You gave Cohle a lot of opportunities, especially in the first five episodes, to express a lot of his belief system. Reading much of the commentary on the show, there were some people who were really impressed by what Cohle had to say and some who were thinking the entire time that he's full of crap, and some people insisting the show thinks he's brilliant and others feeling that the show is well aware that he's full of crap. How did you want people to take all of the things Cohle was saying to us?  

Nic Pizzolatto: I don't want to restrict an audience by telling them that "this means this" and "this means this." My intentions are the inalterable definition of things. For people who thought Cohle's philosophy was simply hogwash, be aware that you're calling Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche hogwash. Just be aware of that. That is not, in fact, a college freshman stoned eating a pizza talking about life; that's Arthur Schopenhauer's thoughts on life. But I thought that was part of the tension within Cohle. It might not all fall into relief until you've watched all eight episodes, but yes, these things are eloquently stated, and they do make sense, and they are no more or less true than the story Preacher Theriot is telling you during the tent revival service. Somebody asked me, "Well, what does this all mean?" Obviously, as an artist, I hate questions like that, but I could tell they were asking for a governing theme that could encompass everything else that happened. And so I had to think about it. And to me, if there's one governing thing in "True Detective" that encompasses everything that is happening in "True Detective," and that the show is telling you — constantly, the show keeps telling you — is that everything is a story. Cohle tells you that who you think you are, your identity, is a story you tell yourself. He tells us that religion and philosophy are stories we tell ourselves. Cohle describes them as cathartic narratives, but in confession he's so good at getting confessions from suspects because he gives them room to create a cathartic narrative. Hart says an investigation is the act of trying to put together a story after the fact, and when he goes over his story in episode 5, you can tell that Hart used to tell himself one story and now he tells himself another story. The show was never concerned with the supernatural, but it was concerned with supernatural thought, and it was concerned with supernatural thinking to the degree that it was concerned with storytelling. So if there was one overarching theme to "True Detective," I would say it was that as human beings, we are nothing but the stories we live and die by — so you'd better be careful what stories you tell yourself.

I keep thinking back to the interview we did before the season, and the moment when I was asking you about comparisons to other serial killer shows, and you said that you couldn't care less about serial killers. How seriously were we ultimately meant to take the actual Dora Lange investigation, and how much of it was just a line to hang the character examination on?

Nic Pizzolatto: I don't think it was an empty vehicle, is what I guess I would say there. I don't think it could have been just anything that these guys were working on. I think it's relevant that the person they're chasing is both the victim of an historical evil and the perpetrator of an historical evil. The killer in that way is a physical articulation of cultural aspects that have sat behind the scenes, even informing that polluted landscape that provides so much of the background. If you go from the idea of something being in its natural state and then being perverted, and that this particular villain, for lack of a better word, is a killer of women and children, and his methodology is intimately tied to a mythology of belief — I do think if you want to go back and watch 7 and 8, there's enough given in the fragments that everyone states, there's enough that you can actually piece together historically, how Sam Tuttle in the early '30s led to Errol Childress in the first decade of the new millennium. I would say it wasn't an empty vehicle at all. I think the killer, his methodology and his actual crimes were endemic, not only to our characters, but to the world we were dealing with. It wouldn't have worked to have a robbery that didn't get solved properly in 1995. There's almost a way that Cohle, Hart and Errol, these men are in some ways the creations of their fathers, if you pay attention to their backstories.

All of the things that, in the previous episode, Cohle was telling Marty that he had uncovered, and what we saw on the videotape, pointed to a larger group of men working on these things. But we get to the end, and it's just Errol left, along with his father in the shed. How many other people were involved in the specific things that Cohle and Hart were investigating?

Nic Pizzolatto: There's the men in the video, and there's about 10 of them. Then you can begin to look at that as if that cult began to disintegrate shortly afterwards, and then there were always revenants existing on a local level. If you track the name Childress, you realize Sheriff Childress was the sheriff when Marie Fontenot disappeared, an Officer Childress was attending to Guy Francis in 2002 when he committed suicide. The conspiracies that I've researched and encountered, they seem to happen very ad hoc: they become conspiracies when it's necessary to have  a conspiracy. I think it would have rang false to have Hart and Cohle suddenly clean up 50 years of the culture history that led to Errol Childress, or to get all the men in that video. It's important to me, I think, that Cohle says, "We didn't get em all, Marty," and Marty says, "We ain't going to. This isn't that kind of world." This isn't the kind of world where you mop up everything. We discharged our duty, but of course there are levels and wheels and historical contexts to what happened that we'll never be able to touch.

Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "TV (The Book)" about the 100 greatest shows of all time, is available now. He can be reached at