Episode Review: True Detective Season 1 Finale

  • Publish Date: March 10, 2014
  • Comments: ↓ 5 user comments

True Detective, Episode 108: "Form and Void"
Original airdate: March 9, 2014 on HBO

Spoiler warning: This page may contain descriptions of events in this and previous episodes.

In just eight weeks, Nic Pizzolatto's dark, moody HBO crime drama (which has not, as of yet, been renewed for a second season, but will likely feature a completely different cast, setting, and story should it return next year) managed to captivate TV fans with its unconventional depiction of a nearly 20-year investigation into a series of murders by detectives played by likely Emmy nominees Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. What did critics think of last night's finale, which—typically for the series—emphasized character moments over story developments (and also served as a nice segue for anyone flipping the channel over to Cosmos on Fox)? Their comments are below, with scores listed only if provided in the review.

Great Extremely positive reviews

91 A.V. Club Erik Adams

What I really love about "Form And Void" is that it doesn't matter who The Yellow King was or how he was discovered. It's not some unseen force that steps forward in the final minutes; it's not any of the too obvious suspects bandied about in the various True Detective theories. His identity comes out in the most mundane manner, a discovery made because Marty's brain makes the right connection at the right time.

Contra Costa Times Chuck Barney

During Sunday night's tense, suspenseful and superb finale... it became more about emotional oomph than intellectual probing.

The Daily Beast Andrew Romano

The perfect conclusion to a series that has come as close to perfection over the course of its eight all-too-brief episodes as any I can remember.

100 Den of Geek (U.S.) Tony Sokol

True Detective satisfied me as a supernatural suspense thriller, as a monster movie and as a worthy entry into the Satanic Detective genre. And it was a good cop show, with grit and humor, that could sit atop any list with Joseph Wambaugh in it.

100 IGN Jim Vejvoda

Right to the end, True Detective danced around cop drama tropes, sometimes embracing them but ultimately winning out thanks to the strength of its writing, characterizations, and direction. Even if there was never another season of True Detective after this one, the show would stand as one of the all-time great crime series ever produced for television.

MTV Kevin P. Sullivan

"True Detective" was something unique even in what is, in all honesty, a golden age of television. It was pitch black, philosophical, unabashedly entertaining, thoughtful and ultimately hopeful and human storytelling that trusted its audience's intelligence and their capacity to be challenged.

New Republic Isaac Chotiner

It may disappoint people who were hoping for earth-shattering relevations, but this was a brilliant hour of television, with the best written dialogue scenes of the series.

New York Post Sara Stewart

The last installation of the brilliant detective noir did not disappoint, delivering a baddie of mythical proportions and a satisfyingly philosophical coda.

100 The Playlist Kevin Jagernauth

A moving and soulful closer to "True Detective," which has solidified itself as one of the best shows of the year.

100 TV Fanatic Chris O'Hara

A fitting conclusion to one of the best seasons of television I have seen in years.

Variety Brian Lowry

Frankly, the build-up to the finale practically ensured some would view it as a letdown. That's because writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga had cooked up such a succulent brew of weirdness and eccentricity till now that anything providing closure was destined to feel slightly pale in comparison. ... [But] the way the filmmakers left the mismatched, reunited pair was perfectly satisfying.

100 Vulture Kenny Herzog

True Detective ... illuminated a black-and-white crime-and-coppers story with winning oddness to its end.

Positive Positive reviews

Boing Boing Kevin McFarland

True Detective is a lot like a novel that gets lost in the sprawl during the thick middle of the book, meandering, exploring, trying out a few stylistic tricks, before settling back down into solving the major plot threads, tying off a few others in passing, while leaving many others to twist in the wind, questions for further discussion. It may feel like a copout, but I honestly can't remember the last time I felt this invigorated by the buddy cop model. For that alone, I would deem this debut season a success.

HitFix Alan Sepinwall

Because I cared so much more for the men than the story, the fact that so much of the finale dealt with a bogeyman in a haunted house was disappointing. Not enough to reduce my feelings about the season as a whole, but enough to remind me of some of the show's flaws, and to make me wish that somehow Pizzolatto had constructed the entire thing as a story being told in those interview rooms by Cohle and Hart.

Huffington Post Maureen Ryan

A lot of the Southern Gothic elements involving the Childress' siblings felt so overripe that the show nearly tripped into parody territory, and there's one line of Rust Cohle's that was so un-Rust-like that I wish I could unhear it. Yet despite a few missteps in the finale, this long, strange car trip with Rust and Marty was, generally speaking, a fine use of eight hours.

New Orleans Times-Picayune Ann Maloney

One could quibble that the pieces of the investigation fell into place a bit too neatly, but the finale beautifully delivered what has made the police drama so compelling, Nic Pizzolatto's terrific dialogue between the two partners.

The New York Times Alessandra Stanley

Viewers were like the two outside detectives, Gilbough (Michael Potts) and Papania (Tory Kittles), trying to make sense of Cohle's and Hart's accounts and feeling confused, spellbound and sometimes just annoyed.

Rolling Stone Sean T. Collins

True Detective is not a trailblazer, which was clear from the very beginning. This story's very much a creature of its genre, of its influences and clichés. ... No, it's execution, not originality, that distinguishes True Detective in the end. ... Whatever its faults, and they were many, True Detective's power lies in the way it made us feel when we watched it.

Time James Poniewozik

I'm guessing that a sector of viewers looked at Marty and Rust's male-bonding heart-to-heart and saw a repeat of what they hated about the Lost and Battlestar Galactica finales: all this buildup, and it's one more freaking show telling you that all you need is love. And if you judge the series as a mystery–which it was, Nic Pizzolatto's protestations notwithstanding–the plot payoff was meager. ... Like Marty and Rust solving part, but only part, of the mystery, True Detective did what it did and didn’t what it didn’t, but as a whole? The light outshone the dark.

The Wall Street Journal Marshall Crook

I'm sure countless viewers will be dissatisfied. Their reasons will be legion and not invalid. It did feel strange once we got to the hospital. Particularly how entire plot threads were wiped away.

Zap2it Rick Porter

What has set "True Detective" apart from a bunch of other serial-killer shows and films is the depth with which Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukinaga have explored the two leads. The final quarter of the episode is given over to their recovery and a last look at how this case and their partnership have affected them. What it doesn't do, though -- probably to the disappointment of some people -- is expose the wider forces at work in Errol's case.

Mixed Mixed/so-so reviews

People Tom Gliatto

The problem isn't that True Detective concluded without rounding up every clue and pinning them down like insects on corkboard – that's true to the show's metaphysics and its sense that mankind, nature, time and space are basically empty, awful things that you would never, ever like on Facebook. ... What was wrong with the finale was Scarred Man himself. ... I just don't think a deranged psychopath who hoards, mimics Cary Grant off the TV and kills and kills again can or should bear so much of the weight of True Detective's eight-part narrative – one that so beautifully sketched out a bewildering but compelling pattern of clues, then encouraged us to connect them like stars in a constellation.

Poor Negative reviews

The Guardian Alan Yuhas

A hastily drawn sketch to conclude what had been a meticulous mystery. ... In other words, though the series was great, the finale was more than a little lacking.

Slate Willa Paskin

I Really Did Not Like That. ... I am a little in awe of how totally snookered we all were. Boy, did we overthink this thing! The Internet's theories about the case were so much more ingenious and captivating than what happened in tonight's episode. They so much more neatly and plausibly tied up loose ends that the finale had no interest in.

What do you think?

What did you think of last night's episode, and of the entire debut season for True Detective? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments (5)

  • LamontRaymond  

    Brilliant stuff. I'm probably going to wait about a year or two and then rewatch this series annually.

  • FleshWorld  

    Loved the season. Would love to see them back in s2, though I know it's not in the cards.

  • Pedroapares99  

    the finale was good. And all the first season is remarkable. Just brilliant.

  • TheQuietGamer  

    Just like with every episode before it, I was completely absorbed in the season finale. It offers a fantastic conclusion to one of the best shows I've ever watched. Admittedly I am a little disappointed that not everything was settled, but I do feel that the show concluded in an excellent way. I really enjoyed this season as a whole.

  • M9ki  

    This has to be one of the best tv series.

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