As HBO’s True Detective reaches its climax this Sunday, literally and figuratively, with its eighth episode, the hierophants, the interpreters of the ancient mysteries, the soothsayers of modern cable, are burning the midnight oil, examining the portents and studying the entrails nightly (and whenever if they have DVR) to bring to light the esoteric principles hidden in this widely acclaimed “dark masterpiece.”

As millions of Americans know by now, Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) are sleuthing for a serial murderer in the bayous—“the sort of artsy bastard,” New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum writes, “who tattoos his female victims, then accessorizes them with antlers and scatters cultish tchotchkes at the crime scene.”

I was astonished to read recently that there are at least “six theories” about who the killer is, and two of them involve Hart and Cohle. That is preposterous.

Harrelson and McConaughy, both executive producers, are in top form as the embattled former partners who join together to finish what they started—and get it right this time years after their previous collaboration went down in flames. Are either of these two strong leading men going to cast themselves as a psychopathic cult-leader—even for HBO? I strongly doubt it.

My theory is much more mundane: I blame the powerful politicians and their corporate enablers in Louisiana. As director Cary Fukunaga recently told Esquire, we probably will see what it looks like in the macabre kingdom of Carcosa—and it won’t be pretty.

But I do agree that the objectification of women in the show—whose roles are rather two-dimensional—has become problematic for the women I know who watch. Or as Nussbaum assays the situation: “…while the male detectives of True Detective are avenging women and children, and bro-bonding over ‘crazy pussy,’ every live woman they meet is paper-thin.” She goes on to say that “when a mystery show is about disposable female bodies, and the women in it are eye candy, it’s a drag.”

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But after that, I part ways. Is it my waning testosterone? The suspense is intoxicating. I love watching this show, I enjoy being titillated, I like the tense interaction between these two guys: Cohle’s mystical murmurings, Hart’s physical pursuits. For me, the only thing missing is their slurping oysters or biting the heads and sucking the tails of boiled crawdaddies at a roadside shack, their fingers dripping blood red from hot sauce. I’ll miss this series, especially after McConaughy splits, but I’ll survive and that’s the truth.


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Spencer Rumsey, the Long Island Press’ senior editor, has worked on dailies, weeklies and monthlies, including New York Newsday and the New York Post, the East Village Eye and the supermarket tabloid Star Magazine. Starting at the Press in 2010, he’s written award-winning stories on planning, politics and policy, to name a few topics, and he’s taken on a wide range of targets in his Press blog, Rumsey Punch.