‘True Detective’ Creator Nic Pizzolatto Talks Season 1 Finale and Season 2 Changes

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Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in True Detective True Detective Creator Nic Pizzolatto Talks Season 1 Finale and Season 2 Changes
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 NombreJane 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.

True Detective Title Sequence Image True Detective Creator Nic Pizzolatto Talks Season 1 Finale and Season 2 Changes

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.

Matthew McConaughey in True Detective S1E7 True Detective Creator Nic Pizzolatto Talks Season 1 Finale and Season 2 Changes

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.

Woody Harrelson in True Detective Season 1 Episode 5 True Detective Creator Nic Pizzolatto Talks Season 1 Finale and Season 2 Changes

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.

Source: Buzzfeed

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  1. I love this show, it’s intelligent, engaging and well acted on all fronts and I have loved every episode so far. I don’t know how they are going to complete this season in 1 hour with satisfaction but I’m looking forward to being proved wrong!

    • The butler did it.

  2. I absolutely adore this show!! I admit, I was late to catch on to its appeal, but now that I have—I’m hooked! The pairing of Woody & Matthew was brilliant and I will be sad that they will not be returning. However, I like the idea of bringing new talent to the forefront. I can’t wait for the season finale on Sunday & future seasons!! ;) #TrueDetective4Life

  3. If it means that season 2 will compare in quality to season 1 I’m fine with waiting as long as necessary.
    The last thing I would want is to have a story rushed just so it could premiere next January.

    I also thought people jumped a little fast on the remark about next season featuring female protagonists. It would be great to see something from that angle and not in the way we normally see females portrayed on most shows but not at the expense of story. I never thought Pizzolatto was lying, I just thought of it more as a anything can happen reply.

    As for the finale. Oh boy, I’m expecting gloom and doom. We all knew it was never going to be a happy ending but I can see something that rivals Seven.

    • I like the Seven ending idea. I agree that it will leave the audience with the feeling of despair.

  4. This show is awesome! I have watched it religiously from the get-go. The penultimate episode led viewers to believe that the guy on the lawnmower was the scarred man, aka The Yellow King, but that could be a ruse.
    I just want some sort of closure for this first season. Don’t leave me hanging with unresolved questions. I would prefer a justice-type ending, i.e. the bad guy gets his just desserts, but one or both of our heroes die to see it through. Maybe even say they found all of the evidence they needed to bring the whole thing crashing down and sent it to the media before dispatching the Yellow King.
    I don’t know…but I betcha it’s gonna be damn good!

  5. Only two ways I want this to end:
    - Something so f**ked up happends that it makes someone lose his mind.(maybe Marty)
    - Chtulhu arises.

    • Chtulhu arises=MIND BLOWN

  6. Even if the destination isn’t sh*t-your-pants-mindblowing, the journey has definitely made it worth it.

  7. “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.”

    Couldn’t have put it better.

  8. The season finale better not disappoint like the Dexter series finale.

  9. I am a little bit embarassed at how much I look forward to this show every week. Even as a miltant feminist, while I think, of course, the shift in focus looking at the story through the lenses of some of the other characters could add a little depth, I cannot fathom how the (beautifully played) leading men would not return in some capacity for the second season except to the detriment of the series…

  10. Forget the political environment and make another True Detective. This is absolutely the best drama on TV or the movies for that matter in years. The story should always decide the characters not our screwed up political correctness model which is a bit sick in itself. Let them whirl, the millions who love what you have done will not only continue to follow but bring their friends. Phenomenal director and actors that created a story for the ages laced with vocabulary that was inspirational as well as required a decent education to follow but the journey was one we shall never forget. Great job to all involved. This was a masterpiece long overdue on TV !!! Thank you…!!

  11. Cthulhu isn’t mentioned in the show. It does mention things that elements of the broader Cthulhu mythos, but the King in Yellow was a Robert W. Chambers book, not a Lovecraft story.

    • Yes, but Lovecraft adopted The King in Yellow and merged it into his own mythos (as he did with lots of other writing, and other Lovecraftian writers did in future with different concepts). So there is still a link and the connotations can’t be denied, even if there is no direct reference.

  12. Here is who should be cast in season two


  13. The series inspired me to start an acting school. I charge $4,000. I strap people to a chair and instruct them to pay 98% attention to Matthew McConaghey. I tell them “pay attention…you will never ever be that good.” Then I return their money. True Detective is true art.