“We ain’t gonna get them all, that ain’t what kind of world it is, but we got ours.” — Detective Marty Hart
SPOILERS AHEAD … if you haven’t watched the finale of TRUE DETECTIVE, don’t read this.
If I had written the finale of TRUE DETECTIVE, it would have looked somewhat different from the episode we got. Most of the changes I would make are related to the resolution of the mystery. I think Pizzolatto got the relationships right. I liked the mending of the relationship between Marty and Rust. It was totally in line with the other episodes. I really liked how they now seem quite committed to one another (much more than Marty and Maggie ever were to each other), and I liked how they had grown and matured as a men and as detectives. There is very little of the relationships that I would change.
The mystery is a whole ‘nother story.
Ed Harrington Cartoon
First off, I would not have killed off Billy Lee Tuttle. The audience really wants to see a confrontation between the worst bad guy and the hero(es). In fact, the bad guy is what determines how great your hero is. A really bad guy makes a really great hero(es). They are more noble, admirable, and more heroic for saving the world from a horrible nemesis. Billy Lee Tuttle was such a nemesis. A pillar of the community. A man of God. Political relatives. Billy Lee Tuttle was a evil man worthy of Rust and Cohle.
Contrast Errol, the scarred, house-painting, grass-mowing buffoon, living in the filth of his father’s house with his half-sister and lover. Errol was a revolting and horrific character but he wasn’t the powerful man who staged the rape and torture sacrifices of hundreds of women and children. He was a brute, to be certain, but not a pervasive evil force. Errol is a minion. He does the bidding of the powerful leaders and mops up the crumbs. He does not make Marty and Rust great detectives. He demeans them. Rust actually talked to him. And Marty found him with a silly photograph of a green house. Seriously. I know actual cases are solved by little clues like that but, if I wanted to watch that sort of story, I’d tune into the TruCrime channel. If I’m going to give 8 hours of my life to a series, it’s got to have more going on than a TruCrime Cold Case File.
So, I guess I’m really rewriting part of episode 7 and episode 8.
In the process of locating Miss Dolores, Rust and Marty discover Maggie’s mother worked at one of Billy Lee Tuttle’s schools. She worked there as a young single woman. Marty and Rust talk to here and she reveals that something felt off there and she left as soon as she could. She was so glad Jake proposed to her and got her out there. She says, “She saw a whole different kind of man there.” This would pay off the episode at the lake when Maggie and her Mother talk about whether or not all men are the same. I toyed with the idea of having Maggie be the product of a rape between Reverend Tuttle and her Mother. Did Jake know or didn’t he? Is the reason her Mother could love her Father because he wasn’t all about sex. And then the children are Tuttle grandchildren. Maybe have an early scene where Billy Lee shows an inappropriate interest in the girls, offers police detectives a scholarship to send their children to summer camp. Audrey’s doll drama and drawings and sexual promiscuity stem from an inappropriate camp experience that we never see. We only recall that back in episode two there was a Tuttle camp scholarship. I toyed with all of that and realized that I’d be tweaking several of the earlier episodes so I threw that idea over to try and limit my changes to (primarily) episode eight.
Time is a Flat Circle by Joshua Budich
Okay, back to that idea. So, at the beginning of episode seven, Rust discovers Steve Geraci took the initial report on Marie Fotenot. This inspires Rust to steal the videotape from Billy Lee Tuttle’s other house. Billy Lee doesn’t even know Rust has it. Rust and Marty take the videotape to Steve Geraci and confront him. Geraci says that he took the report but he doesn’t know anything else about it. Rust and Marty tell them they have Geraci’s prints on the videotape. They’ll give it to the cops if Geraci says anything. Rust and Marty leave WITHOUT shooting up Geraci’s car. Sure enough, Geraci hotfoots out of there and heads straight to the former Sheriff Childress’s house. There’s a heated argument as Geraci and Childress rush to Billy Lee Tuttle’s church. (This is already improving for me because the police are in on it. They’re hiding clues. They’ve been burying evidence for years. No wonder Marty and Rust couldn’t get any traction. It was only by getting outside of the police structure that Rust could make any headway. First, he went to Alaska to try to and forget it all. He couldn’t so he came back to get to the bottom of everything.)
Okay, back to the detectives sitting outside the Church, waiting to follow Billy Lee, Childress and Geraci to wherever they’re going next. Now, we have three bright, powerful men who are ready to take out our heroes. Better. Our heroes have their work cut out for them. Suddenly, the Church goes dark and a Deacon comes out, re-locking the main gate behind him. Marty comes up to the Deacon, telling him he needs to see the reverend urgently. The Deacon said he and the others left a long time ago. Headed out of the rear gate. Damn! Marty and Rust are beside themselves. How could they let them slip away? Oh my God. Are they going to get away after all??
Cohle has a thought. He smacks his head and says they’re probably at Billy Lee Tuttle’s daddy’s house. Sam Tuttle is the patriarch. Sam Tuttle is the power. He asks Marty, “Wasn’t Sam Tuttle’s address on Miss Dolores tax statement?” They decide head to Sam Tuttle’s place. Shouldn’t we call Papania and Gilbough? On our wild goose chase? Are you kidding? If we’re wrong, it will send everyone underground. We can call them when we get there, if we’re right.
They arrive at Sam Tuttle’s and it’s all lit up. There are lots and lots of cars there. Expensive cars. Cars of the powerful and elite. Marty and Rust sneak up to the periphery and hear everyone arguing about what to do. Marty puts in a 911 call but before he can say anything, everything starts to come apart.
Billy Lee Tuttle is saying, “Everyone relax, the Lord will show us the way.” Steve Geraci is shouting and distraught. He is saying his prints are on the videotape. Bam. Billy Lee Tuttle shoots Geraci square in the chest. He smiles and says, “God be praised.” He tells several of the men to grab two young girls from caverns of Carcosa … the used girls … and take them to Steve Geraci’s place, along with his body. Make sure the girls are dead, too. He tells Errol and another acolyte to stage it right. The former Sheriff Childress and Steve Geraci’s friend says it’s over and points a gun at Reverend Tuttle. Errol rushes in to save him. Childress is about to shoot Errol.
The sound of the 911 operator catches someone’s attention and all eyes turn toward Marty and Rust. “Over there!” They flee into the bowels of Carcosa as “The Faithful” hunt them down. In Carcosa, they see several women and children held hostage (instead of just old clothes, shoes and sticks! See it really is important that Marty and Rust got back together to save them!). Mano-a-mano, the detectives struggle to stay alive. In the Carcosa caverns, a very confident Billy Lee Tuttle tells them he will never die. He has impregnated hundreds of women. Rejoice, there is no death. We will live on forever. In the same way that Rust talked about his philosophy in episodes one through three, Billy Lee Tuttle talks about the religious ecstasy of taking a woman for the first time, how that brings you into a perfect union with God because you are creating life (or taking a life in the case of the sacrifices), but it is pure … it is the soul crying out for union with the Lord. We understand Billy Lee as clearly as we understand Rust.
We hear sirens in the distance. Cars are trying to leave before the law arrives. Finally, it’s only Billy Lee, Sam and Errol. Errol grabs Rust and holds a knife to his throat. “What should I do, Daddy?” Errol asks. “Kill him! Save the family!” Billy Lee Tuttle says. A shot rings out. Marty has the perfect kill shot. Errol is dead. Billy Lee runs to Errol as Papania, Gilbough and everyone else converge in Carcosa. We know many of the men got away. But they got some.
Half-dead, Rust says he was willing to die. Marty says, “What kind of asshole are you thinking of leaving me with that kind of debt?” or something witty. Women and children are carried from the ruins. Then we have the hospital sequence.
And, if we did the thing where Maggie’s mother was raped and Maggie was maybe a Tuttle and maybe the girls went to a Tuttle Summer Camp — we discover it was Maggie’s father who staged the crime scene. When they found out that Maggie had sent the girls to the Tuttle Summer Camp, Maggie’s mother told her husband about what had happened. He had gone to Carcosa and taken one of the deceased girls (Dora Lange) and staged her in the cane field to bring down the Tuttles without endangering his family. But Marty’s sexual problems and hair-trigger temper with Reggie LeDoux derailed the investigation, much to his former father-in-law’s horror. But, as I said, I let that idea go, so don’t beat me up too much for that one.
That’s what I wanted to see. Something like that. Something compelling and huge. Something worth their effort and my time.