True Detective
Frank (Vince Vaughn) considers his next move in the "True Detective" Season 2 finale. HBO

There were many confusing, hard-to-follow moments in “True Detective” Season 2, but one thing remained certain throughout the entire, perplexing ride – Season 2 was no Season 1. Rarely has a season of television been met with such a passionately polarizing reception. However, though critics and viewers alike were quick to complain about the HBO series' sophomore run, millions of fans stuck it out to the end. Perhaps those loyal viewers were optimistic that the series’ ending would redeem the inconsistent season and close the dozens of dizzying doors the first seven hours had left open. So the real mystery of “True Detective” Season 2 becomes – did the finale deliver?

Season 2’s finale did do one thing that Season 1’s ending failed to achieve – it answered pretty much everything. Sure, there were a few loose ends left untied, but by and large “Omega Station” brought the mystery of Ben Caspere’s death to a complete, if cynical, close. Who was behind the crow mask? Answered. Was Ray (Colin Farrell) Chad’s (Trevor Larcom) father? Answered. Why was Frank pushed out of the Catalyst Group deal? Answered.

The ending of Season 1 was more about its characters’ – Rust “I think the light is winning” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) – journey than the case, and the finale was the recipient of some pushback from fans for not answering many of the questions the show had raised about the greater conspiracy behind the Yellow King. However, that might not be as big of a flaw as some would think.

True Detective
Ani (Rachel McAdams, left) and Ray's (Colin Farrell, right) romance in "True Detective" Season 2 failed to provide as interesting of a relationship as Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey, not pictured) and Marty Hart's (Woody Harrelson, not pictured) friendship in Season 1. HBO

When fans have burning questions at the end of a season of television it is because they are truly invested in the series. If viewers care enough to demand answers, it usually means the show that raised those questions to begin with was something worth watching. Characters sustain a series, not plot points, and if an audience is willing to go along on a character’s journey then they will likely have the patience to tolerate a show depriving them of the solutions to all of its riddles. Rust Cohle was that character in Season 1. Did Ray, Ani (Rachel McAdams) or Frank (Vince Vaughn) provide the same?

Sure, Sunday’s finale had answers, but they were too little too late in a series where the questions were not nearly as worth asking as, “Who is the Yellow King?” Season 2’s abundance of brooding detectives (and Frank) prevented any one bond from developing the depth of story that Rust Cohle and Marty Hart’s bromance provided – even if Season 2 tried late with Ray and Ani’s sudden romance. Writer Nic Pizzolato may have been trying to communicate some cynical message about male ego and impotence with the show’s fatal finishes for Frank and Ray and their legacy of fatherless children, that those characters ended the series as miserable as when they started left viewers much less satisfied than watching Rust find some silver lining of hope at the end of Season 1.

When Rust Cohle tells Marty, “I think the light is winning,” he means to say that their good deed of solving Dora Lange’s murder was a worthwhile dent in the greater Yellow King axis of evil. That the whole mystery was not solved was irrelevant because the journey mattered. In Season 2, almost everybody died, no one left standing was all that happy, and, though the whole mystery was, more or less, solved, nothing seemed to matter. These characters were simply not as worth watching and no amount of answers can make up for that.

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