It’s not always just the hero and the villain whose morals and world views are diametrically opposed. “Buddy” protagonists, whether male or female, are typically at loggerheads. And in the eight-episode series “True Detective,” whose finale aired last night, the operative word to describe the huge character differences between Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) is, indeed, heady. When we meet these characters in 1995, Rust’s noggin and contents are limitless, and Marty’s are located below his waist.
Written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto, and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, “True Detective” is a precisely structured chronological instrument. Rust and Marty are detective-partners in Louisiana law enforcement, called on to investigate a ritual murder which they wrap up violently but seemingly successfully. In 2002, the pair have a falling out and go their separate ways. We piece their story together through separate narratives they deliver to two police officers in 2012. No longer cops themselves, Rust and Marty have been called in because another similar fetish-heavy murder has occurred. It’s clear that Rust – now sporting a greasy ponytail and whose part-time job is heavy-duty drinking – and Marty got the wrong guy 17 years earlier.
Although a procedural, “True Detective” makes its archetypal impact less through the horrific murders and kidnappings which have come to light, and more through the men’s intellectual, emotional and spiritual processes. If the archetypal thrust of the movie L.A. Confidential was brain vs. brawn that reluctantly join forces for a common goal, here the initial set-up is Rust’s Saturnine logic vs. Marty’s anger- and sex-fueled, fly-off-the-handle Martial decision-making.
In 1995, Rust, then a dignified, closed-off figure, rightly earns the moniker Taxman, carting around a ledger he meticulously fills with sketches and details, including those forboding devil nets, which he’s aware may one day be critical to solving the case. His behavior is officious, responsible Saturn at its best. In contrast, Marty, married with two daughters who’s habitually unfaithful to his wife, processes his thoughts much more simply. “I want you to stop saying odd shit, like you smell a psycho’s fear,” says a confrontational Marty to Rust early on.
Given that transformation is at the heart of story, though, it’s a given that both men will undergo profound change. As the episodes progress, the Neptunian archetype – and its association with victims, deceit, forgiveness, compassion, addiction, illusion (in the form of those Carcosa masks) and escapism – becomes predominant.
In 2012, Rust, haunted by the repercussions of his and Marty’s non-Saturnine procedural short-cut in 1995, and having done several years of investigation on his own, asks Marty for his help to find the real murderer. Still ponytailed, Rust has resurrected his suit and ledger. And Marty, who’s opened his own investigative agency, impresses with his analyses and newly found commitment to this do-over with his former partner.
The finale, aptly called “Form and Void,” ultimately contrasts Saturnine density and matter with the ethereality of Neptune. Marty, in his hospital bed, is able to access his feelings with a compassion that eluded him for years. And Rust describes how, moments before his likely murder by Errol, he felt the presence of his deceased daughter.
“I could feel my definitions fading,” he says, noting “I was part of everything I ever loved. All I had to do was let go and I did. And I disappeared.” This release is the “void” of the finale-episode’s title, but it’s also Rust’s initiation into the realm of the Neptunian transcendent which, in his younger years, he could only approach through a mask of his existential ponderings. In this context, Errol’s demand that Rust take off his mask is deeply personal and life-changing.
“True Detective,” in the end, turned out to be as much about the relentless pursuit of self-knowledge as it was about finding the Yellow King. Rust’s stepping off the wheel of time-is-a-flat-circle,through just one mystical moment, magnificently ended not only the Carcosa case, but also his own psychic turmoil.
Astrology Television Rating: ♆ (Neptune)