The penultimate episode of "True Detective" began like so many scenes in the series, with the image of a flat circle -- this time a jukebox 45 -- reminding us that what comes around goes around and that the end (or is it the beginning?) is near.
The sense of impending dread that's been building since we saw that blazing cane field seven weeks ago is reaching its fevered crescendo and neither Marty Hart nor Rust Cohle are behaving like they expect to get out alive.
When an addled witness with Carcosa ties tells the pair "death is not the end," Cohle seems genuinely crestfallen, confiding later, "I hope that's not true."
"Time has its way with us all," Hart says at one point, sounding eerily like his pessimistic ex-partner.
And with time running out on "True Detective," the answers are becoming more plentiful. We learned in "After You've Gone" that the Tuttle family is almost certainly connected to a string or ritualistic murders stretching back decades (and maybe centuries), perhaps rooted in some sort of bastardization of Mardi Gras lore. We learned that the missing Marie Fontenot was likely one of the victims of those murders. We learned (to the surprise of absolutely no one, we might add) that the "green eared spaghetti monster" and "man with the scars" are one in the same and both are Errol Childress, the lawnmower man we met briefly in Episode 3 outside the school in Pelican Bay. Based on the ramblings of the former Tuttle housekeeper, we learned Errol is a grandchild of the Tuttle family (it also seemed like the Ledouxs were part of Sam Tuttle's virgin-scattered bloodline). Cohle contends he did not murder Billy Lee Tuttle in 2010, but speculates other members of the death cult did after they learned an intruder (Cohle, in full ninja attire) made off with evidence of the human sacrifice of Marie Fontenot. There seems to be a lot of speculation today that Errol Childress is also the King in Yellow, and based on the way he was bathed in yellow light in that final scene it's understandable, but we're not sure that's the case. The Carcosa mythology would seem to date back much farther than a single generation.
Yet with all those answers to the show's central mystery, we were reminded again in "After You've Gone" that what drives this haunted show is how that mystery has affected the two haunted main characters. In what might be the finest work yet by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, we were shown in 10 minutes what's happened to Hart and Cohle over 10 years and given witness to how the evil they've been pursuing (or is it pursuing them?) has destroyed virtually every other part of their lives, leaving just the two bitter old men, the evil and one hour of television remaining.
And to be honest, we don't need many more answers from the "True Detective" finale (while we're sure others might disagree). The mass murder mystery that fueled the series originally has taken a back seat to the looming shadow cast upon the two detectives who've already become victims of the same crime. The only question left to answer is what will become of Hart and Cohle when they face that darkness head on and whether either of them will see the light again.
+ If there is a big twist in next week's finale, titled "Form and Void" (which is a reference to the second line of the Bible, we'd guess), it likely will be connected to Audrey Hart, her artistic talent and a dark secret she's been carrying for years. Now that we know Audrey has become a painter, the spiral drawing we saw on the wall of the Hart home in 1995 and the duplication of a painting of tulips in the Harts bedroom and the psych ward Cohle visited in 2002 have a lot more context. Now, the question is: Did she inherit that artistic talent from someone else in her family?
+ Everything that comes out of Nic Pizzolatto's mouth when talking about the show leads us to believe that Marty Hart is not involved in the crimes we've witnessed on "True Detective," but every gut instinct we've ever formed watching TV and movies tells us that he is (this week, we're wondering if he might not have some Sam Tuttle blood in him). Maybe that's another case of Pizzolatto turning the usual cop-show pretension on its head. We'll know in a week.
+ We feel like Rust Cohle's death has been foreshadowed in so many ways, from his meditation on "the moment in the garden" to Reggie Ledoux telling him "you're in Carcosa now with me," that it will be more surprising to us if he survives the finale.
+ Something we hope will be addressed in "Form and Void" is why the bodies of Dora Lange and 2012 victim Stephanie Kordish were posed publicly (in Lange's case, a fire was set to ensure the body would be found) while great lengths were taken to conceal other murders.
+ We're also wondering if two other missing women -- Hart's and Cohle's mothers, the first "like Donna Reed" and the second "maybe" alive -- won't have an impact on the finale.
+ Maybe we're giving Pizzolatto and T-Bone Burnett way too much credit, but we don't think it's any accident that there have been several instances recently in "True Detective" where music that had not been recorded yet in series time is playing. The first came in "Who Goes There" when Cohle arrives at the biker bar, in a 1995 scene, and the Melvins "A History of Bad Men," recorded in 2006, is blaring. Then, in "Haunted Houses," when Hart is horizontal with Beth, the phone salesgirl, Father John Misty's "Everyman Needs a Companion," recorded in 2012, seems to be playing from a radio or stereo. The internet has been abuzz about these "continuity errors" but they're only errors is you perceive time linearly.
+ Speaking of music, Burnett nailed it (again) in "After You've Gone" with the elegiac "Lungs" by Townes Van Zandt closing out the episode suitably with this line "Fill the sky with screams and cries / Bathed in fiery answers."