Critics who are saying that we needed something in the “True Detective” finale that was bigger and more plot-centered (meaning more melodramatic and tied up? or with a fantasy comeuppance for the rich evil dudes?) may have been missing the point of the show all along. The most important possible “resolution” is the one we got: the world’s gloomiest guy begins to see the light. Hard to imagine anything more satisfying than that. (The finale scored series-high ratings for HBO.)
Also, many naysayers do not seem to realize that Pizzolatto and company are consciously working variations on an established genre. (See this Hitfix interview.) Too many changes, and you’re no longer writing a sonnet. The central narrative line–a couple of workaday who cops who realize that the necessary thing will not get done unless they wade in– is enacted regularly in the novels of, for example, George Pelecanos, the great contemporary hardboiled standard bearer.
One of the classic moves in noir and hardboiled stories — the ones that aren’t written by plain nihilists, which are boring anyway — is the partial victory. The big guy in the house on the hill often does get away with it: what kind of world do you think we live in? But saving what can be saved, making the effort and making some kind of difference, is nevertheless shown to be worthwhile.
Which is why “True Detective” hits a perfect final note in focusing Rust’s understanding of, as they say, what just happened. In a recent interview, creator and show runner Nic Pizzolatto summed up the POV of the show as follows: “Optimism is no more an illusion, necessarily, than pessimism.” Rust gets to this in his own way, in the final line of the final episode of one the best TV shows ever produced: “Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light’s winning.”
“Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown,” is the easy way out.