My brief relationship with HBO’s “True Detective” has resulted in a lot of unwarranted speculation. The end in sight, I’d like to give one last flight to fancy with my Top Thirteen Best Possible Endings, based on caricatures of genre storytelling. I have known True Detective for less than 48 hours, so I think I’m in a pretty good position here to make a final judgment on what’s likely to happen on air tonight.
1. The Edger Allen Poe Ending
“This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith and with entire deliberation to the task of concealing the body. If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took.”
Driven to madness with guilt over his murder of Dora Kelly Lange, Rust’s synesthetic hallucinations overwhelm his senses until he is no longer able to tell the past from the present or reality from fantasy.
2. The “Turner and Hooch” Ending
In this typical and non-supernatural detective story ending, Cohle is gravely wounded in a final confrontation with the Yellow King or his minions (apparently the entire state of Louisiana). He lies on the ground bleeding out while Hart kneels over him crying. Hart begs for forgiveness. Cohle, cool, tells him that everything is behind them. [Alt 1: Same ending, replace Cohle with Hart.]
3. The “Lethal Weapon” Ending
Similar to above. However, while fighting the green spaghetti monster at Carcosa, McConaughey or Harrelson sustain a seemingly grave injury. While their partner leans over them, weeping, the wounded man reveals that he was wearing a bullet-proof vest. All is well. They share a beer.
4. The “X Files” Ending
Detectives Cohle and Hart make it to Carcosa based on information given by Sheriff Geraci, where they find evidence of the massive conspiracy covering up the existence of a devil worshiping cult deep in the heart of the bayou. The evidence, while compelling, is locked deep underground in an unknown government facility to protect the reputations of those involved by Detectives Papania and Gilbough, responsible for the cover up of the case.
5. The “Fight Club” Ending
Rust Cohle is revealed to be the Yellow King the whole time, trapped in a mad self-deception. Nearly all of his memories except his time with the Iron Crusaders and his raid on the projects with Ginger are fantasy or self-delusion, corroborated by his partner, Hart, thanks to his need to hide his own wrongdoings.
6. The “LA Confidential” Ending
Detectives Hart and Cohle find out the location of Carcosa thanks to information from Sheriff Geraci. Before they are able to act on this information, however, they are silenced by Detectives Papania and Gilbough.
7. The H.P. Lovecraft Ending
Detective Cohle proceeds into Carcosa alone, his partner Hart’s whereabouts unknown. Deep, dark, deeper than any accursed charnel house known to humans and more evil in scope and grandeur than ever before conceived, he goes. Only the most depraved of minds could fathom what manner of insane ghoulish misdeeds perpetrated in this ancient tomb await him there.
8. The “Departed” Ending
“What is this, a citizen’s arrest? Blow me.”
Cohle, working as a deep undercover DEA agent working on a meth ring drug bust the whole time, closes in on the Yellow King group, only to be betrayed and apprehended by Marty, a company man working as a double agent.
9. The “Blair Witch Project” Ending
Cohle and Hart arrive at Carcosa and find themselves in an active satanic colony. Separated in pursuit of the cult members, they are both captured and murdered off screen. The final scene shows their nude, painted bodies posed on the bayou wearing crowns of antlers.
10. The “Heart of Darkness” Ending
Marty and Rust arrive at Carcosa, completing the journey into madness that begun when they took the case. They meet the Yellow King and are welcomed as brothers, their transition now fully realized.
11. The “Scooby Doo” Ending
Rust and Marty stumble into the lair of the Yellow King and/or his minions -likely including the Tuttles, Joel Theriot, Maggie’s father, various sundry state and local police officers and wealthy community members- unmasking them to the grateful relief of the good folks of Louisiana. Bonus points if some of the missing children are retrieved alive.
12. The “Inside Llewyn Davis” Ending
All of the same shit is going to keep happening to you because you’re an asshole, Hart.
The show’s narrative splits in the last episode, re-starting back at Marty and Rust’s first meeting. They awkwardly go about the business of getting to know each other, reliving the waking nightmare of their lives in a continuous loop.
13. The “Usual Suspects” Ending
Detective Cohle, having sufficiently stalled the investigation of Detectives Papania and Gilbough, leaves town in a car driven by the man with the scarred lower jaw. Maynard, realizing too late that he had been fooled, smashes the Big Hug Mug in satisfying slow motion. End credits.