Moments before the True Detective finale, my friend and I expressed our worry that the episode would be a flop, that we would be drastically unsatisfied with the fate of Rust and Marty.
“If they blow it with this episode, then we can refer to True Detective as the Peyton Manning of premium television,” he aptly stated.
Unfortunately, that’s the way it went down. It was a straightforward ending devoid of any twists. The killer was the dude who I thought was such an obvious suspect that he would be nothing more than a Red Herring. They were very careless with tying up loose ends. (I admittedly had way-too-high expectations going into it the finale.)
Here are some ways it could have ended that may have been more satisfying if executed well:
- After tracking down and killing Errol Childress, Rust and Marty spend the rest of the episode tying up loose ends—mainly finding and punishing (with impunity) the other men involved in the ritualistic murder of young girls.
- It’s revealed that Rust murdered Dora Lange, antlers and all, to draw attention to the occult group of child killers, who murdered his daughter. Rust had said in the show that his daughter had died in a car crash, and that his marriage hadn’t outlasted the residual fallout. (My brother came up with this theory when he was pretty drunk.)
- Something snapped in Rust following the Dora Lange investigation, and he began committing copycat murders in the style of Errol Childress. Marty eventually figures it out, kills Rust, and is left to deal with the fact that his partner, who he spent most days with for years, was messing with and manipulating him the entire time.
- Marty is the killer, because sometimes the darkest people in the world are the ones who live normal lives, hold down regular jobs, and raise families. It’s the greatest possible disguise for heinous action. Like John Wayne Gacy. Marty’s strange psychopathic tendencies make it endlessly enjoyable to him to lead Rust completely astray. Their entire investigation, which has completely wrecked Rust’s life, was engineered by Marty. The two have a final showdown at Carcosa, and both die.
- Rust dies shortly after being gutted by Errol, but not before he can speak to Marty about feeling the mystical love of his daughter and his father, who are waiting for him on the other side, whatever that may mean.
- The HBO GO crash was engineered by HBO, who also engineered a blackout of the actual channel halfway through the show. They reveal that no ending has yet been shot, and invite viewer submissions for how the show should be resolved, which is then shot and aired.
- The Yellow King was Big Bird this entire time. The show was a satire made to put in focus society’s dependence on fictional stories, and to prove that we are all still capable of getting wildly into something that is not a reality show.
- The episode was aired exactly as it was, but afterward there is a teaser for the next season. Instead of the original plan—which was to shoot one season of this storyline, and move into the next with new characters and a new plot—it’s revealed that there will be a second season with Rust and Marty, and that they will spend it kicking occult ass and taking Cajun names.