HBO's hit series True Detective wraps up Season 1 on Sunday night with the eighth episode "Form and Void". Series creator Nic Pizzolatto recently spoke about setting up the finale, his writing process for the first season and his love for Twin Peaks, while responding to various critiques of the show in a wide-ranging interview with Buzzfeed. There will be plenty of spoilers if you aren't caught up, so read on at your own risk.
The show centers on detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson), former partners who reunite after 17 years when their unsolved murder case is re-opened. When Sunday's finale airs, it will be the last fans will see of Cohle and Hart, since the stars are returning for the currently-unconfirmed but likely inevitable Season 2, which will feature a brand new cast and story line. Last week's episode, "After You've Gone", established that neither Cohle or Hart was the killer, with Nic Pizzolatto explaining why he decided to reveal that information before the finale.
"Going into the final episode, I wanted to end any audience theorizing that Cohle or Hart was the killer, and also provide a concrete face to the abstract evil they're chasing. So, wild speculations aside, we showed the killer's face in Episode 1. Though we know that as this "third man," whose face was scarred by his father, Errol (Glenn Fleshler) is himself a revenant of great historical evil. There's enough fragmentary history in Episode 7 that, like Hemingway's iceberg, what is obscured can be discerned by what is visible. We have further context and dimension to explore with the killer, but the true questions now are whether Cohle and Hart succeed, what they will find, and whether they'll make it out alive."
He also responded to the show's detractors who claim True Detective has a misogynistic portrayal of women.
Well, the show is plainly showing a vein of misogyny running through not just these men but their culture. To the idea that this is not on purpose, or that the females are one-dimensional, I'd say we'll agree to disagree. If someone sees Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) as merely some kind of fuming shrew, then that viewer is revealing their own prejudices, not the show's. Given that neither of our leads has a healthy relationship with a woman, and given that we only see things in their POVs, that women are not given a full representation is correct for the story being told here. This is a close, two-person point-of-view show, and the story is bound to those perspectives, with a few loose variations. In the structure of this telling, the other characters exist in relation to Cohle and Hart. However, if someone comes on screen for one exchange in the entire show, I believe they have dimensionality - the fact that their presence in the show exists only in relation to Cohle and Hart does not diminish their spark. Of the women Hart has affairs with, I wouldn't expect them to be the most mature and stable of people, given his character and the difference in their ages. The gender criticism was expected, but it seems very knee-jerk in the total context of what we did here and what the show is supposed to be. It's easy to use such a political concern as a blunt, reductive instrument to rob the material and performances of their nuances. But there was no way to tell this story, in this structure, without that being an easy mark for someone looking for something to criticize."
When asked about the level of nudity seen on the show, the creator revealed that it was more or less a "mandate" from HBO.
"The staging was more or less there in the scripts, and then (director) Cary (Fukunaga) and I worked together on the execution. But there is a clear mandate in pay-cable for a certain level of nudity. Now, you're not going to get our two lead movie stars to go full-frontal, but we at least got Matthew's butt in there. There's not a great deal of nudity in the series at all, though, compared to other shows on pay-cable. I'd be happy with none. Seems to me if people want to see naked people doing it, there's this thing called 'the internet.'"
The writer-producer also spoke about his love for David Lynch's cult TV series Twin Peaks, while addressing fans who think there are supernatural elements in True Detective, despite no evidence to support those claims.
"I watched and loved Twin Peaks when it was on, at least in that rich first arc, before Josie turned into a dresser drawer and everything went bonkers, though I wasn't thinking about it at all. I don't read internet chatter, but all I can offer is that to date there hasn't been a single thing in our show that's supernatural, so why would that suddenly manifest in the last episode? The show has a quality of mysticism, for sure, but nothing supernatural so far. I think there's a lot of self-projection going on in certain cases; like the show has become a Rorschach test for a specific contingent of the audience in which they read their own obsessions into it. This is what it means to resonate with people, so I don't mind it. The danger is that it's myopic and unfairly reductive, like a literary theorist who only sees Marxism or Freudianism rather the totality of a work. There are also those who will not be satisfied with any finale unless Rust Cohle steps out of their TVs, into their living room, and shoots them in the foot as some kind of meta-statement on magick and mass entertainment. And, you know, the technology just isn't there. That said, I wouldn't totally rule out the appearance of special effects..."
Although the show hasn't officially been renewed for Season 2 yet, Nic Pizzolatto is already writing the scripts for the new episodes. He also addressed a tweet he later deleted, where he said that the women will be treated differently in Season 2.
"I deleted the tweet because I didn't want to be beholden to a promise and then change my mind. I'm writing Season 2 right now, but I don't want to divulge any potentialities, because so much could change. I just never want to create from a place of critical placation - that's a dead zone. So I don't want, for instance, a gender-bias-critique to influence what I do."
When asked specifically about potential Season 2 ideas, he teased that he was reading up on the past 40 years of Southern California government, although he wouldn't confirm where the story was heading. He also spoke about the process of writing the first eight episodes.
"Man... I'm tempted to utter just one word, but I can't. I gotta stay mum on the next season till it's more concrete. With this season, once I started writing in earnest, it took about three and a half months to get the scripts. Episode 1 was written in mid-2010, and 2 was written in mid-2011, but I rewrote them and all eight were done by early August 2012; then we moved into pre-production from September through most of January. Then shot a full six months. Then did post from July 2013 to January 2014. It's very possible to do it once a year; the main thing that slowed us down was having to wait to do all of post-production until after we'd wrapped. I'd like to get two or three scripts exactly where I want them, then start getting the gears rolling in earnest. Casting is its own issue. Who we cast and what their schedule is will likely determine at least some part of scheduling, and scheduling will determine at least some part of casting."
All eight Season 1 episodes were directed by Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre), which is quite rare for any television show these days. In regards to Season 2, Nic Pizzolatto revealed that they don't plan on working with just one director for the duration of the season.
"We don't have any plans to work with one director again. It would be impossible to do this yearly as we need to be able to do post while we're still filming, like any other show. There's some great guys I've consulted, and we're all confident we can achieve the same consistency. Going forward, I want the show's aesthetic to remain determinedly naturalistic, with room for silences and vastness, and an emphasis on landscape and culture. And I hope a story that presents new characters in a new place with authenticity and resonance and an authorial voice consistent with this season. Dominant colors will change. South Louisiana was green and burnished gold."
He was also asked about a line delivered by Cohle, "The world needs bad men - we keep the other bad men from the door," and whether or not that represents his own world view, or strictly the viewpoint of that character.
"Well, that's certainly the view of Cohle, but nothing in him represents my views on anything. I think True Detective is portraying a world where the weak (physically or economically) are lost, ground under by perfidious wheels that lie somewhere behind the visible, wheels powered by greed, perversity, and irrational belief systems, and these lost souls dwell on an exhausted frontier, a fractured coastline beleaguered by industrial pollution and detritus, slowly sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. There's a sense here that the apocalypse already happened. And in places like this, where there's little economy and inadequate education, women and children are the first to suffer, by and large. There's a line in a Sherlock Holmes story where Holmes explains to Watson that the evils of the city pale in comparison to the horrors of the isolated countryside, where who knows what terrors exist in the lonely farmhouse, cut off from civilization and beholden to no oversight? I always sensed that. Regarding bad men being necessary to stop the other bad men, that's probably more true than I'd like it to be, but the point exists outside of gender: You need physically capable, courageous, and potentially violent people to deal with the violent, dangerous people."