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‘True Detective’ Creator Nic Pizzolatto Reveals Alternate Endings & Shares Season 2 Story Details

'True Detective' Creator Nic Pizzolatto Reveals Alternate Endings & Shares Season 2 Story Details

True Detective” has finished, and now the debate begins on its legacy. Did it live up to the promise in the first half of the season? Was the story concluded in a satisfactory manner? Is this really one of the greatest shows in TV history? We’ll let you hash it out in the comments section, but in this writer’s opinion, there hasn’t been a TV drama this dense, rich and satisfying in a long, long time. That said, last night’s finale did leave a slightly sour taste in the mouths of some. Obviously, **SPOILERS AHEAD**.

So, in “Form And Void,” we saw both Rust and Martin near death, only to survive and spend the last quarter of the show involved in a discussion of light versus dark, and the meaning of the universe. As we wrote in our recap, it was a fitting and rather poetic conclusion, with both men changed from what they’ve experienced. But it wasn’t the supernatural finale some were hoping for or tragic conclusion some expected. And writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto shares his approach and some of the other ideas he had going into the finale.

“For me as a storyteller, I want to follow the characters and the story through what they organically demand. And it would have been the easiest thing in the world to kill one or both of these guys,” Pizzolatto told HitFix. “I even had an idea where something more mysterious happened to them, where they vanished into the unknown and Gilbough and Papania had to clean up the mess and nobody knows what happens to them. Or it could have gone full blown supernatural. But I think both of those things would have been easy, and they would have denied the sort of realist questions the show had been asking all along. To retreat to the supernatural, or to take the easy dramatic route of killing a character in order to achieve an emotional response from the audience, I thought would have been a disservice to the story. What was more interesting to me is that both these men are left in a place of deliverance, a place where even Cohle might be able to acknowledge the possibility of grace in the world.”

And it was a smart choice, giving the finale of “True Detective” a true emotional heft (Rust’s story about feeling his daughter’s presence and love while on the brink of death is awards reel stuff). But perhaps vexing to many was that the conspiracy around the Tuttle churches stayed in the background and was not fully resolved. Martin even quiets Gilbough and Papania when they start explaining where the investigation has gone. But for Pizzolatto, it was all about making the show as real as possible. 

“The conspiracies that I’ve researched and encountered, they seem to happen very ad hoc: they become conspiracies when it’s necessary to have a conspiracy. I think it would have rang false to have Hart and Cohle suddenly clean up 50 years of the culture history that led to Errol Childress, or to get all the men in that video,” he explained. “It’s important to me, I think, that Cohle says, ‘We didn’t get em all, Marty,’ and Marty says, ‘We ain’t going to. This isn’t that kind of world.’ This isn’t the kind of world where you mop up everything. We discharged our duty, but of course there are levels and wheels and historical contexts to what happened that we’ll never be able to touch.”

It’s a brave position to take, and a choice that leaves the world of “True Detective” as complex and unfair and haunted as it was when we entered. But now, the big question: what’s happening with season two? Well, Pizzolatto is already putting pen to paper, for another conspiratorial tale, but one that seems to be more national in scope.

“Okay. This is really early, but I’ll tell you (it’s about) hard women, bad men and the secret occult history of the United States transportation system,” the writer shared. Damn.

For more, read the entire interview at HitFix and feel free to share your thoughts below.

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I posted this comment, as best I can recall it, in March, 2014, and am wondering why it was removed. In response to Crabpaws:
Same here, read ’em all, saw ’em all. Pizzolatto now denies that any of the hints he provided, verbal or visual, were intended to mislead. But Pizzolatto wrote it all with just this ending in mind – a couple of dozen lines in the final scene to alter the entire effect and to escape the responsibility of intellectualizing what he had previously done. Check out the Eastwood move, Million Dollar Baby, which changed direction, but did it gracefully, with sparse eloquence and minimalist acting and with much greater emotion.
I felt insulted at first by this cartoon but I have come to realize that I was wrong. Pizzolatto is simply incapable. He should do well in Hollywood. This guy is no writer, but hey, he knows that – he is an "artist" now.
The writing, which fascinated me for the first seven episodes, now disintegrates before my eyes. Like mathematical symbols on a chalkboard it now blows away, because not only was there no solution, but there was never any real problem. The entire thing turns to meat, sentient or not. The good news is that there is no reason to buy the boxed set of this series any more. The author has explicitly told us that there is nothing there.

j brown

In the first 10 seconds of the first show it shows 2 men walking out of the field, one obviously badly wounded with the other more or less helping the person to walk out of the field as it burned.Could someone explain this to me. To me it looked like Cole was the one injured with his arm around Marty’s neck. I never understood what that scene was supposed to mean. Please help. I loved that show.


I agree with the other folks on here who mention how the writing fell apart on the last two episodes.


I read Nic Pizzolatto's interview, I read all of Nic Pizzolatto's interviews, I saw all 8 episodes, most of them more than once, and after the finale, I'd like to make this request: Nic Pizzolatto, please shut up. Your mouth is writing checks your screenwriting *ss can't cash.

That last episode was a writerly disgrace. You claimed you weren't going to trick the audience and you then you did it. You cannot with a straight face call half-baked TV trash innovative and still keep the respect of those of us who can tell the difference. You've gone Hollywood in a big way, Nic, the place where bullcrap walks until it's up there on the screen for all to see. Then it's the downward spiral, Nic. You're in Carcosa now.

Rita G

I absolutely loved every episode of this show (True Detective) and hated that is over! The last episode was the greatest, leaving me to taking off my robe and standing up, because the intensity was so high in the series and in me. I am happy that the writer kept both men alive. Just the coolest when Cohle reached over and blew psycho Childress's head off to save his partner, Martin forming a true personal part of their relationship. They had respect and disrespect, anger, resentment and many other feelings, but I think the ending caused a real caring and trust that was lacking previously.
It is by far one of the best TV series I have watched and I can say I watch a lot! The writer was superb! Casting could not have been better! My only complaint is that the cast will be different in Season 2. Harrelson and McConaughey were so good and such a perfect team.

Margie Barkley

To offer "the possibility of grace," a glimmer of joy, even though we have had follow the characters through their souls' darkest nights – that is genius. Tragedy evokes emotion, but that does mean that it is more profound than resolution. Good writing is meant to be read/viewed more than once. When I watch this again, I will look for the breadcrumbs of hope that I could not see the first time. As we live in the real world we should look for these clues. Thank you for offering an opportunity to think deeply and to arrive at the possibility of hope in a world that is incoherent at times.


Picasso stated:'the greatest artistas doesn't copy,the steal'.If Pizzolato has proved to be a great storyteller,but the finale was incoherent with Cohle's visión of the world.


The only reason you think he copied from other work is because there are so many shows that its pretty easy to do something and related to something else. its hard to stay completely original. We have the ingredients. its what we make with them. I thought the series was great. I loved Cohle's philosophies. my favorite episode was when Cohle ran through all of the gang members and he beat the crap out of the biker guy the whole time they were getting away.


"To retreat to the supernatural, or to take the easy dramatic route of killing a character in order to achieve an emotional response from the audience, I thought would have been a disservice to the story."

Mr. Pizzolatto, the story is meaningless if there is no emotional response from the audience. Take a poll of how many audience members thought at least Cohle was going to die and I bet you'd find many.

What we ended up with was seven great episodes soaked with philosophies on death, yet neither character died and the story ended on a weak note. Meh


He stole from se7en. No wait he stole from Alan Moore. No wait, this is the internet comment section and none of these things actually happened.


That's not really what an "alternative ending" is…



the lifting comes from a comic book called Top Ten #8, written by alan moore, where a dying horse headed alien describes a game of intergalactic/interspecies chess-like game involving forcers of light and darkness. as the alien is dying, he describes how long ago there was only darkness in the universe. now there are more and more stars and light is slowly winning the game.

my description does the comic book no justice, but the similarities jarred me a bit and diminished what i thought was quite a brilliant series, if only because the lifting was blatant, imo.


The Alan Moore connection @Anonymouse mentions is news to me. Can we get a link or a direct quote?

On the one hand, I think the whole series took and developed the feeling of Andrew Kevin Walker and David Fincher's Se7en. True Detective mostly avoided specific appropriation/theft of Se7en but did an ample amount of thematic aping — intentional or otherwise. The dynamic between the two cops is very similar to that in Se7en: feuding partners, literary references galore, occult ritual murders, inscrutable clues. (Plus, in an early draft of Se7en Freedman's character actually sleeps with Paltrow's). The last lines of the finale, however, seem deeply influenced by the last lines of Se7en where Freedman's character says in VO: "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, The world is a fine place and worth fighting for…I agree with the second part." It look likes either Pizzolatto lifted the sentiment or the sentiment is predictable enough that both he and Andrew Kevin Walker divined it to be the appropriate way to end their stories. Next season, I hope Pizzolatto takes greater pains to stay far afield from the territory of other terrific stories like Se7en while continuing to advance genre conventions in the thrilling way he has here.

On the other hand, The makers of True Detective navigated a spectacular framing device, illuminated sophisticated dialog worthy of audiences with higher than a 4th-grade reading level (one of the only shows to regularly do so, to my knowledge) and built a deeply appealing character in Rust Cole. Let's agree Harrelson's predictable character left something to be desired without being nearly as easy on the eyes as young the Mr. Pitt in Se7en. That aside, week in and week out, the show left viewers with something to consider for the next seven days. Usually it was something profound.

I don't have a problem with lifting in storytelling (the venial form of plagarism) as long as the lift fires my interpretative faculties and fits into a larger mold of originality. True Detective mostly managed this caveat throughout its first season. Here's hoping Pizzolatto completely breaks free of his influences in the second.


was hoping he's stay away from occult conspiracies for the next season. anyway, has nic pizzolatto spoken about the homage/theft/appropriation of the stars, darkness, and light dialogue from alan moore? it was a bit glaring and took me out of the show. everything before that, thought, was brilliant.

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