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'True Detective' finale: Was it worth all the trouble? (Answer: Of course)

Woody Harrelson, left, and Matthew McConaughey in HBO's

Woody Harrelson, left, and Matthew McConaughey in HBO's "True Detective." Credit: HBO / Jim Bridges

As "True Detective" ends -- "True Detective," quite possibly the most buzzy, buzzable and buzzed-about HBO drama series since "The Wire"-- did last night's wrap not, at the very minimum, raise the possibility of (if not flat out demand) a reprise?

Woody and Matt together again? The boys back on another case, because, after all, there are other cases.

Do not read on if you are averse to spoilers.

But seriously, at the end of this ride, and an enjoyable one it was, there were really only two reasons that drew us or most of us -- OK, me -- through eight episodes: That unexpected McConaughey/Harrelson chemistry which essentially was a bromance and an effective one as that.

The story was good if hardly surprising; the conclusion foretold even if everyone in the viewing audience spun too much nonsense out of a few red (or green, or yellow) herrings.

Yes, Ed Gein -- Leatherface himself who has inspired a hundred horror flicks, from "Halloween" to "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" -- inspired yet another. Even "daddy," Errol's father tied down in the shed, his lips sewn together like shoe to heel, invoked Leatherface's brother, Drayton; Errol's suitably deranged sister certainly invoked him.

Did "True Detective" or Nic Pizzolatto really need eight episodes to tell us that the guy with crazy eyes, serious acne scarring, an Oxford accent, and pretty much unlimited access to children as the extremely creepy looking school janitor that nobody at school ever suspected might just be a little bit insane ... was the bad guy? Or "the Yellow King?"

As crime fiction, "True Detective" was one long tease, predicated on a story or compilation of them, that has been told over and over. But, it was good and fun and the wrap was satisfying and that final bro moment under the stars was priceless.

Rust musing about the meaning of it all ... "It's just one story, the oldest. Light versus dark..."

It would have been a laugh out loud moment, the final pricking of the balloon with all the air coming out in a noisy flatulent rush ... except the camera then went to Marty's (Harrelson) face, where the slightest breeze of a smile blew by.

Then this: "Well, I know we ain't in Alaska, but it appears to me the dark has a lot more territory."


The best parts of this series were the moments in the car -- those long drives across a wet drab green landscape where one man tried to understand the other, neither particularly succeeding. Harrelson and McConaughey pulled off the wariness, that sense of non-understanding, which bled out into the rest of the story -- if we can't really see what's in our own hearts, how can we possibly solve a terrible crime that has no meaning or context?

This series in the end wasn't about the plot -- which was merely OK, and as mentioned, Leatherface redux -- but about these two: This churning, fraught relationship between two guys who essentially completed one another by the very end. That was what made this all worthwhile, what made it all so satisfying: Two excellent actors who transcended the material.

Should they return -- maybe in New Orleans next time, or Baton Rouge? Hell, they need a fresh start: Why not bring the boys to New York where so many fresh starts begin? Fun to see Rust and Marty here.

(Pizzolatto said at the recent TV critics' tour that the next installment will most likely be in a place not normally associated with TV series; McConaughey seemed to rule out a reprisal: “It was also finite. It didn't mean we had to come back this year, next year if we were under contract. It was finite. So in that way it was exactly a 450-page film script.”)

See, this is the problem with anthologies: You love the first installment so much that you just can't imagine another one without the same constituent parts.

Or should maybe Pizzolatto and HBO -- and McConaughey and Harrelson -- leave well enough alone? You can't bottle this kind of magic twice.

Or can you?

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