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Recap: ‘True Detective’ Finale Season 1, Episode 8 ‘Form And Void’

Recap: 'True Detective' Finale Season 1, Episode 8 'Form And Void'

For over fifteen years a conspiracy and myth has haunted Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson), one involving a yellow king, a man with scars and the mysterious destination of Carcosa. An evil had spread its branches across Louisiana, something pervasive, powerful and for the longest time untouchable. The name of God was used as a cover for unspeakable crimes and killings, and Rust, Martin and anyone else who touched that darkness, found it touching them right back. “All my life I wanted to be nearer to God. The only nearness? Silence,” Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham) said in episode six, “Haunted Houses.” But in “Form And Void,” that silence has answers.

For much of the season, Rust has largely been presented as the visionary of the detective duo, going about his job with philosophical underpinnings to almost every aspect of an investigation. His interrogation technique is unparalleled, and even as Martin chased skirts and avoided the problems in his marriage, Rust followed up on every lead and kept digging. The widening gap between the pair tore them apart, however, watching Rust and Martin come back together has been one of the greatest satisfactions of the final act of the show. “I find it touching when Cohle asks about Marty’s life—that’s something ‘95 Cohle would never do,” Nic Pizzolatto told Buzzfeed about a scene in episode seven, “After You’ve Gone.”  And indeed, Rust and Martin have never been more simpatico than they are here.

“The story was entirely planned around them reuniting to try and resolve this serial murderer case,” Pizzolatto also said, and there is something poetic about watching Rust and Martin working so well together here. In 2012, it’s Martin’s investigation techniques and intuition that lead the detectives from Steve Geraci’s (Michael Harvey) revelations about the “chain of command” above him who hushed up the Marie Fonteneau case, to the home of Errol Childress aka The Man With Scars. He lives in squalor, speaks of “acension” and there is a sense he’s long been prepared to make one final stand for his life’s work of murder. And Rust knows they finally found his man, thanks to his synaesthesia. “That taste, aluminum, ash….I tasted it before…,” he intones with gravity before they get there. And it’s a taste that nearly brings them to their demise.

Errol leads Rust into Carcosa, an underground warren of tunnels, twigs and branches, with Martin following his partner a bit of a distance behind. He’s been busy trying to find a phone to call  Detective Thomas Papania (Tory Kittles) to send backup. And after being taunted in the darkness, Rust comes face-to-face with Errol in a clearing, but he’s first distracted by a hole revealing the night sky above, one that in his eyes becomes a swirling void. It’s almost as if Rust has made peace with ending his life (remember, he once said, “My life’s been a circle of violence and degradation, as long as I can remember. I’m ready to tie it off”), and with Childress attacking him by surprise, that nearly happens. Rust is deeply wounded in the gut, before Martin arrives to help only to get critically wounded as well. And as Errol towers over Martin to finish him off, it’s Rust who springs into action with what he has left, to shoot Errol in the head. In the distance the police arrives, a flare is sent up as beacon of hope to Rust and Martin (a beautiful visual moment) and it looks like case closed.

But this is where “True Detective” becomes so much more than just a procedural concerned with finding the killer (who was revealed anyway, in last week’s “After You’ve Gone”). When Detective Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts) and Papania come to visit Martin in the hospital to share details of what their investigation has discovered about Childress, the Lake Charles murder and the web of people involved, he waves them off. Martin would prefer not to know. And as the audience hears via news reports, it looks like the Tuttle family will remain unscathed too. So what was this all about then, if not the killers? Mortality and meaning, perhaps, among other things. “It’s just one story, the oldest,” Rust says about everything that’s happened. “Light versus dark.” And Martin replies, “…it appears to me, dark has a lot more territory.”

And it’s a bit of a role reversal, and a fitting view for Martin who this long on the job, has seen the worst the world has to offer. But In 1995, it would’ve likely been Rust to side with such a dark view of humanity, but something changed him. In a coma following surgery after getting stabbed by Errol Childress, Rust reveals to Martin that during that time, he not only felt the presence of his daughter, but her love too. “And then I woke up,” he says in tears. 

“Death is not the answer, rejoice” an elderly woman declared in last week’s episode, and now Rust knows it himself. “If you ask me, light’s winning,” he tells Martin before the credits roll. And it’s a beautiful moment in a show that ends on a note of hope, instead of a neatly tied resolution. And it’s stronger for it. “True Detective” has never put the mystery first, and it’s something telling that the weakest episode of the season was also the most straightforward, “After You’ve Gone.” Instead the show is about two men, one presented in darkness, who after losing his family, plunged headfirst into the darkest corners of his job, and the other a seemingly happy family man.

And the darkness of the case consumed them in different ways. Martin continually edged away from his family into bad habits, while Rust had an outlet for the sense of injustice he felt at God or the world or whoever was in charge of damning him to his fate of pain and loss. But the pair’s trajectory found them trading places. What Martin saw on a continual basis of the force, caused him to drop the job. Whatever traditional notions about police work he might’ve had were eradicated by the details of this case. For Martin, that’s why the “dark has a lot more territory.” But for Rust, the mere fact that love can sustain as strongly as it does in his heart for his daughter, and having his own ideas turned around about the finality of death, gives him enough hope to start seeing the edges of light on the horizon.

It’s a moving and soulful closer to “True Detective,” which has solidified itself as one of the best shows of the year. Nic Pizzolatto created a rich, intelligent, dangerous but beautifully textured world. Far more than just an eight episode procedural, “True Detective” is about what happens when horror comes to our doorstep, and the people we become after that encounter. [A]

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Thanks so much For quoting the last line as I couldn't year a damn word matt was saying at the end.

Josiane Ochman

Mostly liked the ending, suspenseful and edgy full of unspoken terrors like the series itself. Was a little disappointed with the "life after death" invocation, overly religious for my liking, agree with someone else on the comment thread who mentioned it as being so quintessentially American, you can't just die there has to be visions of an after life to make it all the more palatable. Took away from the ending for me turned it into something more conventional than it needed to be.

mellow king

i love the mirroring and role reversal from the first episode to the last. Rust's realist/pessimist philosophy clashes with Marty who would prefer to just not think about such things. then in the last scene; Rust: "Light vs dark" Marty: "I think the dark has a lot more territory."
"you were wrong, what you said about light vs dark."
"how's that?"
"in the beginning there was only darkness. If you ask me, light's winning."


Carcosa – carcasses


The names of the Characters:

Rustin Cole – COAL. Dark, ancient, compacted.
Marty Hart – Victory of the Heart.
Childress – sounds like "childless"


Beautiful review. Exactly how I saw the series. I will miss these two characters. I think it will be a long time before we see two cops with this kind of chemistry. Pizzolatto should win awards.


Who was the dude on the bed? Did Earl just call him "daddy" at the beginning of the episode?


Not really important but did they say who the man was tied up in the servants quarters ? Was that supposed to be Childress senior ?


Lame ending for an overrated show

well Noha...

talk to me, Rust
There was a moment
I know when I was under in the dark
that something…
whatever I'd been reduced to
you know, not even consciousness.
It was a vague awareness
in the dark,
and I could–
I could feel my definitions
And beneath that…
darkness, there was another kind.
It was– it was deeper,
warm, you know,
like a substance.
I could feel, man,
and I knew, I knew my daughter
waited for me there.
So clear.
I could feel her.
I could feel…
I could feel a piece
of my– my pop, too.
It was like I was
a part of everything
that I ever loved,
and we were all…
the 3 of us, just–
just fadin' out.
And all I had to do
was let go…
and I did.
I said, "Darkness,
yeah, yeah."
And I disappeared.
But I could–
I could still feel
her love there,
even more than before.
There was nothing
but that love.

Then I woke up.


Haha, Kevin gives the weak TD finale an A but the BB finale a C+.



If Anyone can find me the full line where rust talks about being able to feel his daughters love please let me know. It is very important that I find the whole line.


Thanks heaps for the week by week write ups. They've helped a lot to understand the bits that I missed out on because so much goes on in the show!

This is one of the best shows I've seen and came at the perfect time replacing Breaking Bad.

It's only just over and I cannot wait until Season 2 :)


" an underground warren of tunnels, twigs and branches"

pretty sure there were mummified corpses strewn in there too, no?


It's been a great ride smelling the psychosphere with Rust and Marty, all the way to Carcosa. These dudes are BFFs for life after all the shit they've been through. It's been a pleasure reading your post game analysis of all the episodes, each week, Kevin. Thanks.


Not to mention the great acting by Glenn Fleshler (Errol) I think my favorite scene is the one of the little boy staring at him as he paints. His reaction says so much without saying anything.

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