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'True Detective' post-mortem: Creator Nic Pizzolatto on happy endings, season 2, and the future of Cohle and Hart

True Detective wrapped its celebrated, intensely parsed first season last night with a finale that has invited a wide variety of reactions. Your opinion might hinge on whether or not you found the revelation of The Yellow King — Errol Childress, aka The Lawnmower Man — and his evil to be interesting and a surprisingly uplifting, optimistic ending for Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) to be the correct call for the series.  The man behind the madness stands behind his choices, although the writer (best known before this for the crime novel Galveston) sounds a bit relieved that the roller coaster ride of his first major work for television has reached its conclusion.  “Our long national nightmare is over!” laughs Nic Pizzolatto, jumping on the phone not long after the east coasting airing, and before watching the finale with his family and music supervisor T. Bone Burnett at McConaughey’s house. In this brief interview, Pizzolatto discusses his endgame vision, clarifies Errol’s master plan, and teases season 2 of True Detective — and the future of Cohle and Hart.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So let’s talk about the twist ending: Rust Cohle and Marty Hart walk away from this alive. I was not expecting that. I also wasn’t expecting that we’d get to see them process the experience to the extent that they did. And then there was the strong note of optimism at the end. Why did you want to end this story this way?

NIC PIZZOLATTO: A few reasons. We’re never going to spend time with these guys again. And killing characters on television has become an easy short cut to cathartic emotion. So I thought killing the guys, or having something more mysterious happen to them  – like the guys charged into Errol’s underworld, and disappeared, and nobody knows what happens to them – would have been the same thing if the show had gone full-bore into the supernatural: To me, it would have been puerile, and it would have skirted all the issues the show raised. To me, the challenge was to not only let these guys live, but show true character change through this journey. That passing through the eye of the needle in the heart of darkness has actually done something to them.

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'True Detective' finale review: Truth, justice, and the satisfying surprise of a happy ending

Culminating a remarkable first season in fine, moving form, True Detective’s finale, titled “Form and Void,” took us to the heart of darkness at the vortex center of its weird fiction — as well as  the final stage of its meta-commentary on the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, for better and worse. It was a tale that ripped dark marks on our bellies, then soothed us by “making flowers” on us. So to speak.

We start on the outskirts of the infernal plane. We begin in hell on earth. The ersatz underworld of The Yellow King — a.k.a. Errol Childress, a perverse product of paternal abuse, generational evil, and his own deranged, pop-culture informed myth-making — was a theater of the mind for a fantasy made real: His vision of Carcosa, the necropolis of Ambrose Bierce and the fallen world of Robert W. Chambers, littered with dead trees and body bags. Childress lured Cohle into his ascension chamber — the staging area for so many murders, and last night, a stage for an ancient ritual, the oldest story of all. Light versus dark. Good versus evil. “Little priest” versus wannabe Elder God. It was The Real World: Dungeons and Dragons, and Cohle, hard boiled to the core, was ready to play. I’ll see your abyss and gaze right back, Lawnmower Man!

He was fooling himself. Rust Cohle has always been fooling himself. His cynicism, his callousness were parts of the mask he wore to engage the world, to deal with himself. But it offered no protection when his mind — tweaking from the fetid evil around him — conspired against him and waylaid him with a vision of a coal-black vortex spiraling down to claim him. Maybe you were thinking: They’re going to do it! Cthulhu is coming! Coming to take us away, ha-ha! Ho-ho! Hee-hee! Beam me up, Lovecraft!

But no. It was gotcha moment, for Rust, and for us. READ FULL STORY

'True Detective': The most insightful fan tributes

If you’ve watched one episode of True Detective, HBO’s gritty meditation on good vs. evil, you’ve likely consumed them all — rabidly, and multiple times. Not since Lost has a television series so deeply tapped into our obsessive conspiracy theorist sides. And not since fans asked “What is the Island?” has the Internet been pondering one singular TV question: Who is the Yellow King? 

At its core, True Detective is a story about two detectives, Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson), partners who are haunted by a grisly occult murder that took place in Louisiana in 1995. (Spoilers ahead, so read on with caution.) The series time-jumps through 17 years of Rust and Marty’s tense relationship, from a horrific showdown with the (supposed) murderers in 1995, to the pair’s major falling-out in 2002, to a 2012 reconciliation of sorts prompted by the “debt” that weighs on both of their souls — the revelation that the killer is still out there.

The creepy clues revealed throughout the episodes so far have viewers obsessing over every little, beautifully crafted detail. Why was the body of Dora Lange, Rust and Cohle’s 1995 murder victim, found bound in a praying position under a tree, wearing only a crown made of deer antlers? The detectives keep coming across devil’s nests and painted spirals, whispers of Carcosa and the Yellow King. Rust is convinced the disappearances of women and children along the Louisiana Gulf for years have been tied to Lange’s ritualistic murder. Is the Tuttle family, powerful both politically and in the religious institutions of the Katrina-ravaged bayou, behind it all? In last week’s penultimate episode we met the oft-mentioned “tall man with scars,” who may also be the Spaghetti Monster — and the real killer. Or is he just a pawn?

True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto recently debunked the idea that either Rust or Marty were behind the murders, but plenty of other theories abound. Some fans have laid out their theses and True Detective tributes in painstaking detail for other obsessives to pore over; below are some of the most intriguing. Tune in to HBO on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET for the season finale, and to find out which ones were closest to the mark. READ FULL STORY

'True Detective' episode 2 react: The Fault in Our Stars

“Seeing Things” was about the search for truth and the avoidance of it. It was about being known, and wanting to remaining unknowable. It was about the occult — not in the supernatural sense of the term, but in the Latin, as in ‘that which is clandestine, hidden, concealed,’ and how our understanding of a person or thing changes when secrets are revealed. So it was about SPOILERS! READ FULL STORY

This Week's Cover: 'Downton Abbey' keeps our Winter TV Preview classy

It’s the biggest PBS phenomenon since Sesame Street, and might very well be the classiest thing you do every Sunday night. Yes, Downton Abbey is returning on Jan. 5, and Entertainment Weekly was on the set for season four of the British TV phenomenon. Creator Julian Fellowes’ wildly popular period drama about life on a decadent English countryside estate shocked viewers last season with two major character deaths (we’ll never forget you, Matthew and Sybil!), and the show’s anticipated fourth season promises to be nothing short of shocking, exciting, and traumatic — which is just what we’ve come to expect of the Grantham and Crawley clan. Even guest star Shirley MacLaine was floored by the show’s drama: “When Matthew died I nearly threw a chair at the television. I thought, what is Julian Fellowes doing? It took me a few days to get over it.” READ FULL STORY

There Should be a Sequel: 'Now You See Me'

Every week, EW will imagine a sequel to a movie that we wish would happen — no matter how unlikely the idea really is.

Let me start off by stating the obvious: Not every film needs a sequel. As Darren Franich poignantly pointed out: “Every big-budget movie Hollywood releases now is not just a movie. It’s also an advertisement for a potential sequel, or spinoff, or alternate-universe prequel-reboot.” Valid point, and in most cases, this is true. However, sometimes a full story simply can’t be told in two hours (theoretically speaking) or less. No matter how much you might have loathed The Dark Knight Rises, you have to admit that it wrapped things up pretty cleanly and gave the audience some sense of closure. That’s a sequel’s purpose — closure. Do they always attain it? Of course not. But for every Grown Ups 2, there’s an Iron Man 3.

That being said, most of the flicks released widely this summer were a bit lackluster. One, however, stood out for me. Has anyone seen Now You See Me? Sure, I was dragged to see a matinee viewing, but I’ll admit it: I was smitten. I don’t know if it was Isla Fisher getting the screen time that she deserves, the so-stupid-it’s-clever plot or the sight of an always-welcome Morgan Freeman, but Now You See Me was a gem that could have an equally special follow-up. Don’t believe me? Let me defend my case.
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This Week on Stage: Amy Adams in 'Into the Woods,' Mike Tyson chomps into Broadway

Despite reports that the first few preview performances of Into the Woods in Central Park were far from happily ever after, the Stephen Sondheim revival opened this week to generally mixed reviews (including a rave from EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum for stars Amy Adams and Donna Murphy). It’s not the only fairytale story in the theater world this week: The musical version of the Will Ferrell movie Elf will return to Broadway after a one-year hiatus, and producers announced plans to bring Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (which the famed songwriting team wrote for television in 1957) to Broadway this spring. Tony-nominated Grease and Bonnie & Clyde star Laura Osnes will star as the glass-slippered heroine in a new production with an updated book by Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed).

Broadway also found an unlikely new star in the form of a boxer whom even caustic New York Post theater columnist Michael Riedel might not want to mess with. In its first week on Broadway, Mike Tyson’s one-man show Undisputed Truth earned nearly $625,000, an impressive 78 percent of the potential gross at the Longacre Theatre. (It even outgrossed long-running hits like Chicago, War Horse, and Rock of Ages.) Personally, I can’t wait for him to return to the stage. Perhaps the Public could build a revival of Julius Caesar around him. “Friends, Romans, Holyfields, lend me your ears…” READ FULL STORY

Woody Harrelson tells Colbert he's off pot: 'I haven't had anything since this morning'

Here’s how you know you’re about to watch an entertaining interview from The Colbert Report: Comedy Central’s tags for it include “Woody Harrelson,” “friends,” “audience interaction,” “let’s move on,” “sexual advances,” “marijuana,” and “Jay Leno.”

Last time the Hunger Games star stopped by Colbert’s show, the host ended up shaving his guest’s head. Harrelson’s visit wasn’t quite as exciting this time around — but between casually unbuttoning his shirt to reveal the name of his new Off-Broadway play, presenting Colbert with a sweaty tee he wore while “biking over” to the show that afternoon, and facetiously announcing that he’s quit drugs (“I mean, I haven’t had anything since this morning, so it’s going extremely well”), the actor does plenty to amuse in the following clip. Congratulations, Woody Harrelson: You just may be the perfect talk show guest. See for yourself below.

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Woody Harrelson-written play 'Bullet for Adolf' gets U.S. premiere

There’s good news for actor and District 12 victor Woody Harrelson: the formers Cheers star will direct Bullet for Adolf, a new comedy play that he wrote with Frankie Hyman, for its off Broadway premiere this summer.

The “hysterical, rapid-fire” show will bow at New World Stages on July 8 for an eight week engagement. A press release offers this synopsis of the production: “During the summer of 1983, in the sweltering heat of Houston, an unlikely friendship is formed when a couple of mid-western rubes with uncertain futures meet up with a slick New Yorker on the run from his past. The disappearance of a WWII artifact sets off a chain of events that proves that nothing changes the present like a blast from the past.”

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