True Detective’s unsolved mysteries were welcome

In an interview published following the finale, López told the LA Times that the show’s lingering mysteries can either have a supernatural or rational explanation, depending on which reading you prefer.

For example, how did Annie K’s severed tongue end up at the research station six years after she died? Well, either corrupt police officer Hank cut it out when he dumped her body, and the townsfolk found and froze it before placing it in the station as a mark of their revenge – or it’s an unexplainable incident, that also acted as a metaphor for Annie’s story finally getting told, after being silenced and marginalised for so long. Meanwhile the recurring spiral seen in various guises throughout the six episodes was either a callback to previous series – it having originally appeared as the symbol of season one’s horrific cult – a fossilised natural occurrence or an ancient warning sign. Maybe all three.

Ghosts were another running theme. Several characters experienced visions of deceased loved ones. Such hauntings were another way of having the characters confront the past, and deal with guilt and grief. The one-eyed polar bear that Danvers encountered could be seen to represent her son Holden, who she lost in a car crash and who owned a lookalike toy. Navarro was visited by both her mother and sister, symbolised by rogue oranges appearing at her feet. Oranges also famously foreshadowed death in the Godfather films. 

Then there was the question of what happened to Navarro. The season’s final moments saw Danvers being interviewed about her colleague’s disappearance. As we saw Navarro walking towards the sea, it was left ambiguous as to whether she had taken her own life. Whatever the case, it was suggested, both these tormented women eventually found peace. “Nobody ever really leaves Ennis,” concluded Danvers, while a final shot saw her and Navarro in a lakeside cabin together –  the latter either there in body or spirit.

López credits Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, John Carpenter’s The Thing and Ridley Scott’s Alien as inspirations. The series also had shades of David Lynch and the Coen brothers. None of the above deal in easy answers. Season one of True Detective had Carcosa and The Yellow King, “light versus dark” and “time is a flat circle”. López nodded to the latter two riddles and added a few of her own for good measure.

She has expressed hope that viewers will make up their own minds. “It’s for you to decide,” she told Vulture. “In life, you don’t always get all the answers. Some of them are for you to figure out. I’m not going to do all the homework for you.” She called this ambiguity “my gift and my curse” to the viewer, saying we should each decide how logical or how fantastical we want it to be: “To walk a tight line between genre and realism is my favourite hurdle to try to surpass. My preferred option is a little bit of both.”

Ultimately, the case was solved but with certain aspects left tantalisingly vague. How you feel about that will largely depend on your tolerance for cryptic puzzles. If you like stories all tied up with a neat narrative bow, you might have found the finale frustrating. However, if you’re happy to discuss and debate, to bring your own interpretation and be left with food for thought, the Night Country finale was a triumph.

If you liked this story, sign up for The Essential List newsletter – a handpicked selection of features, videos and can’t-miss news delivered to your inbox every Friday.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *