Season Analysis: A mystery that focused on its characters but wisely chose to also allow its mystery to be solved, True Detective succeeded on the strength of its acting, directing, and detours into mysticism.
“The Secret Fate of All Life”
A time jump is a nifty trick employed by television shows that more often than not works to re-energize series that have lost a bit of their edge. This trope has avoided falling into cliché because it still immediately subverts a show’s established expectations. The time jump in “The Secret Fate of All Life” works especially well by taking the subversion even further. A time jump is unexpected with just about any show, but even more so of an anthology series with a narrative contained in one season. Add to that the fact that True Detective was already jumping back and forth between 1995 and 2012; it had not to this point offered any indication that it would be visiting a third period in between those two. Then there was the surprise of Rust Cohle walking out of his interview with Papania and Gilbough. It was almost fourth-wall breaking; the 2012 interviews had seemed to merely be framing devices, but now they were headed in the direction of continuing the narrative. “The Secret Fate of All Life” even subverted the narrative rules TD had set for itself, with the one-two-three punch of Marty and Rust’s covered-up killing of Reggie and DeWall Ledoux in 1995, the introduction of the Yellow King in 2002, and the implication of Rust as a suspect in 2012 leading the show to focus on plot in defiance of the character study established in the season’s first half. It was still a devastating study of tragic personalities, but this was the point when it became clear that it was not satisfied with keeping matters so simple.