How will it end?

So, we're coming to the inevitable end of the HBO series "True Detective." The final episode of the eight-part story airs next Sunday night and the internet is ablaze with theories about just how it will end.

Throughout the run of the enigmatic series about serial abductions and murders of women and children in the bayous of Louisiana, we've been given clues and red herrings galore. There has even been the hint at times that one of the detectives investigating the cases - either Marty Hart or Rust Cohle - may be the murderer or may be involved. Certainly the detectives reinvestigating the cases in 2012 have a theory that Cohle is involved. So the question is, will these two turn out to be "true detectives" or is one of them a bad guy?

In the broadest sense, they are both bad guys.

Hart is a philanderer who threw away his family, his wife and kids, in pursuit of "something wild" to spice up his sex life. We know that he can be a violent man. He beat up a sexual rival as well as two teenage boys who were in jail after being found having sex with his daughter, and he shot a suspect who was handcuffed. Did he shoot the man because he was appalled by what he had done to children or was he preempting him from talking and implicating him? He is an upholder of the double sexual standard, jealous of his wife even to the point of being suspicious of her being kind to his lonely partner and furious with his teenage daughter for doing essentially what he has done - i.e., sleeping around. And what about that teenage daughter? There have been clues throughout that she may have been sexually abused as a child. Was Marty the abuser or was it perhaps her grandfather? Just one of the many loose ends I'm hoping to see tied into a nice bow next Sunday.

As for Cohle, he is a nihilistic loner with virtually no friends, no one he is close to - the iconic image of the serial killer. He is an alcoholic whose life has been shattered by the tragedy of his baby daughter's death and the divorce which followed it, but long before that, the pattern of his life was set by negligent or absent parents. We saw him respond to Marty's wife and daughters when he first met them. Being with them is really the only time we have seen him as a "normal" human being. He is obsessed by the murders and frustrated by the fact that no one seems to be paying proper attention to them, but is this because he wants to solve the murders or is it because he is the murderer and feels he isn't getting enough recognition for his work? We've been led in both directions at times by the series.

Up until the seventh episode last Sunday, I suspected that perhaps Hart was involved, based on the evidence of his violence and the fact that at least one of his daughters seems to have been abused. I didn't really suspect Cohle, because that was just too obvious. But after seeing that penultimate episode, I don't really think either of them are bad guys. They are just messed up human beings who really need each other and who are trying to do the best they can to get through life in an honorable fashion, as each defines honor.

So, how will it end and who is (are) the perpetrator(s)? The most logical analyses that I have seen of the series lean toward the "five horsemen" theory. Five is a recurring number throughout the episodes, so either this is a major clue or a major red herring.

And who are those five horsemen? Everything seems to point toward the powerful Tuttle extended family, kings of Louisiana politics and deeply involved in a religious sect which seems to have a popular following and is prominent in the area where the murders have occurred.

We'll all find out together next Sunday night. In the meantime, I've been rewatching the episodes already aired to try to discover what I've missed. The answer is "a lot." This has been a very dense, layered, noir murder mystery - and mystery of the human soul. I suspect I'll be thinking about it long after all is revealed. If indeed all is revealed...


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