about the series?

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  1. Avatar
    representDLV 8 years ago

    Easily the best show on TV right now. I am not sure how it’s going to end.

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    Alec 8 years ago

    I agree with the Tuttle part, as that has been hinted at for almost the whole series. I think it goes far above him(which you agree with by saying all the institutions are evil).

    I could see Rust and Hart going vigilante to the fullest extent and killing people(they have both done that before). What I am confused about is your last part of the theory: How can Hart explain “this story” when he hasn’t done any of the acts yet? He meets Rust again after his initial interview with the cops(which you referenced). Did I miss something in your theory?

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      sashastone 8 years ago

      Alec, that’s what I’m wondering too. In those early interviews we assume they haven’t seen each other in ten years, right? Then they get back together and open that office in the second to the last episode. But I’m starting to wonder if by the end it won’t all be framed as a false account or memory they are retelling. I am not sure, of course. I’ve had to watch the episodes many times and still find different things. I think they throw in a bunch of stuff that doesn’t fit into the main plot so it’s kind of a distraction.

      1. Avatar
        Alec 8 years ago

        That actually makes sense. That is about as good a guess as I have seen anyone come up with on-line. The one thing I didn’t take into account is how unreliable Rust and Hart can be as narrators. Could they be unreliable to the viewer too, as opposed to the detectives?? I have no idea what we will see on Sunday, but I like your theory quite a bit. I can’t wait for Sunday night; I have dvr’d every episode, but will be watching this one live. I don’t think I could avoid spoilers on Monday if I tried.

        I love that you are focusing on TV more. I am normally into the majority of movie and tv choices you write so well about(haven’t watched GOT yet though), so I think its great that we will be seeing more of you writing about tv shows. I have one suggestion for you: Try The Americans if you are looking for another show to watch. It had one of the better Season ones in recent history and it has strong female characters(Keri Russell is surprisingly great in this and Margo Martindale has a great recurring role). I am waiting on my wife to catch up on season 1 before we start watching the new episodes, but I can’t wait.

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    Mathias 8 years ago

    Nic Pizzolotto has said in interviews that he really admires endings of films like Chinatown which are based on the element of surprise but more importantly its an emotional surprise and truth built from well drawn characters/plots and not some Sixth Sense type twist. My hunch is that Cohle will indeed be sacrificed (possibly by the present cops)in taking down the evil forces (Tuttle’s remaining crew). It will be more of an emotional thing than a “gotcha”…

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      sashastone 8 years ago

      I agree with you, Mathias. That’s what I’m thinking too. It’s too smart of a show to make it about a gotcha.

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    g 8 years ago

    I love this show, and it can’t wait till Sunday. But I’m sad it will be over, the acting has been superb!

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    Christopher 8 years ago

    I think the episode will close out with McCoanughey’s character going into an endless tirade about how grateful he is to God and tons of other incoherent ramblings about anything other than the victims of the crime….ha!
    That said, your analysis is brilliant, the show is brilliant and I although I was a big fanboy prior to the Oscars-i’m glad McCoanughey won’t be back next year. I hope this show goes on forever!

    1. Avatar
      sashastone 8 years ago

      Christopher, I wish the show would go on forever. I don’t want to lose these guys!

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    Alec 8 years ago

    Cohle clearly wants to die. It’s the how that is so hard to predict. Mathias’s theory makes sense, but I can’t imagine his character getting killed by anyone other than himself, and not by any other hands than his.

    What is going to happen to Hart is just as good a question. He seemingly said his final goodbye to Maggie and is torpedoing his career by the actions he takes with the Sheriff at the end of episode 7. There are crazy theories about Hart on-line(involving his daughter, ties to the cult and his former father-in-law), but I feel like his involvement in this case has to do with his wanting redemption for his narcissistic ways and the effect those ways have had on everyone in his life. They both seem to feel the word would be better off without them. I wish I could come up with my own theory on Hart, but I am truly clueless.

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    Christopher 8 years ago

    Sasha, I truly hope so too. It’s just hard for me to think of Mac without remembering (THAT MOMENT) now. Etched in the mind. Maybe it will fade with time. I heard he has already announced that he wont’ be back for Season 2. I would actually love to see it done American Horror style with a different story-different set of talented performers a year.
    Not to beat a dead-horse, but wouldn’t it be great if someone would right and produce a show of this caliber for two women or minorities?

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    john oliver 8 years ago

    It’s been such a terrible first qarter for fims, why not focus on TV.

  9. Avatar
    john oliver 8 years ago

    I meant “films”

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    phantom 8 years ago

    I binge-watched the first seven episodes on HBOGo over the weekend and honestly I am starting to think I don’t want to know who the killer is. Such a brilliant show, true art, and I’m afraid whoever the killer is it won’t be a satisfying end after such a masterful season. I’m fearing a ‘The Killing Season 3’ scenario.

    For what it’s worth as smart as the show is, I think they WILL go with a ‘gotcha’ ending and one of the two ‘true detectives’ revealed as the killer. My money is on Hart, I know it sounds ludicrous, still, I have a theory.

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    Ailidh 8 years ago

    Your interpretation that Rust is a Christlike figure is very interesting. I’m already wondering if he doesn’t end up crucified himself – that crucifix above his bed – Pizzolatto is always foreshadowing.

    I always find Rust sort of a grown-up/grown old Holden Caulfield: battered by life, not totally sane, but he’s the catcher in the rye keeping the children from harm.

    About the criticism above that True Detective should be a rainbow of diversity, as a woman I’ve never felt “threatened” by True Detective unlike the New Yorker columnist. Writers need to write about what they know, not what they think would be politically correct – you can’t make art out of good intentions alone. Pizzolatto is a white Southern man. He created two white Southern protagonists. Hopefully, there are women writers, black writers, Asian writers, etc., etc. who can come up with an equally good concept for a show on HBO, but Pizzolatto must know intimately the characters he creates.

    There seems to be some bias, especially coming from the New Yorker article, that the attitudes presented in True Detective are not those which would be common currency today in New York City or LA. America regional literature, particularly the literature of the South, is not less important because the people it portrays don’t have the cool sophistication of Manhattanites. “Flyover country”: you’re flying over Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, McCullers, Styron, Capote, Harper Lee, Cormac McCarthy and on and on.

    Rust Cohle is an unforgettable character and McConaughey’s performance is seminal. As brilliant as Harrelson is, McConaughey has created one of the most distinct and most compelling figures in recent American film – I’m sure 10 years from now I’ll still think back on that performance. As for his personal views that Christopher above objects to, and his rambling stoner speechmaking style, I always prefer to watch a great actor who is a lousy speechmaker than a mediocre one whose suave speechmaking skills rival those of a good politician.

    On the internet, somebody posted that maybe McConaughey had thanked God to prevent any rumors from arising that he had sold his soul to the Devil to become our greatest actor (which I think he proves himself to be in True Detective).

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    chrisw 8 years ago

    I think they both die after finding how far the tuttle family killings go. however, the present-day detectives find the truth hart and cohle were trying to expose.

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    chrisw 8 years ago

    i think the series will close with the institutions that are meant to protect us(government, police, etc.) putting pressure on the present-day detectives to not share their findings.

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    wojtekdpo 8 years ago

    Rust and Hart are the same person.It is obvious

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    brian 8 years ago

    I like True Detective more than any film I’ve seen in at least the past two years … The acting/writing/cinematography amounts to pure viewing ecstasy …

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    Yvette 8 years ago

    I’m almost worried, because how can you end something like this and not be a disappointment?
    It has to be the best episode ever right? I don’t know how they can top themselves.
    It’s not going to be what we think its going to be – that would be too easy.
    I’m glad Woody and MM are not returning – it will live on as a great piece of fiction.
    Thank you – you addressed that regional bias better than I ever could.
    As for Christopher, did you expect MM to reel off an endless barrage of Rolodex names and ass-kissing in-jokes? I hate that shit.
    I’m actually confounded that – through his speech – placing something of an intangible power over you, and a philosophy of always seeking to be a better version of yourself, putting your wife and children above you etc…can be so misinterpreted, as something is it is not. Are people so cynical that they can’t recognized the honest humanity of someone in Hollywood driven by inspirations beyond awards, industry ass-kissing…? It was the least narcissistic, self–absorbed speech I’ve ever heard at an industry awards show.
    He spoke with passion, conviction and near-obsession about DBC, he wrecked his body and mind in the process to make it….that, and his performance, speaks for itself.
    Apparently, those aspirations have driven him to become the most idiosyncratic and visceral actor of his generation – it was his moment, emotions take over…..So let-it-the-fuck go. Or look at it this way: all the truly great actors are never ordinary and if anything, his unorthodox traits just prove that he is, indeed, a truly original artist.
    You have a right to feel this way Christopher and I have refrained some commenting before because God and such is such a touchy subject for some, but I think many are taking his words wildly out of context. Just saying….Peace.

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    Yvette 8 years ago

    I meant to address your comment about the regional bias from New York/La reviewers…lost in the middle paragraph…

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    Zach 8 years ago

    So many typos in this post, to the point that it doesn’t even make sense and I stopped reading.

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