As HBO’s remarkable Southern-noir drama True Detective is about to close out its first season, there is plenty of story to wrap up and a single hour of television left to do so. A devoted following sprung up around the show seemingly from the moment it debuted, and the promise of an eight-episode, self-contained story in its debut season has kept fans focused on the mystery behind the Yellow King.
Created by writer Nic Pizzolatto (The Killing) with director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre) helming all eight season 1 episodes, True Detective explores terrain that seems familiar on paper, but is full of surprises, not the least of which are the exceptional central performances by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, along with pitch-perfect supporting work by Michelle Monaghan.
As the long-form narrative of detectives Marty Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey) draws to whatever kind of conclusion is possible (given the interesting introduction of the Lovecraftian entity Cthulhu, the story’s gloomy existentialism and Rust Cohle’s fatalist philosophy), we look ahead to the show’s future, in which neither of season one’s lead characters will return, nor will the idea of a single director guiding every episode.
Nic Pizzolatto recently engaged in an email interview with Buzzfeed which covered a wide array of topics, from Pizzolatto’s love of Twin Peaks to some of the real life cases of ritual murder which might have informed the first season’s plot (such as case of Hosanna Church in Tangipahoa Parish). The show has been criticized for its view of women – filtered through its two-person, male point-of-view – to which Pizzolatto responds:
This is a close, two-person point-of-view show, and the story is bound to those perspectives, with a few loose variations. In the structure of this telling, the other characters exist in relation to Cohle and Hart. However, if someone comes on screen for one exchange in the entire show, I believe they have dimensionality — the fact that their presence in the show exists only in relation to Cohle and Hart does not diminish their spark. Of the women Hart has affairs with, I wouldn’t expect them to be the most mature and stable of people, given his character and the difference in their ages. The gender criticism was expected, but it seems very knee-jerk in the total context of what we did here and what the show is supposed to be. It’s easy to use such a political concern as a blunt, reductive instrument to rob the material and performances of their nuances. But there was no way to tell this story, in this structure, without that being an easy mark for someone looking for something to criticize.
Without delving too deeply into spoilers, Pizzolatto denied some of the fan theories about who the killer could be, and commented on what some might be expected from the finale:
There are also those who will not be satisfied with any finale unless Rust Cohle steps out of their TVs, into their living room, and shoots them in the foot as some kind of meta-statement on magick and mass entertainment. And, you know, the technology just isn’t there. That said, I wouldn’t totally rule out the appearance of special effects…
The second season will switch up the format, and will not feature one director throughout the story arc. According to Pizzolatto:
We don’t have any plans to work with one director again. It would be impossible to do this yearly as we need to be able to do post while we’re still filming, like any other show. There’s some great guys I’ve consulted, and we’re all confident we can achieve the same consistency. Going forward, I want the show’s aesthetic to remain determinedly naturalistic, with room for silences and vastness, and an emphasis on landscape and culture. And I hope a story that presents new characters in a new place with authenticity and resonance and an authorial voice consistent with this season. Dominant colors will change. South Louisiana was green and burnished gold.
Fukunaga has indeed stated that the schedule for this project was exhausting, and while some fans might miss the sense of focus one director brought to the episodes, Netflix’s House of Cards has proven that it is possible for a top-notch director to establish a style and tone in the first few episodes, which can then be emulated by a succession of talented directors throughout the season.
Pizzolatto was asked about a quickly-deleted tweet of his suggesting that Season Two could be very different in regards to female characters. His response:
I deleted the tweet because I didn’t want to be beholden to a promise and then change my mind. I’m writing Season 2 right now, but I don’t want to divulge any potentialities, because so much could change. I just never want to create from a place of critical placation — that’s a dead zone. So I don’t want, for instance, a gender-bias-critique to influence what I do.
While he could not promise a set timeline for any future seasons, Pizzolatto did touch on how long it took to get this series to air, from writing the initial draft of the first episode in 2010, to entering pre-production in September 2012 to completing post-production January 2014. That said, Pizzolatto remarked:
It’s very possible to do it once a year; the main thing that slowed us down was having to wait to do all of post-production until after we’d wrapped. I’d like to get two or three scripts exactly where I want them, then start getting the gears rolling in earnest. Casting is its own issue. Who we cast and what their schedule is will likely determine at least some part of scheduling, and scheduling will determine at least some part of casting.
As for whether or not Rust Cohle’s worldview – that it takes bad men to keep bad men from the door – reflects that of Pizzolatto, the writer stated:
Regarding bad men being necessary to stop the other bad men, that’s probably more true than I’d like it to be, but the point exists outside of gender: You need physically capable, courageous, and potentially violent people to deal with the violent, dangerous people.
True Detective has inspired an instant cult following, along with a slew of Internet memes and parodies, which speaks to its riveting nature and the power of its themes. We’ve already seen what unreliable narrators Rust and Marty can be, but now that the story has shifted entirely into the 2012 time-frame, what surprises from the past lie in wait? There may or may not be a satisfactory conclusion in store, but the intricate literary references and two-person point of view definitely warrant repeat viewing. We’ll find out if this eight-chapter story was worth all that time this Sunday.
True Detective will conclude season 1 Sunday, March 9 with ‘Form and Void’ @9pm on HBO.