...in the Dead Girl Show "the story will be over before it begins"; there can be no redemption for the Dead Girl, but it is available to the person who is solving her murder. Just as for the murderers, for the detectives in True Detective and Twin Peaks, the victim's body is a neutral arena on which to work out male problems.This quote from the Los Angeles Review of Books' article The Oldest Story: Toward a Theory of a Dead Girl Show helps illustrate my aversion to crime shows, especially those playing at intellectualism, all be it with focus on gender that I do not share. What resonates with me is the artifical purification of police officers. True Detective is a good example of the systematic evil this absolution allows. What happens when murderers are allowed to live on - not because of mercy but societies' inability to question those granted the role of "hero"? True Detective gave us the answer but strangely, the writer as well as most of the fans, seems not to have noticed.
When I started watching True Detective I hoped the show would speak to the world of criminal justice seen only by those who operate within it - cold, uncaring, and devastatingly arbitrary. In some ways we were given just that, Cohle and Marty pursue their case doggedly until they come upon Reggie LeDoux alone in a compound with two young children. Marty, the drunk philanderer, proceeds to summarily execute LeDoux. Cohle helps Marty cover it up. The pair are rewarded and life continues on.
The existential, gritty, depressing realism of True Detective lead me to believe the two detectives would eventually see repercussions for their crimes but that never happens. Yes Cohle and Marty's lives descend into failure and chaos, but the viewer isn't provided with evidence that this would not have happened regardless. The flash-forwards tell us the case has been reopened in 2012, a full seventeen years after LeDoux was killed. Later we learn that all this time the serial killer loosely referred to as the "Yellow King" remained free to prey on the young and misguided girls, already abandoned by society. This tragedy is hardly addressed as True Detective progresses, the dead serve as a vehicle to advance Cohle's character arch but nothing more. Echoing the quote from the Los Angeles Review of Books article, these dead bodies are *for Cohle and Marty's redemption*. Forget the terrible pain and suffering they, their families, or friends felt, we have tragic heroes to redeem, dammit.
Many fans were sorely disappointed that neither Marty nor Cohle turned out to be the killer. This is an ironic complaint because we know for a fact that Marty *is* a killer. We accept it because we buy into the logic that Reggie LeDoux was involved in murdering people but in light of the final episode, what do we really know about LeDoux? Unfortunately nothing can be learned because he was murdered by a man who failed to live up to his responsibilities as a detective. I am left to wonder if LeDoux's murder was more the result of Marty projecting his sins onto an easy target rather than any verified transgressions on LeDoux's part. Marty is absolutely a murderer. Similarly Cohle admits to killing many people in his past without further explanation. In contrast, we never see LeDoux commit any violent acts outright. We see Errol mocking his father's corpse and of course engaged in the violence against the protagonists. However, outside of this there is no evidence that Errol is a violent, psychotic killer.
The last episode of True Detective is unfulfilling in a multitude of ways. For many fans it did not hold true to the philosophical, mysterious mood the show originally conveyed. I watched the last few minutes with the annoyance of anyone who knows the reality behind the super sweet, saccharine endings commonly portrayed by procedural dramas. True Detective equivocates by showing the hospital as a brilliant spot of brightness surrounded by dark. Additionally as the blog, A View From Hell notes, Cohle reverses the meaning of dark and light in his speech, leaving open a much more dismal interpretation of the show's final scene.
True Detective built up the expectations of this writer, a criminal defense diehard. I want to accept the clever equivocations so I can continue holding out hope for the next season, but the predominant message of salvation for Marty and Cohle disgusts me. While Nic Pizzolatto was busy waxing philosophical the true psychopaths slipped away. The show is appropriately titled True Detective because it (perhaps unconsciously) reveals the darkest truths of our system of law enforcement. People are installed into positions which are deemed heroic a priori. These people act on their instincts, murder in the name of the citizens, and then avoid culpability. True horror is unleashed when they are wrong. Not only is a presumably innocent person murdered in our name but predators remain free to continue killing. Nothing changes because society is loathe to deviate from a comfortable script.
If you want to experience the real horror of the criminal justice system, watch True Detective until the reveal that the Yellow King still lives. Then turn off the tv and meditate on the standards you hold your public servants to and the terrible consequences when we allow psychopaths to be heroes.