True Detective's season finale airs Sunday, concluding an often-maddening eight episodes. This was a turgid endeavor, and a particularly frustrating one for fans of the show's flawed but vastly superior first season. But it's not over till it's over. Could this Sunday's episode cast the season in a new light? Redeem it somehow? Maybe! Maybe. Particularly if it did one of these five things.
Have someone lay everything out, and clearly. This season was plagued by several serious issues, but perhaps the most damaging was its determined opacity. (Just kidding, the worst part was the dialogue.) There's a pretty tangled web here, and we'd all benefit from some detangling. A lot of detangling, honestly.
Give up on everything and just be an hour about crow masks and the supernatural. Who even cares what happens to these people? The crow mask is still the most visually arresting aspect of the season, and having its purpose merely be for disguise and spookiness seems like a real waste. Maybe it's not a crow head; maybe it's actually a falcon, and this is a big tribute to Horus, the Egyptian god? And, uh, after burning off a certain number of genitals, he can take to the sky and celebrate with his divine brethren? That would be much better than more stuff about Jordan's possible pregnancy.
Flash way forward, à la Parks and Recreation. It doesn't need to go full Six Feet Under and show everyone's deaths, but none of our characters have developed at all over the course of the season, and inserting a scene were Frank suddenly has emotional coping skills would be way off. But maybe a scene of Ray many years from now, happily — peacefully — eating hot dogs with a now-hunky, all-grown-up redhead, gazing at the younger man and thinking, Lo, truly, he is my son, or something? Gena and her second husband are there, too, because everyone gets along now. Bezzerides thinks she loves being a cop, but maybe we see her much more blissed-out 20 years from now, running a martial-arts school that teaches self-defense to sex workers. Frank ... eh, Frank dies. Paul's ghost is riding a motorcycle with his boyfriend in heaven, where he has atoned for being a war criminal.
Bring back Rust and Marty. Just for a second. Just to say hey. Even just to have someone say into a phone, "Listen to me, Rust Cohle! I've had about enough of that!" and then hang up. It wouldn't save the season, per se, but at least it would indicate to fans that last season did exist.
This is all an elaborate fantasy created by a young Frank, staring at that stain in the ceiling. And he's telling it all to the rats who are nibbling at him. And even the rats are like, "Dude, give it a rest."